HIGH OUTLOOK – On New Years Day, Bishop Robert Brennan urged Haitian Catholics to continue embracing the lasting messages of peace and joy in the scriptures.
Afternoon Mass at Saint Joseph’s Co-Cathedral, celebrated in Creole, took place on January 1 during the annual celebration of Haiti’s Independence Day and the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Married.
The music had a Caribbean flavor that prompted the worshipers – as well as Bishop Brennan – to clap and sway to the beat.
Bishop Brennan appealed for joy and peace at the end of Mass, but later noted that these traits are already indicative of Haitian Catholics, despite the constant turmoil in their homeland.
“Haiti has suffered over the past year,” he said in remarks made in the presbytery of the co-cathedral after mass. “But Haiti has suffered for a long time.
As Haitian Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens have dealt with the pandemic, their friends and family at home have also faced late arrivals of COVID-19 vaccines.
Their president was assassinated in July, followed by a deadly earthquake in August. Meanwhile, the ongoing anarchy, including the kidnappings, continued unchecked.
Bishop Brennan added that the Haitian community has lost a longtime shepherd with the death in August of retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq, originally from Haiti.
The new bishop said that when he was auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Center, he befriended Bishop Sansaricq of the neighboring diocese of Brooklyn.
Even though they endure so much sadness and upheaval in their country, the Haitian people rejoice, said Bishop Brennan.
“Their faith is so alive and joyfully expressed,” he noted. “I like the way they give thanks to God, although it hasn’t been easy.
“You [saw] that in people here today at Mass – that deep feeling of joy that comes, not from superficial things, but from knowing that God is always with us, ”Bishop Brennan added.
Father Hilaire Belizaire, director of the Haitian Apostolate, said the annual Mass normally fills the Co-Cathedral, but concerns over the recent increase in COVID cases have kept most people at home.
However, Father Belizaire was happy to see the hundreds of people who attended this year’s Mass.
The annual celebration has been reduced to exclude the regular reception after mass, which includes musical performances and the service of a traditional soup to mark the celebration of Haiti’s Independence Day on January 1, 1804.
“We want to make sure everyone is safe,” said Father Belizaire, who is also pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Cambria Heights. “But we wouldn’t let this day go by. We have a new bishop; he was so excited to meet people, and people were so excited to meet him too. As you can see, his heart is already with the people.
Although most of the Mass was held in Creole, Bishop Brennan delivered his parts in French.
“It’s a wonderful thing! Exclaimed Mgr. Pierre-André Pierre, who heads the National Center for the Haitian Apostolate based in Brooklyn, which was headed by Bishop Sansaricq until his death.
“It was a great pride for us to have him at the head of this celebration and especially to speak French with us”, declared Mgr. Pierre continued. “We appreciate that he understands Haiti’s problems. He says he is with us, which gives us courage.
Bishop Brennan apologized to the congregation for his rusty pronunciations in French.
“But,” he told the congregation in English, “I have a feeling that will improve as we move forward together.”