Good Morning
Good Morning
Long IslandNassau

Haitians gather at Queens religious event

Members of the National Center of the Haitian

Members of the National Center of the Haitian Apostolate and guests gather for a min-convention at Incarnation School. (January 30, 2010) Credit: Freelance/Photo by James A. Escher

Chantal Phillpotts sat simply shaking her head.

The questions about Haiti reverberated through a Queens church Saturday: How will people eat? How will people survive and recover? What will come of the children, the elderly and the disabled?

Phillpotts was one of more than 300 Haitians who contemplated their families' futures out loud at the religious event at Incarnation Parish in Queens Village.

"The question now is how to be helpful," said Phillpotts, of Rosedale, whose mother is in Port-au-Prince and was not injured in the Jan. 12 earthquake. "We are grateful that they are alive, but what is next? We feel helpless."

The daylong gathering, a biannual event organized by The National Center of the Haitian Apostolate and planned months before the earthquake, featured religious speakers, spiritual hymns and a presentation about the physical and psychological effects of the earthquake.

The nonprofit center is affiliated with the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference through its Office of the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, and seeks to integrate Haitians into Catholicism.

Guy Sansaricq, director of the nonprofit, said Saturday's conference came at a moment when many Haitians living in New York are struggling with what they should do next.

"We want to strengthen their faith and give them the message that they should continue to keep praying in solidarity with the people of Haiti," said Sansaricq, a Brooklyn-based Catholic bishop.

Gathered in the parish's auditorium, attendees sang songs, prayed and shared stories about how their families have been affected.

"At a moment like this, all we can do is pray," said Karyn Brun, of Wheatley Heights. "Nobody knows where they are going now. They are fighting to survive."

Brun said she hopes the event will lead to a coordinated relief effort among Haitians based in New York.

JoAnn Perou, youth coordinator of the National Center of the Haitian Apostolate, said she wanted the day to motivate young Haitians.

"We hope to galvanize them into action," said Perou, who lives in Uniondale. "We understand that by acting in unison we can serve an active part in helping Haiti."

Many who attended the event said they were determined to take part in Haiti's renaissance.

"There needs to be a message from the Diaspora to say who we are and what we will do for our country," said the Rev. Philius Nicolas, who heads a Christian organization in Brooklyn.

But as energetic parishioners continued to pray and sing, Phillpotts' thoughts returned to her elderly mother and the 15 people living with her at an assisted-living facility in the country's devastated capital.

"They are OK so far, but for how long?" she said.

Nassau top stories