Jan 27, 2010

OnefireCatholic.com priest goes to Haiti

Priest heads to Haiti to give spiritual and physical aid
Marnie McAllister

Fr. James Bromwich will serve as a nurse and priest at a hospital aiding quake victims

Father James Bromwich, pastor of three churches in Central Kentucky, departed from Boston yesterday on a private jet operated by Caritas International flying doctors and nurses bound for Cap Haitien, Haiti.
The Archdiocese of Louisville priest is part of a team of volunteers who will help earthquake survivors evacuated from Port-au-Prince to Sacred Heart Hospital located in Milot, Haiti, about 60 or 70 miles north of the capital.
Father Bromwich, who is also a registered nurse, said during a telephone interview Jan. 19, “I saw what was happening, and like everyone else I saw the horror.
“I also heard about the church and the devastation (of church buildings) and the deaths” of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot of Port-au-Prince, religious men and women and seminarians, he noted. Survivors “not only need basic care of their physical needs, but they have spiritual needs, too.”
Feeling a call to do more than pray and be in solidarity with the people who are suffering, the priest contacted a friend who is a nun and surgeon with the Little Workers of the Sacred Heart. She hooked him up with the CRUDEM Foundation, a non-profit that runs the 73-bed hospital in Milot.
Father Bromwich said he expected to fly yesterday, Jan. 20, to Cap Haitien, which is about 80 miles north of the capital. From there, he and other health-care workers were slated to travel to Milot, where they will minister to the needs of earthquake survivors at Sacred Heart Hospital, which was founded by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart of Montreal.
The priest said he didn’t know what to expect when he arrived. But he heard that the United States Navy woud be flying patients needing post-operative care from the U.S.N.S. Comfort — a hospital ship — to Sacred Heart Hospital.
While he’s prepared to help with survivors’ medical needs, he said he anticipates that much of his work will be spiritual.
“I would say that since there are quite a few nurses and doctors going in and I’ll be the only priest, my main ministry will probably be as a priest,” Father Bromwich said.
“It’s my understanding that after the earthquake, they have a one in 10,000 ratio of priests to Catholics” in Haiti, he noted. “The ratio is one in 2,500 here” in the United States.
He said he’s already received requests from volunteers and staff that he celebrate daily Mass and make Eucharistic adoration available. He expects also to administer sacraments and a measure of spiritual comfort to patients.
Father Bromwich said he told his parishioners about his trip to Haiti during Masses last weekend.
“I asked my parishioners to make the sacrifice and give up their pastor for a few weeks,” he noted. “The parishioners have been very generous with their prayers and donations.”
More than $4,400 was raised during collections for earthquake survivors during weekend liturgies at the three parishes where he is pastor — Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Campbellsville, Our Lady of the Hills in Finley and Our Lady of Fatima in Phillipsburg — said Karen Sanders, secretary for the parishes. She said parishioners were more than happy to share their pastor with people in Haiti.
“We are so proud of him and so glad he has the talent and ability to help,” said Sanders. At Mass on Sunday “we talked about our need to sacrifice, and then he told us of the sacrifice he would make and the need for his aid” in Haiti.
Father Bromwich, who expects to be gone about three weeks, said he has heard people lamenting, “I wish I could do more.” So he spoke to his parishioners about ways they can help the people suffering in Port-au-Prince, in addition to making donations.
“I think it’s part of human nature, people want to help,” Father Bromwich noted. “St. Paul said, ‘When one member of the body suffers, we all suffer.’ The average Catholic who can’t go to Haiti should ask the question, ‘How is it that will you be changed after this is over.’
“And the only way you can be changed is if you are in solidarity with the people in Haiti,” he said. “Think of a way to simplify your life and make a sacrifice.”
He suggested people try spending one night a week sleeping on the floor — as many people in Port-au-Prince are doing out of necessity — or fast from one meal a day.
“By making some sacrifice and offering this as a prayer, you help yourself be a better Christian,” he said.
For his part, Father Bromwich said he expects to receive as much as he gives through the “simple, joyful and generous” people in Haiti. He has visited the Caribbean nation once before, and he was struck by the people’s generosity, even as the faced the most dire poverty.
“I expect this to be a powerful spiritual experience,” he added. “Whenever we come into contact with people in such desperate need, we come into contact with Jesus himself.”

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