The Divine Grace of God

p1
haiti "land of high mountains"

 

 

1.    What is your name?

My name is Rev. Barthelemy Garçon, S.M.M., people call me Fr. Bart.

 

read more...
GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS

Isaiah 55:8,9

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
 

2.    Where were you born?

I was born in Haiti, in the area of Gros-Morne, Riviere-Mancelle.

3.    Can you tell us about your upbringing in Haiti?

I was born in the mountains, and to go to school at the age of five, it would take a three-hour walk. The school is located in Gros-Morne and was directed by the Brothers of Sacred Heart. Since I couldn’t do the long walk every day at the age of five, I was placed with a family close to the school, and I had to walk a half hour instead, but also walk another half hour to go to the river to take a shower and bring water back to the house before starting school. 

This was an opportunity for me because in Haiti, more than half of the population never had a chance to go to school. I had that opportunity and see it as a grace but also as an accident. I am the second male in my family of ten. I have three sisters older than me, but they didn’t go to school because they are women.

read more...Gros Morne
p2

 

parish
the Parish at the mountains of riviere-mancelle

4.    How did you find God in your life? Any special person in your spiritual life?

My parents would pray with us every night and lead us to the church every Sunday.  It was a two-hour walk round trip.  At the age of five, I met Brother Gabriel and also connected to my vocation. During the Lenten season that year, he was talking to us about Jesus and vocation, but Brother Gabriel put a trap in the teaching. He presented himself as coming from the south of the country and said “I am here because I am following Jesus.”  He presented Jesus as a wonderful person.  He presented the following question to us. How many of you want to follow Jesus?  I raised my hand and after that, I totally forgot about it.  I was only five years old.

Before the end of elementary education, I met another Brother from Sacred Heart as a teacher, Brother Jean Clérismé.  The idea of being a priest came back. 

I think God was waiting for me—when I had to take the exam on my promises of Baptism and then Sacrament of Confirmation, it happened that Fr. Roger Gouasdon was the one available when it was my turn to be examined.  He was very instrumental in my life and my vocation.  We were at least 30 students to be tested by three or four priests.  I was able to recite the Creed and the priest was very impressed. After I passed the test, he asked me: “What do you want to do when you get older?” I answered: “I want to be a priest.” That was the end of the conversation.

God works in many strange ways. In the rectory, there were two French priests named Roger, but they couldn’t live together. Their names were Roger Gouasdon and Roger Schmit.

Fr. Roger Gouasdon made the decision to create a parish in the mountains of Riviere-Mancelle where I was born. That happened in 1968 and he found me there.   In 1971, he called me and asked if I remembered what I had told him three years back. I didn’t remember and he reminded me that I wanted to be a priest.

I am from a family of ten; I graduated from elementary school. The first elementary school of the parish of Riviere-Mancelle was created 50 years ago by Fr. Roger Gouasdon.  Before that, it was one room and one teacher for all the students. That was where my father learned how to write his name, read, and write. This room was the church.

My parents wanted to give an opportunity to my younger brothers and sisters to go to school.  This was fair.  I already had seven years of schooling and couldn’t continue because of the financial situation of the family.  Fr. Gouasdon asked me to ask my father to go and see him.  My father met Fr. Roger Gouasdon, and they made a deal.  I went back to school; the rest is history.  Here I am, a Montfortian priest, ordained in 1986.

read more...Parish
Call to Serve

1 Peter 4:10

As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

5.    How many years have you been ordained as a priest?

I was ordained on Dec. 28th 1986 – 32 years ago. I always understood, following the example of Fr. Gouasdon, that being a priest is not just celebrating the Masses, but also helping people to stand on their own two feet, doing everything you can for people, as human beings, to have access to education and clean drinking water, for people to better their lives financially, spiritually and socially. I did a lot of work helping people in the mountains capture springs in 18 different places and built water systems to have access to clean drinking water, creating credit unions and a fund for many women to develop their own small businesses. When I left the parish of Gros-Morne, where I was a pastor for over ten years, there were 18 credit unions owned by the farmers themselves.  

I also worked with the Dejardins Credit Union of Canada to develop the credit unions.  I told them I didn’t need their money.  I needed their experience to build something significant with the 18 credit unions. They now have control of the institutions.  The sad part about this is the 18 credit unions that created the structure with the support of DCU are dispossessed of their structure.

At the time, the Dejardins Credit Union accepted my invitation, and were surprised that I did not ask for money but only for their expertise to reinforce the 18 existing credit unions.  They helped to put in place a structure that became a real bank, the first for the area of Gros-Morne.

 

read more Education...

fr-bart-ordained

 

p5
social Justice

Proverbs 31:8,9

“Speak up for people who cannot speak for themselves. Protect the rights of all who are helpless. Speak for them and be a righteous judge. Protect the rights of the poor and needy.”

I also helped to organize the farmers—over 7,000 people—to become a bigger farmers’ organization called Peasant Movement of Gros-Morne (MPGM). The purpose of MPGM is for its members to educate themselves and to also know their rights; the main goal is education. When you are educated, you can stand for yourself.  Peasant is not a negative concept.  A peasant in the Haitian context means a farmer.

As a pastor, I was in charge of 13 elementary schools in the mountains. However, I couldn’t do all the work by myself, I had two priests working with me as well as two different religious orders.  I delegated the education to Sister Lise Brosseau; she is a Canadian. I also delegated the health education with hospital training for midwives to nuns from Ireland – the Little Company of Mary.   I enjoyed doing these kinds of things and team working with the religious orders.  I did all that in addition to what priests do in a parish like St. Jude.

After ten years at the parish of Gros-Morne, I realized that I needed more education for myself. I left the parish to go toward a Masters in Sciences of Development in France at CIEDEL – International Center of Studies for Local Development.

read more...Farmers
Community of faith at st. jude

6.    Can you tell us about your new spiritual life in the United States of  America?

My spiritual life is still the same here in the United States, the same foundation that I received from my family when I was little and throughout becoming a priest. 

The environment is different here.  As a member of a religious order, I always worked as a team with two or three priests, but here I have been a Pastor for nine years at St. Jude Catholic Community by myself.  I used to pray with members of the order.  I do it alone now.  When it’s meal time, I eat alone. It’s a different environment.  It’s challenging, but with a good foundation, I will stand and face the new challenges of every issue and situation.  With God’s help everything is OK. 

My spiritual life is having a good connection with Jesus, knowing that Mary is the shortest way to go to Jesus, and also knowing that Jesus is the only mediator between God and us human beings.  This is the Montfortian spirituality.  Though St. Pope John Paul II was not officially a Montfortian, he adopted our spirituality.  He studied the “Treaty of True Devotion” of St. Louis Marie de Montfort.

At the Altar in St. Jude, I tried to express this spirituality with a painting of Jesus in the middle, connecting heaven and earth, embracing all the cultures.  Jesus comes from God who is the light of the world.  Christ is the Son of Mary, who gave Him to the Church and the World.

read more...St Jude's Altar
p1

p1

BUILDING A FAMILY OF FAITH

7.    How do you embrace diversity and culture through your proficiency in Haitian Creole, English, Spanish, and French?

Evangelizing the cultures is the main challenge for the Church. The Church needs to be flexible, to know the different groups and entities that form the local community and then teach the values of the Gospel through that culture. Being a missionary myself, it’s a very interesting gift for me and an opportunity to be the Pastor of a very diverse community. We are close to 50% Caucasian, close to 46% Latino and the rest are Caribbean, Haitian and Filipino.

It is very interesting to have to deal with diversity. The challenge for me is to build a family of faith from the different cultures, respecting every single culture, but bringing us together as members of the same family, regardless of the culture, education, wealth, or social status, where we can trust each other and be happy to be here with others as a Christian family.

God is the Father and we are brothers and sisters, and we are educated as Mary our Mother.

read more Family of Faith...
The gift of education

Isaiah 58:5-7 True worship is to work for justice and care for the poor and oppressed.

8.    What motivated you to help the people in Haiti? What are the present needs in Haiti?

I consider myself as a rescue dog. As I said before, more than half of the population never had an opportunity to go to school including my mother and three of my oldest sisters.  I had the opportunity to go to school to receive a good education with the support of many.  I consider that I have a big debt to pay back to my country in any way possible. I wanted to get my passport and go back home to work for my country when I returned from France with my Masters in Sciences of Development. I thought to myself that I have the opportunities and the tools to serve my country as a priest and also as an engineer in development. Then, things happened that I had to leave Haiti and come here, and I saw God’s hands working through all of it. The biggest need in Haiti is for the people to know God is first; To know Him, to love Him and to serve Him. Second is the education for their social and economic development.  

I am here as Pastor of St. Jude with a big debt to Haiti so I consider myself as a bridge between the people here and Haiti.

Out of my own pocket, I began to support people’s education, people that I know would not have otherwise an opportunity for education. 

One of the students I supported, Berthony, is now working in Miami and supporting his family in Haiti. When I was five years old, Berthony’s father brought the food my family prepared for me every week and took my dirty clothes back to my family to be washed and then bring me clean clothes for the week. It is six-hour weekly walk round trip.  Berthony’s father never went to school. I wanted to help him, and the best way was to support one of his children.  People that come close to me know that I am determined to pay my debt to Haiti by offering education, and they help me. We have been fortunate enough to support 13 students get the school education they needed, one of them is in Morocco pursuing a degree. We are supporting seven students this year.

People are also helping me help Haiti through HEIR, LLC (Haiti Education Initiative and Rehabilitation), a not for profit organization I helped to create, to support and provide education and rehabilitation in Haiti.  

The people of St. Jude and good friends nearby are supporting the distribution of solar lanterns to teachers and midwives. We distributed 274 solar lanterns in the area of Riviere-Mancelle. Our cost for each the lantern is $35.00.   We sold each lantern for $0.50, and the money raised is used to repair the water system of Kalabat to provide drinking water from seven public fountains. I love to do these kinds of things. I will do the best to at least pay part of my debt to Haiti by supporting education and local development.  

I am grateful for the good people of St. Jude and a couple of friends who understand what I am trying to do.  They support these initiatives.

We are Christians.  It’s important that we open our arms and hands to share with others. I am planning to go to Haiti before Christmas 2019 with hopefully a few people from Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, so they can see first hand the situation in Haiti. I cannot express it. I prefer for them to experience the situation for themselves and hopefully organize activities to support Haiti.  I wish some parishioners from St. Jude and other parishes would join me for my 2020 mission trip towards the end of the year.

read more...Lantern
water-project-part-A
p1
ST. JUDE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY

9.    What are your dreams for the St. Jude Catholic Church community in Ocala, FL?

St. Jude Catholic Community is a diverse Catholic community of faith. The number one need is for us to grow spiritually, socially and financially.  That means embracing the diversity of cultures and instilling the values of the Gospel.  We need to increase membership and become strong enough to be able to build the new church. 

I am grateful that God sent me here in His time.  He also sent me the right people to help do what I can in His time.  

Thank you from the bottom of my heart and God Bless,

Fr. Bart
Holy Thursday, April 18, 2019

Revised on July 18, 2019

read more...St. Jude Catholic Community