A Brief History
History: of the Apostolate past to current
Report on the Apostolate written by G. Sansaricq on March 1, 2006
The National Center of the Haitian Apostolate came to birth gradually. That was in the troubled years of the late seventies and early eighties. Haitians were entering the country in vast numbers. There were then animated public debates about the so-called “boat-people” who were literally washed up on the Florida shores and at the same time Haitian priests were few in numbers. The Haitian priests of Brooklyn felt a twofold challenge: first create an advocacy network to favorably influence US government policies regarding the legal issues of Haitian immigrants and second to foster a systematic dialogue among all Catholic Clergy and lay leaders to address the pastoral concerns of this new population. The gatherings for pastoral concerns emerged first. After a few years, they began to be called Conventions as the number of participants increased. Official recognition from the US Bishops’ Conference happened in 1988. The Office of Migration and Refugee Services of the US Bishops’ Conference having shortly before opened a new branch of their activities for the specific purpose of fostering the pastoral care of Immigrants recognized the efforts of these priests and officially established the National Center of the Haitian Apostolate as one of their own. $48,000 was granted to them for a period of three years to allow for their establishment. They were requested to seek their own incorporation and tax exemption status and to become self supported after three years.
The other concern of creating an advocacy network also materialized in the formation of a vast coalition of lawyers, Human Rights groups, and Church groups into what was then called: The National Coalition of Haitian Refugees. The group is still alive and active under the name of National Coalition of Haitian Rights. It is distinct and independent from the Pastoral Center except for the fact that the director of the Center is a board member of the National Coalition.
The National Center of the Haitian Apostolate began to issue a newsletter four times a year; it opened a school for the biblical formation of lay leaders, sponsored an annual youth weekend retreat, organized some pilgrimages and assumed the responsibility of planning the annual Convention. This is now the twenty-fourth convention. More recently a weeklong annual Priests’ retreat is also conducted. An office is open every day for constant consultation with the grassroots and for the promotion of the apostolate everywhere in the US and in Canada. Contact is also maintained with the Bahamas.
In more recent years, the number of priests in the Haitian Apostolate has greatly increased. Diocesan coordinators for the Haitian Apostolate have been assigned. The national Center is developing its links with the diocesan coordinators and the regional meetings of priests that are emerging. The social concerns of the population have evolved yet not disappeared. The concerns linked to the pastoral care of our population still call for constant reflection and aggressive commitment. The National Center wishes nothing more than being the catalyst and promoter of great pastoral progress in the service of our people.
History, Description, Accomplishments, Projects
The National Center of the Haitian Apostolate (NCHA) was founded in the later part of the seventies by the Haitian Priests ministering in the USA. In October 1988, it was officially affiliated to the Office of the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees of the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees of the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference and incorporated in Albany, NY as a not-for-profit organization. Its mission is to serve the spiritual needs of a growing Haitian American Catholic community and ensure their smooth and gradual integration into the American Church. There is an estimated 1,500,000 Haitians in the US, mostly recent immigrants. Over two third of that number are Catholics, a fact that points Haitians as the largest group of black Catholic immigrants. As these new Church members settle in many areas of the country, parishes are frequently ill equipped to provide for their spiritual care. A focused pastoral outreach program became a necessity moment (2007), about 100 parishes throughout the country provide specialized ministry to this important segment of God’s flock. Fr. Guy Sansaricq was assigned as the first Director of the NCHA. In 2006, he was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The NCHA has a permanent Office staffed by some Haitian born Sisters of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary, a Community founded in Belgium in 1905. The sisters are also assisted by a few volunteers.
The Office Staff coordinates and conducts all the programs and also frequently calls the more than 100 Priests involved in the apostolate who are scattered all over the country. In turn many of Priests, Deacons and Lay Leaders routinely call the Central office for advice, information, and encouragement. The Center is located in Brooklyn, NY.
- A Newsletter is produced four times a year and distributed to some 3,000 active Catholics in the mailing list.
- A National Convention is held every year, for the past 26 years, attended by about 500 participants from all over the country.
- Two mini-conventions are also convened to ensure a follow-up of the Convention and to further reinforce its teachings and resolutions.
- A Creole Pastoral Institute attached to the Center offers a three-year course in Bible studies, doctrinal formation and spiritual guidance.
- At every convention and mini conventions, parallel programs are always provided for the youth.
- A Priests Retreat is held every year for those who are active in the Apostolate.
- Tele-conferences are held several times a year to encourage exchanges and interaction between the regional directors of the Apostolates.
- A CD is produced every week for broadcast in a number of radio programs throughout the country and made available to subscribers at a very affordable price.
- Pilgrimages to holy sites involving various dioceses are organized.
- A website provides information and is constantly updated: www.snaa.org.
- A weekly bulletin is directly e-mailed to some 3,500 members of our network to keep them constantly updated on every aspect of the faith and also on current events.
- A Bookstore supplying resource books in Creole and French. Religious articles are also available.
- Numerous other meetings and events are sponsored throughout the year to promote Evangelization/socialization (concerts, dinners, special celebrations, etc.)
- The NCHA always seeks to improve the number and quality of its services and it plans to:
- Produce audio and video materials for sacramental preparation and evangelization.
- Create television programs in Creole and French
- Own a larger Center for continuous programs of leadership training, week-end recollections and other programs such as acculturation of new clergy.
- Have a permanent Youth Program coordinator.
- Enlarge the bookstore and maintain a Library of religious books and liturgical materials in Creole and French.