CHELSEA -- On Feb. 8, St. Joseph's Parish in L'Asile, Haiti was able to celebrate its first Mass in months after Hurricane Matthew devastated the area in October. It was a healing Mass with over 500 people in attendance, and it was a celebration that might not have been possible without the work of parishioners from Our Lady of Grace Parish in Chelsea/Everett and St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Revere.
For the past 18 years, Our Lady of Grace and St. Joseph's have shared a special bond with the Haitian parish, one that was created when the parishes were linked together through a parish twinning program. The bond fosters a relationship built on solidarity and sharing, and also gives Our Lady of Grace the opportunity to provide aid and needed financial support to St. Joseph's.
"We go (to Haiti) every year," Father Jim Barry, pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish and St. Mary of the Assumption Parish, told The Pilot, March 1.
"The main thing is just to build a relationship or friendship."
But, parishioners and parish leaders from Our Lady of Grace have also provided support in a number of different ways, including assisting the sick, training teachers, starting a computer program, and offering micro-finance loans. In recent years, those at St. Mary of the Assumption have also provided support.
So, it might not have been anything out of the ordinary when, after hearing that St. Joseph's was in need of new furniture and religious articles, especially in light of the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew, Our Lady of Grace and St. Mary of the Assumption soon had a large container filled and ready to ship with church essentials.
Those essentials included pews, statues, an altar, Stations of the Cross, a vestry cabinet, crosses, an audio system, candle stands, an ambo, lecterns, a tabernacle, sanctuary light, as well as other stands and tables. All of the items and furniture were once used in St. Michael Church in Lynn, which was closed in 2006.
The container was shipped to Haiti, and in early February Father Barry and a number of parishioners traveled to Haiti to help put together the furniture and furnish the church.
A Mass was held on Feb. 8 after the finishing touches were completed. Over 500 people attended, with some walking as far as two hours to attend the Mass.
When the local community saw the fully furnished church, said Father Barry, they were "in awe."
"They said it's almost like a cathedral now. It's just so beautiful," he said.