Father Peter Mactutis remembers very well the last time he saw his father who was at the end of his battle with cancer. “I was just a teenager,” Father Mactutis remembers “and he couldn’t talk any more. All I could do was put out my hand and clasp his. Sometimes that’s all you can do.”
Father Mactutis who is pastor of two large Lakewood churches – St John Bosco and St Frances Cabrini. That would be a daunting job for anyone but it’s been heavily upon Father Mactutis’ mind that there are places in the world where no one is reaching out. Particularly, for instance, in Haiti, which was struck by a catastrophic earthquake five years ago, but recovery has been slow, because of disease – cholera has been epidemic – and because aid sent by caring people in other country is often waylaid.
In fact the only way to get help to the people in many places is to deliver it personally. So Father Mactutis began to ask among his parishioners who would be interested in a going to Haiti to help where they could. “We can help materially. It gives so much hope,” Father Peter says. Finally it was decided that there would be three separate parish missions. These missions took teams to Haiti (Jan. 21-Feb. 1), Central Mexico (Feb. 4-Feb. 15), and the Philippines (Feb. 23-Mar. 4).
St John Bosco and St Frances Cabrini are both active in social concerns. At St. John Bosco, devoted gardeners have raised tons of food for food banks over the last several years in the SJB Food Bank Garden. The Meditation Garden entirely inspired and created by members of the parish is a landmark work of faith and comfort. And at both churches there’s work with every level of need from parish nurses to St Vincent DePaul, and the work done by the Knights of Columbus. But drop every thing and go to Haiti?
Nine members of the parish made the trip to Port au Prince, to work with Haiti 180 which sponsors projects to turn the situation in that troubled country to the better. Cholera was unknown in Haiti for the last century, until after the earthquake. Now, it has struck 720,000 people and killed 9,000. Parishioners making the trips had to have immunizations and take precautions to resist disease. All of the travelers were lavish in their praise of “Rose” and “Katie,” young American women who have given up everything they owned to move to Haiti and make a difference. They’ve certainly done that working with orphanage, school and clinic in the mountainous village of Duverger.
Terri Nelson, Pastoral Assistant for Youth Ministry, went on the journey and kept a blog of the journey which makes heart stopping reading.
“Two months after the trip, I’m still trying to put it into words and come to grips with it,” Terri says. One of their tasks was to clear and level a road, and she recalls hearing the frequent cry, “Look out for tarantulas.” Even bucket showers were welcome at the end of a hard day of labor, or a more quiet day spent with the children in the orphanage. Sometimes all they could do was hold babies who were terribly ill. Other days it was learning how Rose has created a successful business with PEACEcycle where she teaches people how to run a business and create an unbelievable number of useful products from discarded plastic bags.
We are lucky to live in a caring community, and many of our churches send regular missions to people in need, inside and outside of the United States. This Easter provides a perfect window to reflect upon what might be done. “We can’t just walk away,” Father Peter reflects. “Step out of your comfort zone. We’ve become desensitized, unable to give. We can help people.”