Father Louis Merosne had just returned home from the United States and was driving on Haiti’s National Road to a wedding when the earthquake struck his country with more force than its 2010 predecessor. Future festivity gave way to national mourning as the catastrophic death toll rises for this deeply Catholic Caribbean nation.
In this interview, the Haitian pastor who also runs the nonprofit Mission to the Beloved, speaks about the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti and how the Church in the United States can provide support to the Haitian people in their hour of need and rebuild the country to greatly prevent destruction and loss of life from future natural disasters.
Father, where were you when the earthquake struck? What did you hear and see in those moments?
I was driving on the National Road, going to a wedding. I was rushing, because I was late and had just gotten back from the States the night before. So it wasn’t until a few minutes after [the earthquake] when I saw something look strange on the road. There was a truck stopped in the middle of the road and another one on the side, just waiting.
I rolled down my window to see what was going on. Some of the guys standing on the side were telling me, “Father, be really careful. We just had an earthquake, and we don’t know what happened.”
What was the aftermath of the destruction for your people?
My parish consists of the main town and also four villages with mission churches. In the town I would say at least certainly over 100 different homes have been either destroyed or greatly damaged. In the villages, most homes are either destroyed or damaged greatly. That’s the majority of homes. In terms of deaths from my particular parish, there’s one death reported in one of my villages and several wounded.
Other towns or parishes were less “lucky,” if I can use that term. In L’Asile, for example, they were hit pretty hard. Both the rectory and the church collapsed completely. Many homes were destroyed there, and they had many deaths. It sounds like maybe about 50 deaths so far, with many wounded in that [community]. It’s a similar situation for the town of Baraderes — the Church of St. Paul and St. Peter completely collapsed. The third town that is majorly hit as well is Lievre. The pastor had to be rescued from inside the rectory there.
Basically, every place is hit in our state.
Over to the state of Sud [South], particularly in the city of Les Cayes, the damage is major. The diocesan pastoral center is destroyed completely. The cardinal wasn’t there, but he was wounded. Many other homes are destroyed. And it sounds like there are still people under the rubble, as we speak. It’s a similar situation in Jérémie, which is part of the [state] of Grand’Anse.
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