Jean Francky Guerrier, SJ
During our visit to Haiti, we met a four-year-old boy named Dodo, who rushed up to us as we entered the school, Centre educative de Bedou. This little one grabbed our hands and in Creole said, “Come with me.” Amidst unbelievable poverty, Dodo emanated a contagious joy. His grip seemed to hold a hope for a better future. My director, Scott McMaster, and myself were there on an apostolic trip. We later learned that Dodo is being raised by his 21-year-old mom, who was the top female student when she welcomed this bundle of joy into the world. Their resilience and determination are a testament to the spirit of the Haitian community. Dodo and his mother are journeying on a path toward a brighter future, a journey in which the Jesuits and the Sisters of Notre Dame are humbled to play a part. The education and support they receive are elements that contribute to their sense of agency in life. The mother’s early pregnancy has not dimmed her complete faith in a better future, a faith in which Dodo plays a significant role.
As a Haitian Jesuit in my mid-thirties, I find in Dodo’s story a vivid reflection of the transformative teachings of Jesus that I’ve been privileged to witness. I take Jesus’ invitation to his first disciples as a personal call. Thus, my dreams and prayers for Haiti become my work. This work is not about imposing a path but about walking alongside individuals in their unique journey of spiritual growth and transformation. It’s rooted in Ignatian spirituality that invites us to love God in all His creatures—a love that is an expression of profound care for those who are marginalized and in great need.
[Our work] is rooted in Ignatian spirituality that invites us to love God in all His creatures
The gospel narrative tells of Jesus’ encounters with people from all origins and who are often socially marginalized. His encounters with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the people with leprosy, the rich man, Bartimaeus, Zacchaeus, etc. are all occasions for decisive teaching and transformation. Each time, a relationship made of words, gestures, emotions, and feelings is established, and no one comes out unmoved, but transformed and renewed. The people Jesus encounters are engaged in a sort of “metanoia” which in the language of the New Testament indicates a kind of transformative conversion, a profound change that initiates a new journey of spiritual growth and transformation. Therefore, Jesus invites the disciples who often accompanied him on his missionary journey to have the same gaze on the people they encounter.
“Ignatius and all those called to this service are taught to be companions in hardship with Christ in his ministry… As he is present, so we too want to be present, in solidarity and compassion, where the human family is most damaged” (GC 34, Decree 2, no. 26). This urgent call leads to the current situation of Haiti. A devastated, abandoned country that has been brought to its knees and where its inhabitants struggle to receive the most basic needs. In the past few years, the Haitian people have been victims of unprecedented natural disasters, insecurity, and gang violence.
My visit to Haiti last May, with Scott McMaster, director of the Canadian Jesuits’ Office of Advancement, allowed us to see that despite insecurity, increasing poverty, and many other evils, the Haitian people are deeply longing for meaning, expression that inspires life, and encounters that instill joy. We were fortunate to visit schools and other Jesuit apostolates in the Nord-Est region of the country, particularly in Ouanaminthe. We were inspired and moved by the stories and smiles of so many kids who, despite the hardship and the complexity of the situation, have taught us how to better hope against hope.
I would describe their situation as “angels living in a hellish context.” Dodo and the other faces I have seen, people with whom I have had more in-depth conversations, those I have encountered as I was passing along the road, have strengthened my vocation and calling to be a companion of Jesus Christ. As the story of the Syrophoenician woman in the Gospel of Saint Mark, who, by her deed of faith compelled Jesus to gaze mercifully upon her, the faith and humility of the people I met make me grow in deeper conversion of heart and mind. I understand that Jesus not only met with the poor, the marginalized, and the excluded, but he stayed with them; he is present in their lives, their smiles, and their stories. The joy of Dodo, for example, is the expression of the presence of the Crucified and Risen One.
As I am a native of Haiti, my own experience makes me realize that all Haitians, by their joy, their patience, their resilience, and their “will to power,” bring the beauty of God into Haiti’s chaos and ugliness.
Based on this transformative experience, I would consider the current situation in Haiti to be the expression of God’s beauty amidst ugliness. I would compare the situation of Haiti with the mystery of the cross which is the root of the Christian faith because it refers to Christ’s crucifixion for the redemption of humanity. Christ’s affliction on the cross expresses the beauty of God because Christ embraces the ugly and transforms it into beauty. Jesus embraces death and allows God’s beauty to be manifested in the lives of each person he has encountered. As I am a native of Haiti, my own experience makes me realize that all Haitians, by their joy, their patience, their resilience, and their “will to power,” bring the beauty of God into Haiti’s chaos and ugliness. The many children who walk daily several kilometres over treacherous mountainous roads to go to school and are very diligent in their studies tell us that sin and death will not have the last word. The light of the resurrection that transforms ugliness into beauty can shine in Haiti. In a more concrete way, I would say that this can be achieved through education and the support for education in Haiti. This will empower the next generation to take the bold actions necessary to create change. Without education their chance for change is almost eliminated.
Please consider becoming involved in our mission to ensure that more children like Dodo can continue their journey toward a better future, despite the precariousness of their current situation.