On January 26th, 2000 All Saints parish in Cedar Rapids Iowa was twinned with the parish of Notre Dame de Lourdes in Belle Fontaine Haiti. We are told there are around 50,000 people in our sister parish. Geographically it is about the size of the Cedar Rapids Iowa city area. With lots of mountain ranges!
Almost every year after that, in January, we have sent a mission team to visit our sister parish. In 2019 we will send our 16th team to visit. The goals of these visits vary a little depending on the people who travel and their skills but two main goals are always the same:
- Be a ministry of presence in our sister parish to build our relationship.
- Learn from our sister parish priest what he perceives their needs to be and create a top ten list of priorities.
Through the four pastors we have worked with the top priority/need has always been support for the education system in the village chapels.
In Notre Dame de Lourdes there are 24 chapels. Each has its own school, teachers and students. There are 105 teachers and about 4500 students. Each teacher should earn a salary of about $360 a school year, if funds are available. The student’s families pay what they can, we work to raise funds to cover the rest.
Twice each year we send money to support the education system, once in March (Lenten Alms collection) and again in September (Student Picture collection). In 2008 we started sending food, clothes, school supplies and a few other items down to our sister parish using a shipping program call the Sea-Crate. This year we sent our 12th Sea-Crate which will include 275 boxes of Take Away Hunger meals. That equals 52,800 meals.