Cathedral Mass remembers those who died in Haiti quake

Robertine Casimir of Boston prays during a memorial Mass celebrated by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley for those who perished in the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. Casimir was among the nearly 2,000 people who filled the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to remember the dead and express solidarity with the people of the island nation. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

SOUTH END -- It was a way for Haitian-Americans from across the Archdiocese of Boston to mourn the loss of the many victims of the January earthquake and show a spirit of solidarity with one another.

Over 2,000 people -- mostly members of Boston’s Haitian community -- packed the Cathedral of the Holy Cross March 7 for a memorial Mass offered by Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley for the earthquake’s victims including Archbishop of Port-au-Prince Joseph Serge Miot. During the Mass, a collection was taken up for Haitian relief efforts.

“I think it is a good thing for all of us to pray to the Lord for all he’s done for us,” said Gretto Altenor, a Haitian-American who worships at St. Matthew Parish in Dorchester and St. Angela Merici Parish in Mattapan.

The Mass was celebrated in French and Haitian Creole. Cardinal O’Malley delivered his homily in French.

A catafalque -- a platform on which a casket is usually set -- sat draped in a purple cloth and surrounded by six requiem candles and a paschal candle near the base of the steps leading to the altar.

During the offertory, items representing the recent earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and Taiwan, were presented. Items included candles, a globe, and cards with the Haitian, Chilean, and Taiwanese flags.

A Haitian choir sang a French translation of “How Great Thou Art” among other songs. At the close of the Mass while the Haitian national anthem was sung, those in attendance waved Haitian flags. The “Ave Maria” was sung by a soloist following Communion.

Speaking with The Pilot following the Mass, Cardinal O’Malley said that during his homily he talked about the “privilege” of his recent trip to Haiti, and how impressed he was with Haitians’ “courage, faith, and determination” to rebuild the Caribbean island nation.

He said he also reminded those in attendance that natural disasters are not punishments from God but rather that God is merciful and cares about his people. And he discussed the difficulty of confronting death.

“We believe death is an exit door, but also an entrance to a new life,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “Our faith assures us about God’s love and care for us.”

Father William Joy, pastor of St. Angela’s and St. Matthew’s who was one of the concelebrants, said that many are still grieving almost two months after the quake.

“They feel guilty,” he said. “They’re here and not there.”

Lorna DesRoses, director of the Office Black Catholics in the archdiocese, told The Pilot that the cardinal’s support is being felt by many in the local Haitian community.

“People feel as if they haven’t been forgotten by the archbishop,” DesRoses said. “There’s a sense of solidarity, if you will.”

Altenor knows the feeling.

“For the last two months, we’ve gathered together, prayed, and helped each other,” he said.

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