Today is the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, a 13th century Italian deacon who has inspired the Church through the ages. His radiant spirit, a beacon for those seeking a life of meaning and service, inspired our Pope to take his name.
A Soulful Formation
Last year, Pope Francis made the following comment at a conference for Catholic educators:
We need to give a soul to the global world through an intellectual and moral formation that can support the good things that globalization brings and correct the harmful ones.
Since the early 1980s, The Haitian Project (THP) has been inspired by the Holy Spirit to make education—as well as soulful formation—available to talented and motivated children whose families cannot afford the cost of their children's education.
In addition to serving the students of Louverture Cleary School Santo 5 (LCS), THP has provided education and mentorship to hundreds of other children and adults in Port-au-Prince through its community outreach programs. It was THP Director of Community Development Christina Moynihan who led the movement to share the school’s resources and values with its more vulnerable neighbors not long after she moved to Haiti with her husband, THP President Deacon Patrick Moynihan, and their children in 1996.
LCS Santo 5 is located in a quiet neighborhood on a dead-end street. This was conducive to creating relationships with the vwazen (neighbors), and soon the neighbors’ needs became evident.
First, THP began distributing potable water to the zone, the area around the school. Then a tutoring program was established so that Louverturians could share their free education with others–living the school’s motto of Matthew 10:8: What you receive for free, you must give for free.
Next, with the help of two US Volunteers, Christina pioneered a child developmental center in order to help keep families in the zone together. Finally, Kan Dete (summer camp) was created to continue supporting the vwazens and their desire for more education and formation for their little ones.
Mentorship Creates a Bond
Christina takes a personal interest in the well-being of LCS’s neighbors. She has advocated for young children who were not enrolled in school because their families could not afford the cost of their education and helped them secure scholarships to local elementary schools. Thanks to her mentorship and the tutoring provided by LCS’s community outreach programs, some of these students have even been able to attend LCS for their secondary education.
Once they have entered LCS, the neighborhood children's stories are hardly different from those of any Louverturian—they pass Haiti’s national exam, attain university degrees, and work in professional careers where they earn enough to take care of themselves and their families.
And, of course, they are imbued with LCS’s charism of giving back to their community and building Haiti’s brighter future.
With support and mentorship, these young people transcend an extremely disadvantaged situation to a future full of hope and achievement. In turn, they work to build a more peaceful, just, and prosperous country for themselves and their communities, giving a soul to a global world.