One of the speakers in the Catholic Studies speakers series during Fall Semester was Pastor April Larson, former Lutheran bishop of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. We learned today that her son, Ben Larson, was killed in the earthquake in Haiti.
Ben, his wife Renee, and his cousin Jonathan Larson, were on a trip to train lay ministers. All three were staying at the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys on a mountain near Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck and the building collapsed. As she fled the building and area, Renee looked back and realized that Ben was not with her. She and Jonathan were unable to find him the next day when they searched in the ruins.
The photos, the news reports, and the many interviews give us a general picture of the suffering and destruction in Port-au-Prince. Anyone with a heart is distressed and moved, wanting to do something to help. Even though I only met Pastor Larson once, there is a different and more personal sense of the loss of one mother grieving her son. At least for me, I can connect to all the grieving mothers, fathers, wives and husbands through this one that I know.
The news reports tell us that, at this time, the best thing we can do is to send money: there is no infrastructure to pass along donations of clothing, food, or other supplies. Former President Clinton, who is the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, spoke on NPR yesterday. He pointed to Haiti’s long-term need for education, for infrastructure, for opportunities, and called on us to respond beyond the present disaster. It won’t be enough to send bottled water and a change of clothing; the people of Haiti will need to rebuild their entire way of life.
Archbishop Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince also died in the blast; his body was found in the rubble of his office. The Church in Haiti was particularly hard-hit: the cathedral, the Archbishop’s Office, all of the big churches, all of the seminaries have been reduced to rubble. Hundreds of priests, seminarians and church workers died in the earthquake.
From Zenit: Father Andre Siohan, a missionary of the French St. Jacques Society, e-mailed the Missionary International Service News Agency a few hours after the quake, which was centered less than 10 miles from Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital.
“Nou atè nèt,” the priest wrote, which means in Creole, “We are on our knees.”
“I went to the city center this morning to visit the other religious communities. The area is completely devastated and there are thousands of victims. It is terrible,” Father Siohan said.
Eternal life grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
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