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LI church's Palm Sunday service focuses on Haiti victims

Leslie Hernandez, of Central Islip, passes out palm

Leslie Hernandez, of Central Islip, passes out palm leaves during Palm Sunday mass at St. John of God RC Church, in Central Islip, Sunday. (March 28, 2010) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

About 200 parishioners of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal Church stood outside in the rain and wind - yards from where a 2007 fire gutted church buildings - to be sprinkled with holy water during yesterday's Creole Palm Sunday service.

The lingering damage to the Wyandanch church is now an inconvenience. But at the time, the destruction was heartbreaking, especially since it happened around Christmas and affected the church's charity work.

Sunday, however, many in the congregation were thinking about the horrors of January's Haiti earthquake, said the Rev. Moise Aime.

Many parishioners have struggled to help family members who lost homes in the disaster, while others are still waiting to hear from missing loved ones, churchgoers said.

Aime said the suffering motivated him to focus his Palm Sunday service on renewal - for Haiti, for the church, and for the Haitian community.

"We hope that we will be able to rebuild," said Aime, a Haiti native who lives in Lindenhurst. "It was a rich place, a rich church."

The church, which provides Spanish and English language services, was the site of what police later termed an arson fire in December 2007 that gutted its rectory, priests' residence and outreach center. Church officials broke ground on a rebuilding project last week.

Churchgoer Pierre Justin, of Wheatley Heights, said he looks forward to rebuilding. He said the groundbreaking, and Sunday's traditional Palm Sunday service gave him a "renewal of faith."

Justin added: "This tells you to find your way to get closer to Jesus."

Although the church needs money to complete rebuilding, members said they have sent money, clothes and food to Haiti. Church parishioners recently raised $3,500 to help rebuild Haitian churches, members said.

Parishioner Ruth Nelson said she provided medical care to families living in cardboard tents - some staying alive by eating nothing but leaves - when she went to Haiti as a relief worker in February.

Just before Sunday's's procession, Nelson said she is looking forward to volunteering again in Haiti and to attending a rebuilt Wyandanch church.

"We are a very big part of the community today," she said.

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