Brothers of Christian Instruction

in Haiti

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Many Mainers in the York County area are familiar with the work of the Brothers

of Christian Instruction.  They have welcomed the York County Shelter Programs,

a homeless shelter with many programs, on their beautiful Shaker Hill property

in Alfred for over twenty years.

The Brothers sadly lost two of their thirty-eight Brothers who were working in Haiti during  the earthquake - Brother Joseph Bergot, Provincial Treasurer, and Brother Dominique Baron, a teacher and publisher of textbooks for Haitian high schools.

According to, the local Superior, Brother Jules Rancourt suffered

injuries from the earthquake and was hospitalized in Montreal.  In the same online article it was shared that the novitiate and the juniorate on the Brothers’ 100-acre property downhill from the Provincial residence were uninhabitable after the

earthquake.  In downtown Port-au-Prince, the Jean-Marie Guilloux was in ruins

and part of the St. Louis de Gonzague was destroyed.  In Jacmel the cathedral

was heavily damaged and the Brothers’ house and school were destroyed.

The Brothers of Christian Instruction operate in the following locations in Haiti:

Cap-Haitien, Delmas, La Vallee, Petionville Gabriel Deshayes, Petionville

La Mennais, Port-Au-Prince St. Louis de Gonzague, Cayes, Jacmel, Ouanaminthe, Petionville Juvenat, Port-Au-Prince Centre Mennaisien, Sainte-Marc.

According to Brother Ted Letendre of the Brothers of Christian Instruction in

Alfred, Maine, “Ten of our schools were damaged; some completely destroyed.”

For people interested in helping the Brothers of Christian Instruction in Haiti,

donations can be sent to:

                Brothers of Christian Instruction Haiti Fund

                Notre Dame Institute

                c/o Brother Ted Letendre

                132 Shaker Hill Road

                Alfred, Maine 04002

For updated information on how the Brothers are coping with all the

destruction, Brother Yannick Houssey, the Superior General, has a blog.

It appears in several languages but there are communications in English.

To access his blog:

Good morning to all our friends

It is almost a week since the catastrophic earthquake struck. During all these days, I have been almost glued on the telephoned and on the computer trying to gather and distribute information to the Brothers, parents, and friends. Calls came from everywhere searches. Thank you to all those who have helped me … or asked me.

I managed to go to the capital last Saturday.

From Petit-Goave, difficulties and strong emotions commence.. Difficulties of roads invaded by masses of fallen earth in several places, sometimes subsided and often gaping cracks. Emotions before all these collapsed houses, this crowd of people living under makeshift shelters (a tarpaulin most of the time). The nearer we approach Port-au-Prince, the more distress increases. And also the fear, for the « nightmares » have resumed their service. If « looting » is the work of the starving poor people that is quite understandable, others are veritable racketeers and gangsters (probably having escaped from the central prison that collapsed) who hold people at ransom, rob and threaten with firearms. Thank God, I did not meet any one of those, but on the advice of the Brothers I bypassed the city centre and went directly to the Juniorate. The crossing of the junctions is very painful because the roads are often blocked : the main street has partly become an open-air hospital, the adjacent roads are cut off by the collapsed houses. It took us two solid hours to get to Pétionville.

I passed close to La Mennais House whose collapsing occasioned the death of our dear Brother . Joseph Bergot (I have lived 23 years with him – and I used to call him two or three times a week for purchases or for technical advice). The house is no more that a heap of rubble. Still lying in the debris is Brother Dominique Baron, certainly dead by now.

I arrive at the Novitiate and the Juniroate. The Novitiate house itself has suffered: many walls collapsed. At the Juniorate, some fissures also and an uncertain building. All the people of the neighbourhood take refuge on the premises. The Brothers devote themselves to receive and organise the population of hundreds of people during the day, but which can easily redouble or triple for the night. These people have lost everything, their houses collapsed, it is imprudent to remain near cracked walls. In fact, the tremors continue: I experienced a good replica of magnitude 5 during my visit. Consequently everybody camps on the grounds, the Brothers included. Fortunately the people try to organise themselves, helping one another. The atmosphere is very fraternal. But we strongly hope that this improvised situation will not last too long : we must find another solution very soon, since this situation is likely to last for several months.

Towards mid-day, I go down to Delmas. There I find the Brothers also living in tents. The courtyard and the grounds are invaded by a crowd of people from the neighbourhood. Here also everything goes on well: the distributions go on calmly, even though there are some racketeers. The Brothers’ presence is very much felt : I feel they are exhausted and marked by all these events . I propose to the oldest to come to Cayes for the rest of the year and to the others to take time off now and again and come to our place for a rest, away from this reality so difficult to support. The youth from the MEJ of the neighbourhood often serve as a liaison between the community and all the persons who present themselves to ask for as well as to offer aid. Great solidarity is visible, manifested through prayer. Some Missionaries of Charity are also there to bring their aid. Now and again there is a stench of rotting bodies : a lorry loaded with corpses is passing by; it is a smell which pursues us everywhere while crossing the capital. I have hardly any time to tour the property : most of the buildings suffered much damage and they will have to be rebuilt. I asked a young Brother to take photos of the devastated buildings.. I will put them online tomorrow, Tuesday, if possible..

On returning, we came with some ten people .We were diverted several times because of the long lines of vehicles queuing for fuel at petrol stations, and roads blocked by the rubble of collapsed houses. We were not able to pass at Saint-Louis, Rue du Centre : there also the Brothers sleep outdoors on the courtyard. The two main buildings collapsed, but they told me that the offices were not crashed by the falling storeys. That is the place where we have had more deaths : a Normal School was running an evening class in one of the storeys at the time of the earthquake. All remained there.

Then we find again the calm of Cayes. Impression of a complete change of country. But soon dissipated. For the wounded flock now to the capital. The hospital is full to the brim. A football field has been requisitioned. And the population of Port-au-Prince commences to migrate to the provinces. All students return to their homes : they will have no classes for months.…

The coming days are bound to be difficult. We must be prepared for the numerous shortages (food, fuel), escalation of prices, difficulty of receiving money from the Diaspora, the absence of salaries for all government employees, unemployment for all those coming from the capital, the children from the capital out of school for months, without counting the possible racketeers and gangsters. There remain the willingness to work hard, the solidarity of the people of good will (fortunately they are the majority), the effort of all here and elsewhere, and trust in God…

Very many thanks to you all for your interest in our small country, poor but courageous and for the trust you place in us. May God bless you!

Yours faithfully,

Bro. Charles

Additional Comments from Brother Yannick:

I thank with all my heart all those who have expressed their sympathy by means of comments at the end of each article on the Blog or by e-mail. I cannot answer directly. But I wish to convey to them my fraternal wishes and thank them for their support and their prayers.

Here are some pieces of information concerning the Brothers of Christian Instruction in Haiti that I have just received from Brother Charles Coutard.

Provincial House : the Provincial house collapsed completely. Four Brothers were present. Three were on the terrace of the 3rd story. They were projected to the ground. Bro. Joseph Bergot was hit by a beam : he died on Wednesday despite his being hospitalised in Canapé-Vert. Bro. Rancourt has much pain in the legs and back, perhaps he sustained fractures. Bro. Fernand Doyon is almost uninjured  : a small wound on the face. Bro. Rancourt and Bro. Fernand, both of them Canadians, are now at their Embassy waiting for repatriation to their country. Bro. Dominique Baron was on the ground floor, shortly after his return from his work: the house collapsed over him; he is still under the debris, probably dead.

Novitiate : no victim, but the walls of the Novitiate have big cracks. Bro. Simon, the Master of Novices, is looking for another place for them.

Juniorate : no victim, the walls are cracked. The building of the big Juniorate appears very fragile and could easily collapse. The Juniorate compound receives over 2000 people who have been left homeless.

School of Pétionville : does not seem to have suffered much.

School Jean-Marie Guilloux : collapsed completely.

Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague – Rue du Centre : no victims. The building of the Procure and the building of Rue du Centre collapsed. The residence is very weakened. I do not know about the Chapel and the Haitian Library.

Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague – Delmas : no victims. The Brothers’ residence collapsed. Inside the class building, doors, windows and walls fell. The structure may have resisted. Many cracks in other buildings. The school grounds open to thousands of homeless people.

La Vallée : « At La Vallée, several small houses were damaged; they were not very solid. No death, no serious injuries. Our community residence is cracked in some places. We receive on our compound about a hundred persons every evening. » (Bro. Lamy Dessalines)

Jacmel : no victims. The Brothers’ residence collapsed. The Brothers sleep in class-rooms.

The other communities and schools suffered no damages and deplore no victim : Saint-Marc – La Cap – Ouanaminthe – Les Cayes

 Very partial news from other communities

Archbishopric : the Archbishop, Mgr Miot is dead as well as Mgr Benoit

Seminaries : the two sites of the Major Seminary (Turgeau and Cazeau) collapsed. Very many victims among the Seminarians.

The churches in the town collapsed : the Cathedral, St-Anne, Sacred-Heart, and St-Louis king of France.

Daughters of Mary: the buildings of Bel-Air. Many victims among the Sisters.

Daughters of Wisdom : the school of the Sacred Heart collapsed. Sr. Jeannine died.

Brothers of the Sacred heart: the Canado and the college of St-Jean collapsed. I do not know anything about the Brothers.

Oblate Fathers : the Provincial house and the Scholasticate collapsed. Probably there are some victims.

Sisters of St-Hyacinthe :the school near La Mennais collapsed; the Provincial (and retreat) house was cut in two pieces.

Sisters of St-Joseph of Cluny : St-Rose may have collapsed completely. No news about the Sisters.

This Wednesday, 10th March, Brother Louis Balanant and I are leaving for Haiti. We shall stay there for one week, meeting the Brothers and all those persons who, with them, are facing big challenges, following the earthquake of the 12th January 2010.

We shall express to them the solidarity of the entire Congregation and of the Mennaisian Family, a very active solidarity and that we wish to be as more efficacious as possible in order to bring to them the aid that they need. We shall listen to them and with them we shall try to see how we can help them to deal with the urgencies concerning their mission of education..

I confide this journey to your prayers. We wish to return with the projects for which, already, so many persons, schools and associations have made their contribution. We shall thus try, together, to support the Mennaisian works in Haiti, in the dynamism of reconstruction, according to what the Haitians themselves, Brothers and the Laity, will have discerned and planned.

And that, in order that the land of Haiti comes back to life and bears the good fruits of peace and justice.

May Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help watch over this mission.

Brother Yannick Houssay