Caritas Christi Urget Nos
Driven by the love of Christ.
by Allan Wirfel, LC | Source:
The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say unexpected ways. Humanly speaking it would be difficult to find any connection between the poor Haitian village of Pandiassou and Holy Name Catholic Church in Ebensburg, PA. Nevertheless, it is precisely this mysterious and unexpected path that the parish’s pastor, Father Arnold Gaus found himself on nearly 40 years ago.
As it happened, in the mid 1960’s Father Gaus traveled from the small town of Ebensburg, tucked away in the hills of Pennsylvania to the sun-warmed waters of San Juan, Puerto Rico. During a bit of free time Father Gaus decided to do some island-hopping which lead him to the island nation of Haiti.
What he saw was far from the lavish tourist spots that made the Caribbean islands famous. Destitution and poverty afflicted the vast majority of the Haitian people. On that day he promised that if God ever gave him the chance to help, he would dedicate himself to do so. Little did he know what kind of adventure the Holy Spirit had in mind. His small jaunt was the beginning of countless missionary journeys over the next 40 years.
After returning to the States the thoughts of Haiti were set on the back burner and parish ministry became the top priority. But the Holy Spirit hadn’t forgotten the promise made in Haiti. So in 1973 Father Gaus providentially met the Little Sisters of Jesus. After helping them get established in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese in central Pennsylvania, he proposed that if they started a community in Haiti, he would be its sponsor for the remainder of his life.
Shortly after, Little Sister Caroline left for Haiti to found a community, and spent twenty years of her life serving the most poor and destitute in the western hemisphere. In 1980 she introduced Father Gaus to Brother Franklin Armand, founder of the Little Brothers of the Incarnation who was seeking financial and material aid for his mission in Pandiassou. Shortly after Gaus started a non-profit organization, Kindred Journey, Inc. and decided that his own parish, Holy Name, could “adopt” a parish, forming the Twin Parish Mission in Pandiassou.
Together Father Gaus and Brother Franklin set to work on projects ranging from providing fresh water to agricultural development to building schools. In the past 30 years they have constructed over 60 reservoirs in the Central Plateau region of Haiti. They are now in the process of constructing the second largest reservoir in that nation, which will provide drinking water for tens of thousands of people.
Three years ago renovations were started on an abandoned school complex in the capital of Port-au-Prince. It is now a flourishing elementary school with nearly a thousand students. Thanks to their untiring efforts—and their conviction that whatever we do for the least of Our Lord’s brothers and sisters, we do it for him—they have provided for the needs of the people of Haiti.
“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or naked and clothe you?” Almost 40 years ago, Father Gaus saw Christ in the poor and destitute of Haiti. His love for Christ and his love for all people as children of God impelled him to respond. However, Father Gaus will be the first to say that his work in Haiti is really the work of the Holy Spirit. Father Gaus responded with generosity and allowed himself to be led by the Holy Spirit, that is, to be an instrument in the hands of God.
Seen with the eyes of faith it is not so difficult to see the connection between Holy Name Church in Ebensburg, PA and Pandiassou, Haiti. On the contrary, it is easy to see the Holy Spirit working to connect those in need of Christian charity with those who are generous enough to live it and practice it.
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