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Local campaign looks to boost marriage in Haiti

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NORTH ANDOVER -- As the effort to rebuild infrastructure in Haiti continues, a Catholic initiative recently began trying to rebuild the infrastructure of the family with a campaign supporting the sacrament of marriage.

On Jan. 26, St. Michael Parish in North Andover received the first wedding dress that will be donated to Immaculate Conception Parish in Milot, Haiti as part of the "Say 'Yes to Dress' Marriage Campaign" sponsored by the Center for the Rural Development of Milot (CRUDEM).

St. Michael parishioner Deb O'Hara-Rusckowski, the nursing coordinator for CRUDEM, said many Catholics in Haiti have stopped receiving the sacrament of marriage in recent years, not because of disrespect for the sacrament or a breakdown of tradition, but rather from a motivation rooted in deep respect for the Church, tradition and culture.

"If they could not afford the wedding dress, the suit, or the tux or the rings -- and coupled with if they could not afford to invite, not just their family but really they have a whole village celebration for such an occasion -- then they just would not get married," she said.

The plan for the campaign developed over a number of years, over a series of trips to Haiti, and with help from Catholics locally and in the U.S.

O'Hara-Rusckowski, director of the Respect Life Office for the Archdiocese of Boston from 2000 until 2008, first traveled to Haiti in 2005 to establish a program to train nurses.

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