Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Face of Peoria Catholic Diocese Changing

The Peoria Catholic Post editorial on June 15, 2008 was titled “Face of Diocese Changing”. The article focused on the massive amount of construction that is occurring within the Peoria Diocese.

“As the sounds of construction echo this summer heralding wonderful, anticipated projects such as expanded Catholic Newman Centers at the University of Illinois and Illinois State University, the Milestone Project at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, and the Diocese of Peoria’s own pastoral center, we have another reminder that everything in this world is passing.”

Tom Dermody, editor of the Catholic Post, ends his article with, “The true face of this diocese will always be Jesus, gloriously the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Who can disagree with this last statement but it just did not seem to go along with the article.

I am sure Tom means well. However, the Publisher of the Post is Bishop Daniel Jenky and Tom isn’t naive.

I think that the "face of Jesus" would have been more real if the OSF Milestone Project, which is costing about $500 million dollars, were less expensive and more Haitian Hearts patients were alive today. OSF is turning away dying Haitian children while they construct the largest private construction project in Peoria history.

Much of the same issue of the Catholic Post concerns the poor of the world and programs like Catholic Charities and JustFaith. There was also an article regarding a Peoria diocesan priest and his two children who he supports in Mexico through the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (“We don’t see poverty. We see potential".) I wonder what OSF would say if this good priest tried to bring one or both of his “children” from Mexico for medical care?

The actions of the leaders of the OSF and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria seem to be opposite to many of the themes of the articles written about the poor in the Catholic Post. That can leave the laity confused.

I love Peoria Notre Dame High School. My family runs on the beautiful Mervyn Haycock Athletic Field track and we pass the football on the adjacent green soccer field. Both of these fields are next to the school. The other night two rainbows were in the sky and the moon was coming above the ND goal post as we played on these fields.

The Catholic Post’s top story on June 22, 2008 regarded a feasibility study planned to determine the level of financial support for the construction of a new Peoria Notre Dame High School to be built on donated land off Willow Knolls Road in north Peoria.

Do we really need a new Catholic High School in Peoria? I realize that the high school is more than just athletic fields, but is a new campus necessary?

The full construction cost for the proposed new facility is $60 million dollars. Tuition will most likely go up at the new facility. What about kids in the future that want to go to Notre Dame. Will their parents be able to afford it? Will they be able to find the new school on the north side of Peoria?

The article named and quoted a lady who had a positive reaction to building a new school. Interestingly, the article also stated that, “A man in attendance who asked not to be named expressed concerns about fundraising in the present economy, and noted area parishes with capital campaigns already under way or planned in the near future.”

Why do you think that the man wished to remain anonymous? Because he doesn’t want to publicly disagree with Bishop Jenky and other powerful people. I am sure he thinks that the school will be built and his public disagreement or caution would and could hurt him and his family. (Notre Dame has been working with the diocese on this project and has the blessing of the bishop.)

I have no doubts either that the new high school will be built and there will be many good aspects. But is the greater good served in Peoria with the construction of this school?

I have also seen Saint Joseph’s Home on Heading Avenue open in the 50’s and close in the early 2000’s. Old people are just not viewed the same as constructing a new $60 million dollar high school, Newman Centers in two cities, and a one-half billion dollar medical center expansion. And the elderly obviously did not have the support of Bishop Jenky.

My view is probably myopic. But I have seen up close and personal what OSF’s administrative philosophy and expansion efforts, backed by the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, have done to Haitian Hearts patients. Staring at the body of a young Haitian patient and friend of mine lying on the autopsy table is a sobering experience and made me realize how powerful and wrong OSF really is. He had been a patient at OSF but was denied care at OSF when he needed repeat heart surgery.

And with the support of the Diocese, OSF has partially forgotten why they were founded 130 years ago.

So big building projects scare me especially when the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and OSF are involved.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Haiti's Child Slaves

Several years ago Haitian Hearts brought a 14 year old girl to the States for heart surgery. I will call her Fabianne.

Fabianne had two aunts. One aunt was good and the other aunt was bad. The bad aunt and had used Fabianne since she was much younger has a "domestek" in her home. Some would view Fabianne as a child slave.

Fabianne's jobs were to get up early, help her cousins get ready for school, prepare breakfast, and go to market.

Fabianne never attended school and did not know how to read and write.

During meal times, Fabianne had bread soup and sat under the table when she ate her soup. Bread soup consisted of water with specks of bread thrown in.

Her good aunt somehow got hold of Fabianne and took her to the doctor for unclear reasons. The doctor heard a heart murmur and said she needed further work up.

Fabianne's good aunt brought her to Haitian Hearts and we examined her. Her echocardiogram revealed that she had a leaky valve and needed heart surgery. We were able to bring her to a well known children's medical center in the United States.

Prior to surgery, a dental exam revealed carious and abscessed teeth. One tooth required extraction before surgery. Fabianne had never been to a dentist.

The night before surgery, Fabianne had concerned adults in her room that were sitting around worried about her and the dangerous surgery to occur the next day. Fabianne remarked that she was amazed that so many people cared about her.

Her surgery went well and after recuperation, she returned to her "good aunt" in Port-au-Prince.

There are many "Fabianne-type" stories in Haiti.

See article below.


Posted on Fri, Jul. 11, 2008
Free the Slaves Next Door

A few weeks ago I conducted a horrifying experiment. I tested how long it would
take to leave my office on Manhattan's Upper West Side and buy a child slave.
After a 45-minute cab ride, an hour-or-so wait at Kennedy airport and a 3
½-hour plane ride, I found myself engaged in broad-daylight, poolside
negotiations with a trafficker who said he was ready and eager to provide me
with a kid -- any age, either sex -- as soon as the next day. "I guarante e my
service," he said proudly.

The cost: $150. From start to finish, all it took was roughly 10 hours. This
casually grotesque conversation took place just 700 miles from Miami, in Haiti,
where there are an estimated 300,000 child slaves. There is a slavery epidemic
raging right under America's nose.

The hope is education.

While I had no intention of actually completing the purchase of a child, I was
able -- with astonishing ease -- to interview young slaves and their owners. As
I learned, the real scandal in Haiti is not that you can buy a child; it's that
you can get one for free. Child slavery has become a widespread and, to a
disturbing degree, socially acceptable practice. For generations, impoverished
parents from the countryside have given their children to families in the city,
in the hope that the children would be educated. (Public schools in Haiti,
especially in rural areas, are essentially nonexistent.)

"They dangle like a diamond necklace the promise of school," said E. Benjamin
Skinner, author of a new book on modern-day slavery, called A Crime So
Monstrous. (Skinner gave me the idea to see how long it would take to buy a
child slave.) Usually, however, the promise of education is not kept, and the
children are forced to do domestic labor. They are frequently beaten and raped,
according to human rights activists. When they get too old to be easily
controlled, they're often thrown out onto the streets.

It may not look like pre-Civil War, plantation-style slavery; there are no
legal, public auctions of humans. Thousands of Haitian children are, however,
"forced to work, through force or fraud, for no pay beyond subsistence," an
internationally recognized definition of modern-day slavery.

This epidemic of slavery (which is brutally ironic, given that Haiti is the
only republic in modern history to be founded on a slave revolt) is an
outgrowth not only of poverty (Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western
Hemisphere) but also of lax governance. When I brought the case of Ti Soeur, an
11-year-old slave with whip marks all over her arms, to the Haitian Department
of Social Services, officials promised to act "as early as possible." Days
later, they had taken no action and stopped returning phone calls.

What is the U.S. government doing about this? Not nearly enough, according to
Skinner. Congress did pass the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection
Act of 2000. The law requires the State Department to issue an annual report,
ranking the world's governments based on their efforts to fight slavery. The
worst are subject to sanctions. The most recent report came out two days after
I successfully negotiated for a child. While the State Department criticized
Haiti for not even having a law against human trafficking, it designated Haiti
as a "special case" because its government is in "political transition."

Ask the candidates.

Skinner and others in the modern abolitionist movement say that the U.S.
government has a moral obligation to be exponentially more aggressive in the
fight to free the estimated 27 million slaves around the world. (That is a
larger number, they say, than at any point in human history.)
As a news reporter, I prefer to be descriptive, not prescriptive. But I do have
one suggestion: Let's ask the presidential candidates what concrete steps they
plan to take on this issue. I recently checked how many times the candidates
were asked about modern-day slavery during the countless presidential debates.
Answer: zero.

The situation for Haiti's child slaves could not be more desperate. When I
asked a trafficker there whether there were any rules about how his customers
should treat the children he sells, he said, "It's yours, you do whate ver you

Dan Harris is an anchor/reporter with ABC News. His report on child slavery
appeared on the news program Nightline earlier this week.

© 2008 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Genocide in Haiti

In the late '90's I had the chance to meet with Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Mr. Aristide was between his two aborted presidencies of Haiti. Mrs. Aristide served us lemonade.

I told Mr. Aristide that I thought genocide was occuring in Haiti. My work in the medical field in Haiti led me to this belief.

I am not sure if I knew the offical definition of the word genocide like Samantha Power knows. But I am not sure if I really care either.

I have seen enough in Haiti to believe that genocide is probably not too inappropriate a term for a non academic like me to use.

See John Maxwell's ideas regarding Haiti and genocide.

Father Gerry Not a Candidate for President of Haiti

Before Father Jean-Juste's politically motivated arrest several years ago my wife Maria asked Father if he was going to be a candidate for President of Haiti in the upcoming election.

He responded, "Some people say that I am." That is all he said.

I want to know if Father broke a specific Catholic law regarding priests and political involvement that would bar him from acting as a priest now. If anyone has information regarding this, please let me know.

See this article regarding Father Gerry's latest statements regarding his "candidacy" and what he is going through now during his long sojourn for the Haitian people.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Cry of the Motherless Child

I remember that beautiful morning when I woke up
Mama looked disturbed and Papa was gone
Hungry and helpless she wandered the room
I wish I had it all

She enlessly looked out the window hoping for a blessing
But Papa came empty handed
Hungry and weary they cried together
I wish I had it all

Mama loves me, Papa loves me
But love thrives not on hunger
How could the world be strong yet so helpless?
I wish I had it all

I cried and cried, oh yes I cried
I cried until my cry cried no more
But Mama just walked on
I wish I had it all

She turned and sobbed but just walked on
She wanted me to live
I cried for Papa but he walked straight on
I wish I had it all

I cried, I stretched out my arms but love filled them not
I wish I had Mama, I wish I had Papa
I would have had it all

Mama's beautiful smile fills my world with joy
Her sparkling white teeth a medicine to my pain
Her soft hands a tray of comfort
I wish I had it all

Her tireless lap a home to play
Her ample shoulders a place to sleep
Her protective arms a guide to safety
I wish I had it all

Happy lies the day when hunger hungers no more
When Mama and Papa worry no more
When we all will be one family again
Blessed is the day when Mama and Pap will be mine again.

(Written by Seminarian Paul Kala during his first visit to Haiti. Mr. Kala is from Ghana, on the west coast of Africa.)