Jenna Michel’s brother, Marcus, was adopted from Haiti, which is one reason she chose to visit the poorest country in the Americas on weeklong mission trips in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
“Those three weeks of my life were some of the most eye-opening, heartbreaking, yet beautiful weeks of my life,” she said.
Still recovering from a 2010 earthquake that devastated its capital city and killed more than 90,000 people, Haiti was hit by Hurricane Matthew this fall; hundreds were killed and more than 100,000 people displaced.
Christmas is the season for giving, but as is the case for parishes across the diocese, St. Albert, Land O’ Lakes, and St. Mary, Phelps, have been giving all along.
Helping out in Haiti is a tradition for the Vilas County parishes, which have supported sister parishes in the villages of Fond Jean Noel and Durissy since 2002.
“The granddaughter of a parish member (first) brought it to our attention,” said Deacon Norm Mesun, who has visited Haiti eight or nine times in the past 14 years. The parish council was looking for an outreach project at the time, and they paired up with Haitian parishes through the twinning program.
Each year, the parishes make and sell around 500 apple pies. Parishioners donate ingredients, volunteers assemble the pies and community members buy them for $10 each. A summer-long silent auction of handmade items also helps to raise the more than $7,000 needed for annual dental missions.
St. Mary’s also provides $800 each month for teacher salaries, said parish director Michele Rein, and St. Albert helped build the school and other facilities in Durissy.
The parishes also took up special collections in October after both villages were damaged by the hurricane, Rein added. Despite the parishes’ size — 100 families at St. Albert, 80 at St. Mary — more than $5,000 was collected for hurricane relief.
The parishes are “a very responsive place for needs,” Deacon Mesun added.