CNS on the ground in Port-au-Prince

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Catholic News Service is now on the ground in Port-au-Prince preparing to cover the recovery efforts of thousands of relief workers who are trying their best to aid hundreds of thousands of injured and homeless earthquake victims.

Even 17 days after the quake hit, people remain in great need. Thousands of people have taken up residence in city parks and public space in what can be described as sheet communities. Few people have tents. The overwhelming majority are using tarps, plastic sheeting, bed sheets, curtains, blankets tied to trees and posts with rope for shelter. Fortunately, the rain has held off for days.

The traffic coming into town today was backed up for blocks. Often our bus, which was filled with about 20 relief workers — including a team of trauma and orthopedic specialists from the University of Maryland Medical Center; representatives of the Haitian Ministries program of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn.; and a foursome of social workers from Caritas Lebanon — had to wait in traffic for up to 15 minutes in the congested Haitian capital.

The noisy, exhaust-laden air is good though because that means fuel is making its way into the country again.

“If you look at the traffic, it looks like things are getting back to normal,” Farid Moises, project manager for Catholic Relief Services Haiti in Port-au-Prince, told CNS late this afternoon. “But people are living with anxiety that we will have another, bigger (quake).”

At some collapsed buildings the bus passed, people could be seen digging by hand through mounds of rubble. What they were looking for is anyone guess. Loved ones or friends? Salvageable possessions? Hope?

Photographer Bob Roller and I will continue our journey through Haiti for the next week, documenting the impact of the quake on this poor country and its beleaguered people.

‘Judas left early too’

Father Michael Cooney, pastor of St. Peter Church in the Detroit suburb of Mount Clemens, has engaged in “a bit of Irish diplomacy,” as he calls it, to send a message to parishioners about a source of frustration for him and many other priests: people who leave Mass early and don’t stay for the dismissal. He has posted a sign at each of the church’s exits reading, “Judas left early too.”

The effort has had a positive effect, he tells The Michigan Catholic, newspaper of the Detroit Archdiocese. The reason, he feels, is that he introduced the signs with humor, rather than scolding the congregation.

Teens seek end to violence

Catholic teenagers in Chicago and Rochester, N.Y., say they are tired of the violence around them and are taking positive steps to try to end it.

Recent stories from the Catholic New World and the Catholic Courier illustrate these efforts. In Chicago, teens organized meetings and a seminar to discuss the impact of violence and ways they could promote peace. In Rochester, teens took part in an evening prayer for peace.

Rochester teens organized the prayer service in response to the recent shooting death of a local teenager.

At the service, a  Catholic youth group leader said: “All of you who are here tonight have come to say no more to the violence, the knifings, the killings on our streets. We come here to align ourselves with all people of faith all over the world.”