Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is sending a second emergency grant of $100,000 to help more than 200 destitute seminarians in Haiti who are lucky to be alive after their college collapsed in the earthquake.
The urgent aid comes after news that at least 30 students for the priesthood were confirmed dead after being crushed when the quake destroyed seminary buildings in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
The charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians has responded by offering aid to provide food, medicine, clothing and shoes for the 200 or more seminarians who survived the quake.
The aid payment came after a desperate appeal from Archbishop Louis Kébreau, Archbishop of Cap-Haïtien and chairman of the Haiti Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
The Salesian archbishop stressed the needs of the seminarians, saying that they had nobody to care for them and were desperate to return to their home dioceses, in many cases many miles away from Port-au-Prince.
The aid package, agreed late Tuesday, 19th January, follows Friday’s ACN aid grant of $70,000 for general emergency relief work. More help from ACN is expected soon.
ACN has channeled its assistance through the Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, who is bringing in aid from Santo Domingo, the capital of neighboring Dominican Republic.
In a message to ACN on Sunday, Jan. 17th, Bishop Chibly Langlois of Fort-Liberté, described how he sent a mercy mission to Port-au-Prince to collect 16 diocesan seminarians, all of who survived the quake.
The bishop wrote: “One of the seminarians spent two-and-a-half days under the rubble. Another was injured. Three others received shocks and need special care. I have sent two to the Dominican Republic for check-ups and treatment impossible to get in Fort-Liberté.
“In addition, the seminarians were not able to recover their belongings. That means that it is necessary for us to provide not only medical assistance but also financial help so that they can get themselves a change of clothes and other basic necessities.”
In a sign that ACN’s Haiti aid relief is unprecedented in scale, project chiefs have again signaled that the charity is poised to give more emergency and long-term help.
Plans are emerging for an urgent project assessment trip to the country, now scheduled for March.
ACN’s Latin America projects department has drafted a five-point plan prioritizing more help for people trying to flee the areas worst-affected by the earthquake as well as support for key Church structures including the CIFOR pastoral center and repairs to the major seminary both in Port-au-Prince.
It comes as the charity reports that it has received a series of distressing accounts of the suffering from priests, Sisters, bishops and lay alike.
Bishop Langlois of Fort-Liberté wrote: “We live through this catastrophe clinging to faith and hope. Our prayers do not stop us turning to God who can help us overcome our sufferings through solidarity and communion with others.”
But amid reports of widespread damage, especially in Port-au-Prince, Archbishop Auza, the nuncio, sent an update to ACN reporting an “endless list” of death and destruction.
Describing how “all our beautiful churches are wiped out,” he wrote that seminarians from the Montfordian religious order were trapped and killed in Port-au-Prince when their minibus was crushed by debris falling from the nearby CIFOR training and religious center.
In his message sent on Saturday, Jan. 16th, he reported that Daughters of Mary religious Sisters were still trapped in the rubble. The provincial had died and those who had been rescued were wounded.
Stressing his total reliance on the aid he had organized to be sent from the Dominican Republic, the nuncio added, “I have nowhere else to buy bread. I cannot multiply my sack of rice.”