Prayers to mark anniversary of Haiti earthquake

A girl washes her hands after using the toilet in Cite Soleil, where cholera is epidemic. The toilets are sponsored by the church-backed ACT Alliance. Photo: Paul Jeffrey
A girl washes her hands after using the toilet in Cite Soleil, where cholera is epidemic. The toilets are sponsored by the church-backed ACT Alliance. Photo: Paul Jeffrey

At least two Episcopal Church dioceses have written prayers to recognize and commemorate the first anniversary of the magnitude-7 earthquake that devastated Haiti nearly a year ago.

The Diocese of Pennsylvania, which plans a commemorative Eucharist in its cathedral at noon on Jan. 12, has posted a form for Prayers of the People here.

The Diocese of Connecticut, in which three congregations plan observances, offers this collect for Haiti:

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family, and especially upon the people of Haiti; help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A growing collection of prayers and collects, including the ones from Pennsylvania and Connecticut, can be found here. Episcopalians may share additional prayers by emailing them to [email protected]

The Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake struck in the late afternoon about 15 miles west-southwest of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, killing more than 200,000 people and leaving more than a million homeless, most of whom are still living in tents or in even worse conditions.

Casualty estimates vary widely even a year after the quake. Munich Re, an insurance company, estimated late in 2010 that 222,570 people died. Haitian President Rene Preval, among others, has said the death toll was close to 300,000. Property and infrastructure losses are estimated at between $8 billion and $14 billion. Major rebuilding has yet to begin.

Since the earthquake, Haiti has been rocked by post-presidential election violence and burdened by a rare cholera outbreak. The United Nations said Dec. 30 that cholera had already killed more than 2,760 people and infected more than 130,000 others, nearly 71,000 of whom were hospitalized.

Among the thousands of buildings damaged and destroyed was the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti‘s Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. Also lost on the cathedral site were Holy Trinity Music School, Holy Trinity Professional School, primary and secondary schools and a convent.

The Diocese of Haiti is the numerically largest diocese in the Episcopal Church. Prior to the earthquake it ran a network of 254 schools that taught more than 80,000 Haitians from preschool to university level. Other institutions included a school for handicapped children, a trade school, a music school, a two-year business school, a nursing school that granted the first baccalaureate degrees in the country in January 2009, a seminary and a university. A renowned philharmonic orchestra and children’s choir were based at the cathedral; both are still performing. The diocese also provided medical clinics, development projects and micro-financing efforts.

In all, the quake destroyed 71 percent of the diocese’s churches, 50 percent of its primary schools and 80 percent of its secondary schools, according to details of the Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the Diocese of Haiti (Phase 1), which was released in early November. Seventy-five percent of its higher-educational facilities must be demolished and 33 percent of its rectories, convents and guesthouses are seriously damaged and also must be destroyed. Also lost were the bishop’s house and the diocese’s income-producing condominium building.

The Episcopal Church is just beginning an effort to raise money to aid Haitian in rebuilding Holy Trinity Cathedral. A webpage devoted to the effort is here.

The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is a national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

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