“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field”
Why are we involved in parish twinning? I was asked this question recently.
Parish twinning allows us to help our sisters and brothers in the Faith in geographic areas less fortunate than ours. It is an opportunity to live out the Gospel values, build up the body of Christ, reach out in solidarity to our sisters and brothers in the faith in the underdeveloped world, have a fraternal relationship with them, and accompany them in their struggles for self-sufficiency.
In parish twinning with the Diocese of Norwich Outreach to Haiti, the American twin parish develops a Christ-centered, mission-oriented collaboration with a parish in Haiti. It helps us to better understand the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” faith shared by people throughout the world.
Our twinning program gives parishes in the United States the opportunity to develop relationships with parishes in Haiti, resulting in a medical clinic, healthcare services, a food and nutrition program that helps expectant mothers and malnourished children, and an educational sponsorship program that provides more than 200 young people with the gift of education.
Spiritually, we receive more than we give as our Haitian brothers and sisters share their strong witness of the Gospel with us. Their faith is strong even though their material resources are few.
I remember when Bishop Daniel Hart asked me to go to Haiti in 2000 to learn Haitian Creole so I could assist our Catholic Haitian brothers and sisters living here in the Norwich diocese with Mass and spiritual assistance. I spent three months learning the basics of Haitian Creole before going to live in some of our twinned parishes to develop further my new language skills.
The first parish where I lived was St. Pierre in Ganthier, which is twinned with Blessed Sacrament Parish in Tolland and Rockville.
Education was scarce in the area, and at the time the pastor of St. Pierre, Father Malbranche, had the idea to start a parish school.
Like the mustard seed parable in the Gospels, Father started small, using the church for classes. A year later, when a delegation from Blessed Sacrament Parish visited, Father had created an addition on the side of the church for classrooms. The parishioners and friends of Blessed Sacrament began helping with the project by paying teachers’ salaries. Then, more classrooms were added. The succeeding pastor, Father Emmanuel, got help from Food to the Poor to build a new school with 20 rooms across the street from the church. The original school space is now used for kindergarten, while the new school houses grades 1-9.
Blessed Sacrament Parish continues to support the salaries of the teachers from kindergarten to sixth grade and another twinned parish supports the salaries for the seventh to ninth grade teachers. The Dorothy Spalla Feeding Program, with support from Tolland area people, provides school children with a hot meal four days per week.
What began as a mustard seed has grown over the years into a large modern grammar school with 510 students enrolled this academic year. These children, who are from very poor households, would not have received an education without the idea of Father Malbranch and the support of Outreach to Haiti’s twinned parish, Blessed Sacrament Parish and the assistance from other partners and friends.
This is just one of the many twinning success stories we will share over the coming months.
The Haitians are grateful that we walk with them and learn from each other. There are many impoverished areas in Haiti and if you are interested in walking with our Haitian brothers and sisters to help with our medical clinic and many outreach programs in Christ the King neighborhood or twinning with one of the impoverished parishes in the Archdiocese of Port au Prince, please call Outreach to Haiti at (860) 800-3601.
By Father Frank Rouleau