25 Years of Partnership: St. Philip’s and St. Jean Baptiste
This past June, a group from St. Philip’s visited our sister church, St. Jean Baptiste, in the mountain community of Plaine Mapou on La Gonâve Island in Haiti for the feast of St. John the Baptist (June 24), as we have done almost every year for 25 years. However, St. Philip’s and St. Jean Baptiste are not the only sister churches on the island of La Gonâve. St. Jean Baptiste was the first of the ten community churches on the island to have a sister church in the United States, but now all ten churches have partners, and some even have three or four partnering sister churches.
Each of the small community churches on the island has a lay pastor who preaches and runs the church and usually is the school principal too. The reason each church has a lay pastor is that there has always been only one ordained priest for all 10 churches––until this year! Now there are two.
Père (“Father”) Ricot Geffard is the new priest in charge of our sister church, St. Jean Baptiste, along with four other nearby churches. Père (“Father”) Jean Madoché Vil, who was formerly the one priest over all 10 churches, will now be focusing on the other five churches, one of which is the mother church of the diocese of La Gonâve Island.
Additionally, Père Vil and Père Ricot will now manage together (in addition to the churches) the schools at each church, The Bill Rice Hospital, healthcare workers for each community, a children’s nutrition program, a goat project, microfinance programs, and an adult literacy program.
So you may ask, “How do these priests who live and work in Haiti coordinate, communicate, and work with all the sister churches and programs in the U.S.?” From the beginning in 1995, there was a loose confederation of the multi-denominational sister churches. Each year they would meet to coordinate, dream, plan, and share, but then they would go back to doing pretty much their own thing. One volunteer coordinator would serve for a year to distribute information from the priest in Haiti to the church partners and vice-versa. However, after the 2010 earthquake, everyone realized it was time to step it up––once a year was not enough. The partnership was growing and so were the needs. The partners knew it was time to form a structured partnership, and the 501(c)(3) “La Gonâve Haiti Partners” was formed.
The board meets monthly. All partners are invited to participate in partnership meetings via phone conference calling every other month. At the end of July every year, we have our annual partnership meeting, where we gather together to celebrate the successes of the past year and plan and brainstorm for the year ahead.
Each year a different partner hosts the meeting. This year we will meet at First Presbyterian Church of Fernandina Beach, FL. Père Vil and Père Ricot will both be there, along with Mr. Jean Thony, who has managed the La Gonâve Goat Project and the partnership garden since 2003, and Luckner Dorsainvil, the lay leader and principal of Holy Innocents Church and school who acts as a director of education.
The partnership meetings are an excellent way to learn more about what we do while meeting and enjoying fellowship with all of our American and some of our Haitian partners.
We are praying for more partnering churches or organizations. We would love another sister church for St. Jean Baptiste! So, if you know of anyone who may be looking to partner with a mission with years of experience and a proven track record of positive growth and good relationships, please let Gerry or Suzanne McCord know. If you are interested in learning more about St. Philip’s Haiti mission, our sister church, or the La Gonâve Haiti Partnership, please email Gerry (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Suzanne McCord (email@example.com) or explore the following resources online.