Salesians and pupils among earthquake victims

(ANS – Port-Au-Prince) – Since the earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti yesterday at 4:53 p.m. local time, communications with that country have been very difficult.

The Salesians have learned that Brother Hubert Sanon, age 85, is among the victims.  Father Harold Bernard, age 38, was missing under the ruins for some time but was pulled out alive. Both were on the staff of the Ecole Nationale des Arts et Métiers, or ENAM (National School of Arts and Trades) at Port-au-Prince.  It is better known by the generic name St. John Bosco.

St. John Bosco’s director, Fr. Attilio Stra, and other confreres were injured. Over 200 pupils are still buried there in the rubble. The emergency rescue services and the Salesians themselves are concentrating on trying to pull survivors from the rubble.

St. John Bosco included a primary school, a technical school, a reception center for youngsters in difficulty, an oratory (youth center), and the main kitchen for feeding tens of thousands of children daily through the “little schools” program of the late Fr. Lawrence Bohnen.

“We have been hit very hard,” says Fr. Ducange Sylvain, appointed the new superior of the Haitian Vice Province last December, in a short communication.

The provincial house and that of Fleuriot, both in Port-au-Prince, have been severely damaged; two young Salesians in formation who were at the university are still missing.

At the house of Carrefour-Thorland a part of the building and the reception center collapsed, but the Salesians are safe. At Gressier classrooms collapsed.

At Pétion-Ville the buildings suffered serious damage.

The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians have suffered damage to their works in Port-au-Prince and at Saint Mary D. Mazzarello in Pétion-Ville. At present there is also a Daughter of Mary Help of Christians in the hospital.

“It is a very difficult situation,” Fr. Sylvain concludes.

Salesian Missions in New Rochelle is working with Feed the Children, Catholic Relief Services, and Catholic Charities to organize relief for the survivors.  Fr. Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, says that what is most needed are medical supplies, bottled water, food, clothing, tents, and of course cash.

The Rector Major has also designated Salesian Missions in New Rochelle to coordinate the worldwide Salesian response to the disaster.  Jaime Correa of Salesian Missions’ international office is heading up that effort and is in touch with the mission offices of Bonn, Madrid, and Turin and with various Salesian NGOs in Europe such as Jugend Eine Welt in Vienna and VIS in Rome.

Offerings may be sent to Salesian Disaster Relief, Salesian Missions, Box 30, New Rochelle, NY 10802-0030.  Salesian Missions’ phone number is 914-633-8344.