Sharing the Mission

Newsletter issue: 
June 2014
News item date: 
Friday, July 25, 2014

By HPN Staff

John Donovan has worked with Fr. Koutnik to help prepare three groups of visitors
to LCS from Crystal Lake, IL. He is pictured here with recent trippers [from left] Mary Kunz, Joanna Majewska, Cathy Rife, Meredith Luczak, and Tina Favuzzo. Nadine Ruszkowski, Marcia Loescher, Cheralyn Telmanik also made the trip in May.

    Thanks to the quiet generosity of Msgr. Dan Hermes, St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Crystal Lake, IL has supported The Haitian Project (THP) for nearly fifteen years. In 2011, when JoEllen Gregus, the parish’s Director of Evangelization and Adult Formation, was looking to help parishioners develop a greater awareness of the world outside Crystal Lake, Msgr. Hermes shared with her the parish’s history of support. Gregus reached out to THP, and it was evident that a visit to Louverture Cleary School (LCS) would help the parish deepen its existing relationship. Fr. Jerome Koutnik, a parochial vicar in the parish, has since visited Haiti annually and, with his unfailing passion, shared the good news of THP’s mission.

    Preparation for group visits begin long before the flight to Port-au-Prince, including at least six formation meetings, logistical planning, and fundraising to support cost of the trip. After their visit in 2012, Gregus asked John and Denise Donovan, to help with the formation process.  John recalled, “In many ways, Denise is much better at service than I am, but the administrative aspects -- that’s my job. I thought, ‘This will be fun.’”

    A project manager by profession, Donovan’s organizational skills are a great fit for the role. THP’s director of community development, Kaitlyn Guzik commented, “John consistently anticipates the next step in the process and leaves no stone unturned to ensure the group is well-prepared. His readiness to develop and improve the process, and his seeking to understand what the community needs first, is a great help and a great witness to THP’s charism.”

    Most recently, Donovan and Fr. Koutnik helped prepare a group of eight women making the trip to LCS in May. Though many visitors are hesitant at the prospect of raising funds for their trip, Donovan asked it of the group, and they responded. The women held fundraisers, bussed tables at a local Culver’s and took advantage of employer match programs to support the cost of their visit. For some, the joy of having a friend or colleague say, “yes” to supporting THP, became the most rewarding part of the process.

    In addition to his work with visiting groups, for the past two years Donovan has worked with fellow parishioner Barb Wheeler (see HPN Dec 2013), in preparation for THP’s annual Big Get Together. His objective is to retain involvement from the visiting alumni. In describing the importance of the THP ministry at St. Thomas, Donovan noted, “There are many different ways to bring people into the Church.”

    In reflecting on the impact that the visits have on the parish, Gregus noted, “When I talk to Msgr. [Hermes] about missionary and service work, we often discuss, ‘Who is experiencing more of an impact – the person receiving the help, or the person giving?’