Haitian community visits N.Y. cathedral, learns more about Venerable Toussaint
By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent
A day of faith sharing and camaraderie was enjoyed when members of the Haitian community of Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony Parish, Hamilton, and their parish priests, Msgr. Thomas N. Gervasio, pastor, and Father Jean Felicien, parochial vicar, journeyed to New York City Oct. 13.
Msgr. Gervasio said that the main reason for the excursion was to introduce the Haitian faithful to Venerable Pierre Toussaint, a native of Haiti whose cause for canonization is being studied in Rome. The contingent was happy for the opportunity to attend Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and visit where Venerable Pierre Toussaint is entombed under the main altar. Msgr. Gervasio noted that Venerable Pierre Toussaint is the only person entombed there other than the Bishops and Archbishops of the New York Archdiocese.
“Pierre Toussaint is actually from Gonaïves, the same province where I am from,” said Father Felicien, who is a native of Haiti and is also chaplain in Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton. Father Felicien spoke of the privilege it was for him to celebrate Mass in Creole for the Haitian faithful in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“It was a moving experience for me. It’s so beautiful- it’s gigantic,” Father Felicien said of the cathedral that was opened in 1879.
Msgr. Gervasio said he wanted his Haitian parishioners not only to know Toussaint’s story, but to offer their prayers to Toussaint and ask for his intercession, as well.
“I thought we could lend our prayers to this cause for canonization and that such a visit would be a point of honor for our parishioners from Haiti,” he noted. “I am always in admiration of the Haitians’ deep faith, their active participation in the Mass and their joy in living! Prayer and song are always an important characteristic of the Haitian Community. It was a prayerful, but also a joyful day! I think everyone would like to make this trip a tradition!”
Following the Mass, the group visited the 9/11 Memorial, the majority of whom had visited for the first time, including Father Felicien.
“It was very sad,” said Father Felicien. “You think of all who lost their lives, and the first responders and firemen, who were so dedicated to serving others. It struck me.”