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Concern over whereabouts of head of diocese's Haitian Apostolate

Aerial view of Port-au-Prince a few hours after

Aerial view of Port-au-Prince a few hours after hit by an earthquake. (Jan. 13, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

The head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre's Haitian Apostolate flew back to his homeland on Monday for a short visit, and colleagues and diocesan officials are awaiting word on his whereabouts.

The Rev. Eden Jean-Baptiste left St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church in Brentwood at about 5 a.m. on Monday to catch a flight from Kennedy Airport to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, but church workers have not heard from him since. The powerful earthquake struck Haiti at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"He could have been in the city because he only arrived there Monday, so he might have stayed overnight," said the Rev. Frank Nelson, pastor of St. Anne's, where Jean-Baptiste is in residence. Nelson said church workers have been calling Jean-Baptiste's cell phone, but can't get through.

Another Haitian priest who knows Jean-Baptiste well, the Rev. Wismick Jean-Charles of St. Brigid Roman Catholic Church in Westbury, said he traveled with Jean-Baptiste last July to their native Haiti, and that they both headed immediately to their home city, Gonaives, north of the capital.

He said he didn't know if Jean-Baptiste planned to stay in the capital for a day or so on this trip, or follow his normal routine and go straight to the interior. Gonaives was not seriously affected by the earthquake.

Jean-Baptiste was scheduled to return to Long Island on Friday or Saturday, ending a short vacation after the busy Christmas season, Nelson said.

Many of the half-dozen or so Haitian priests on Long Island "fly back and forth all the time," Nelson said. "It was nothing out of the ordinary. Who would have expected something like this?"

He called Jean-Baptiste "soft-spoken, very spiritual, very dedicated. He's a wonderful guy."

Jean-Baptiste became coordinator of the Haitian Apostolate about a year ago. At the same time he moved into St. Anne's, where he celebrates a Creole-language Mass on Sundays and Wednesdays, along with Masses in English.

Previously he served at St. Martha's Catholic parish in Uniondale.

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* You can help immediately by texting "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts.

* Wyclef Jean, a rapper and hip-hop artist from Haiti, urged people to text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 toward earthquake relief. Yéle Haiti is a grassroots movement inspiring change in Haiti through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment, according to its Web site.

* The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747.

* You can also go online to organizations such as the Red Cross and MercyCorps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts.

Other Web sites accepting donations include:

-Haitian Health Foundation
-Hope for Haiti
-International Medical Corps
-Beyond Borders

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