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Haitian Priest Develops Post-quake Reflections for his People
Ana Rodriguez-Soto
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2010
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MIAMI (CNS)—With 1.3 million people still living in tents and the threat of cholera hovering over them, Haiti's earthquake survivors seem to be living a crucifixion.

Where, in the midst of their suffering, is God?

"We don't hear him, but he is with us," said Father Alphonse Quesnel, a Montfortian priest who serves as pastor of St. Louis Roi de France Parish in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Father Quesnel is certainly sharing that crucifixion with his people. His church and his rectory were destroyed. A fellow priest, 10 parishioners and 10 seminarians were killed on the grounds. Father Quesnel survived. About 300 people are still living amid the rubble of the parish buildings—rubble that Father Quesnel has used to build a brick wall inscribed with the names of those who perished.

Now the timid, soft-spoken priest wants to turn that suffering into spiritual lessons—both for himself and for his people.

Father Quesnel visited Miami recently to show Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski the catechesis he has put together: a CD with several recorded reflections, a songbook and a catechetical book with more reflections and prayers.

Father Quesnel calls it an "earthquake catechesis," to give people "something spiritual so that they can go beyond what happened."

The songbook, a collection of hymns already known to the people, draws its theme from survival. Its title is "Songs of Love to Get Through Times of Trial" ("Chants d'Amour pour Traverser les Preuves de la Vie").

The message of the catechesis is this, Father Quesnel said: "During the hard moments of life, do not think that God is absent. In his silence, he holds us in his gaze."

Father Quesnel harks back to Jesus' crucifixion, when Jesus cried out for God, and there was only silence. But three days later, Jesus was raised from the dead.

In fact, the catechesis includes the testimony of several people who were buried in the rubble, and rescued after three days.

"We can give meaning to suffering," Father Quesnel said.

And the lessons are not just for survivors of literal earthquakes.

"There is an earthquake in our lives also every day—not only Jan. 12," he said. "Through that 'fault' in our lives, the light enters."

Father Quesnel said he developed the catechesis not just for his people but for himself as well.

"It's for me, above all, a response of thanksgiving to God for having survived," he said. "It is my contribution to the rebuilding of the country, but at the level of the spiritual and the human."

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