Cardinal concludes prayer vigils for Haiti with cathedral Mass

BOSTON -- Lorna Desroses, the Archdiocese of Boston's evangelization consultant for ethnic communities, often hears about the resilience of the Haitian people.

Lately, however, it has been hard for the people of Haiti, and the Haitian diaspora in the archdiocese, to have hope for the future. As violent gangs have taken over the country, Haiti has no government besides a "leadership council" operating in place of the president.

Speaking to The Pilot on May 13, Desroses said that the situation in Haiti "has been continuously deteriorating" over the past year. Children cannot go to school, and adults heading to and from work are in danger of being attacked by gangs. Haitians are routinely kidnapped, and their relatives in the U.S. are forced to pay ransom. Desroses said that the people of Haiti are in a constant state of anxiety, having no idea what is in store for them and their country.

"The day-to-day existence of your average Haitian," she explained, "sadly, there hasn't been any change."

In response to the crisis, the Archdiocese of Boston's Haitian priests met with the Haitian Pastoral Council and proposed the idea of an eight-day prayer vigil for Haiti. The vigil, which began on May 3, culminated with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston on May 10. The previous vigils took place at parishes in Mattapan, Everett, Avon, Brockton, Roxbury, and Somerville, where there are significant Haitian communities.

"Everyone was of one accord saying this was a wonderful idea," Desroses said. "So many people are worried about their family, their friends, the country. This is really a way to show solidarity with those who are there, with those who are suffering."

Desroses said that when approached with the idea, Cardinal O'Malley himself wanted the final vigil to take place in the cathedral.

"People felt seen, they felt heard," she said. "The cardinal has a special place in his heart for the Haitian community... The shepherd of the archdiocese cares and is paying attention to the strife that has been happening in our home country."

At the cathedral, hundreds of Haitians, many carrying the flags of their home country, prayed the rosary before Mass, which was celebrated in French.

In a translation of his homily provided to The Pilot, Cardinal O'Malley described the poverty, violence, kidnappings, and organized crime that is plaguing the country. He said that 60 percent of Haiti's population lives in poverty, with an average income of less than $2.50 a day.

"The Haitian people have survived dictatorships, persecution, dramatic poverty," he said, "but despite all of this have developed a strong workforce that is now prevented from working due to the insecurity and political chaos that is currently being experienced."

The cardinal said that Pope Francis has urged President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to provide aid to Haiti.

"Looking to the future, we must rekindle hope and we must advocate for international support," the cardinal said. "Haiti needs our solidarity and the solidarity of the world."

He added that Catholic priests, religious, and lay leaders in Haiti are working to provide people with social services, despite many of them being kidnapped.

"Here in Boston where we are blessed by the presence of so many Haitians in our own community," he said, "we feel a deep connection to our brothers and sisters in Haiti."