In the fall of 2002, a St. Bartholomew parishioner went to Jeremie, Haiti, with Dr. Jeremiah Lowney, a Norwich, CT orthodontist and founder and president of the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF) in Jeremie. She returned, determined that we at St. Bart's had an obligation to help the poorest people in our hemisphere. Our Parish Council agreed to invite Dr. Lowney to come and speak at weekend Masses. He came, invited the Pastor, Director of Religious Education, and two members of the parish to come to Jeremie and see the work of the Foundation. We went, saw, and experienced a conversion - to see things from the perspective of the poor and to serve by engaging other people in this ministry.
We returned to Haiti that same year with 13 parishioners, and have returned yearly. Some of our pilgrimages tend to be more medical and dental, but there is always work that anyone can do. Our visits are for about a week and involve seeing the multifaceted work of HHF in Jeremie and in the surrounding 104 villages. We might assist public health agents in the villages, work on data entry or in the clinic, pharmacy, or maternal lying in hospital. We might help with the feeding of 1,200 women and children every other day. We reflect upon the experience, pray, and celebrate Mass - very early in the morning - each day. The work of HHF is multifaceted - public health, full service clinic that see 200 patients each day, and eye clinic, center for pregnant women at risk, feeding program, adopt a family, an elementary school serving 220 children, and more. There is always more than enough to experience and to do.