Friday, July 27, 2012

Something Beautiful for God

We have been working for several years with Caritas in Veritate International, (CiVI) which is allied with the mission of the Holy Father through the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" for relief efforts in Haiti.  An integral part of that work has been the further alliance of CiVI with the Scalabrini Fathers (The Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo), an Italian Congregation which has been deeply involved in charitable relief work in Haiti for the past two decades. 

Among our efforts have been to develop prototype designs for whole villages to house and provide economic growth for the hundreds of thousands displaced by the January 2010 earthquake and housing types that can be built economically and with local materials.

These "Caritas Villages" are planned with the principles of Catholic Social Doctrine in mind: notably the ideas of solidarity, subsidiarity, and the "universal destination of goods" ordered toward the common good of the community.  They are intended to be self sufficient regarding food, water, hygiene, power and economic development, with a center for local trade, farmer's market, light industry, church, grade school and high school, health clinics, centers for leadership formation and for abused women and children, sports fields, community gardens, and approximately 500 families living in small clusters of relationship. 

Unfortunately due to the politics of landownership in Haiti (some 1% of the population owns virtually 100% of the land, with everyone else being either renters or squatters), and despite the support of the Vatican, the Papal Nuncio to Haiti, and the Bishops of Haiti, we have as yet been unable to move ahead on the village concept which is still desperately needed to restore normal life for the homeless living in the horrific tent cities.

In the interim, CiVI is continuing to work with the Scalabrini Fathers on a variety of other projects. The Scalabrini are housed on a large tract of land in the Croix-des-Bouquet suburb of Port-au-Prince that accommodates the community's housing, a grade school, a high school, medical clinics, and agricultural industry (see the yellow on the image below).  The facility suffered virtually no damage in the 2010 earthquake (thanks to the excellent seismic design of thin concrete frame and slab construction designed by Italian engineers and architects), and so also houses the Haitian Episcopal Conference and the national Seminary.

With the cooperation of the Scalabrini Fathers under the leadership of Fr. Giuseppe Durante, CiVI is working to develop small scale "micro-communities" of 10 to 20 families in enclosed housing projects, each with small businesses for economic development and self sufficiency of the residents.

The Scalabrini and CiVI are slowly and strategically acquiring properties adjacent to and in the vicinity of the Scalabrini property in order to create these small communities (based on the Haitian model of "lakou" --a grass roots model of housing for extended families that provides for common living and defense).

Yet in keeping with Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the work of CiVI is not merely economic relief or social justice understood politically, but rather an integration of the Church's evangelical mission of proclaiming Christ's love and mercy to all with her social doctrine of how society ought to be ordered for true human flourishing and integral human development:
On the one hand, charity demands justice: recognition and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples. It strives to build the earthly city according to law and justice. On the other hand, charity transcends justice and completes it in the logic of giving and forgiving. The earthly city is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness, mercy and communion. Charity always manifests God's love in human relationships as well, it gives theological and salvific value to all commitment for justice in the world. --  Caritas in Veritate, para. 6
This need is particularly acute in Haiti.  There is little social cohesion with a marriage rate of only about 2%: this means most children are not raised by both of their parents, women have multiple children with multiple men, and most of the fathers are absent from their children's lives. The inequities in landownership prevent families from developing stability and economic wealth. The Church's inactivity and failures in her missionary activity gave impetus to the nativistic "vodou" religion which developed from the African tribal practices dating back to the days of slavery.  The tent cities for the displaced populations are truly horrific -- now decaying and often in tatters 2 1/2 years after the earthquake -- and are places of violence, rape, child sexual abuse, and ongoing hopelessness.

Hence, the vision of the Holy Father which is embraced in the projects of CiVI:
Awareness of God's undying love sustains us in our laborious and stimulating work for justice and the development of peoples, amid successes and failures, in the ceaseless pursuit of a just ordering of human affairs. God's love calls us to move beyond the limited and the ephemeral, it gives us the courage to continue seeking and working for the benefit of all, even if this cannot be achieved immediately and if what we are able to achieve, alongside political authorities and those working in the field of economics, is always less than we might wish. God gives us the strength to fight and to suffer for love of the common good, because he is our All, our greatest hope. - Caritas in Veritate, para. 78
In keeping with Pope Benedict's closing exhortation, that "Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God's providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace", one of the first works of Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum', the Scalabrini Fathers,  and CiVI will be to provide a new parish church and center for Catholic formation in the Croix-des-Bouquets neighborhood.  (The local parish was virtually destroyed in the earthquake, yet still used for Mass despite it's obviously unsafe condition.)

Under the patronage of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, we have designed a humble yet dignified church to seat about 500 people, to be built out of reinforced concrete and masonry, with steel frame trusses and roof. 

The simple white washed stucco exterior, with the triple blue bands, is a subtle acknowledgement to the sari and headdress of Mother Teresa, who worked so tirelessly to service the poorest of the poor "in charity and in truth". 

The deep overhangs are climate responsive to break the sweltering heat and the torrential rains. The sides of the nave open out to the patio with large top hinged doors that provide additional shade and rain protection while allowing for maximum cross ventilation in the tropical climate, and can be securely fastened down for security and in the event of hurricanes.

If you are interested in donating to help build "something beautiful for God", please contact us at:

Charity and Truth International
2121 South Rural Road
Tempe, AZ 85282 USA

t. 480-344-5213

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