Friday, May 29, 2009

Tribute to Father Gerry by Maria King Carroll

Here is what I remember about Father Gerry Jean Juste:

Seeing him say Mass at his beloved St. Clare’s in Port-au-Prince. During his
homily he said, “The first community of Christians were not in need because
they shared. We don’t share. We say we are Christians, but we are
hypocrites. We are only 600 miles from the U.S. and we are so poor. We are
part of the Americas—a continent of Christians, but we don’t act like it.”

He brought a young girl up on the alter who had been severely burned when a
propane tank exploded. She was covered in silvadene cream, and Father
explained that her family had spent all their money on her medical care. He
asked the people of his parish for donations for her family and the people
gave. After Mass, Father, who was clearly exhausted, took the time to listen
to each person waiting for him with their problems and concerns. When we
remarked on his stamina he said, “As long as I have time to pray, and
especially to say Mass, I am fine.”

Seeing him in prison in 2005, where he spent months on trumped up charges,
designed to ensure that he was not free during Haiti’s presidential
elections. My husband John Carroll, a physician, examined him and realized
that Father’s swollen neck indicated that something was likely seriously
wrong. “We will call it my freedom neck,” Father joked as we planned with
others how to petition for his release to receive medical treatment. Despite
his unjust imprisonment and his poor health, Father Gerry was amazingly
cheerful for himself but very sad about what was going on in Haiti. “Peace
and development,” he said. “These are the two things Haiti needs.” At the
end of the visit we all held hands and he prayed for each one of us. As we
left, we asked Father if there was anything we could do for him. He had
heard earlier that we had been able to secure more medical care for the
little girl who was burned in the propane explosion. “You already have,” he

Sometime when you meet a great person, you can be a little disappointed.
Maybe they act pompously or even unkindly. Maybe they are too big to do
certain jobs. Maybe they don’t live like they talk. Father Gerry Jean-Juste
was the real deal. He spent his life living the Gospel and challenging
others to do so also and trying to help those who most needed it. This
extended to his preaching, his organizing, and the way he treated each
person. And in all his labors and hardships, he exuded joy.

Haiti needs good guys like Father Gerry Jean-Juste. This world needs
them. It’a huge loss that he is no longer with us. As my husband said, “He’s the guy
who would do the most for Haiti, and he’s the one who was exiled for 18
years, he’s the one who was in and out of jail, he’s the one who was
prohibited from saying Mass by the Church, he’s the one who gets cancer, and
he’s the one who dies at age 62.”

Sometimes it can seem like goodness is snake bit. But I feel confident that
isn’t the lesson that Father Gerry Jean-Juste would want us to draw from his
life. No, the lesson that he would want us to learn is that love can win on
this earth. We just need to follow his example.

1 comment:

ansel said...

I have a rememberance of Father Gerry in audio form, including interviews with two of his attorneys, on my website that you might be interested in:

Thanks for all your work.