By Roberta Phillips
Prior to visiting Haiti last February I was certain I knew the meaning of devotion. As a wife, mother and nurse for 37 years I learned devotion from family, friends and colleagues. My time in Haiti added another level to my education on devotion, witnessing the true work of Christ on earth amidst abject poverty.
Father Tony is a priest who cares for AIDS patients in his clinic while bestowing the love of devotion of Christ. His demeanor is gentle and humble. He treats his patients with a kind touch and caring words, holding his hand to his
heart while he speaks. His ‘presence’ embodies the Christ in the gospels as He heals the sick. He treats them with respect. The expression on the faces of the patients he touches is equally moving. Clearly the patients prize beyond words
the concern and love he brings to each.
The numerous patients are squeezed into the small building. Rows of narrow beds fill the room with barely enough room to squeeze between the beds. There is no medical equipment. There are no windows; the upper halves of the walls are open to allow air for some ventilation. Clearly the need is much greater than the resources to respond. And there is no sign of improvement from one year to the next. Father Tony has been here for about ten years. Each day it is a challenge to get the food and help needed to just provide them a place to spend their last days.
Fr. Tony is doing Christ’s work here on earth, which is, I believe, the utmost form of devotion. Day in and day out caregivers like Fr. Tony are challenged to help the people of Haiti believe, survive and learn, regardless of their own needs and afflictions. There is no pay. There is little visible progress to provide a sense of achievement or reward. I imagine that the priests, nuns, nurses, doctors and teachers feel great satisfaction when they share the word of God, save a life, cure an infection or teach someone to read. I imagine they have a great deal of contentment and peace from the work they
How do these caregivers continue day in and day out? I believe it is prayer. They need our prayers. As a Haitian Pilgrim not only is it my privilege to encourage prayer for all the people of Haiti, but to encourage prayer for all the courageous and devoted caregivers who nurture them every day. I feel I saw Jesus in the face of both the caregivers and the patients in Fr. Tony’s clinic. Please support the people of Haiti in whatever way you can and pray that with God’s help, these caregivers can continue their work.
This experience brings to mind the words of Mother Teresa: offer always a joyful smile to the children, to the poor, to all who are troubled either in the flesh or in their spirit. Give to them not only your care but also your heart.