16th January, 2010
Extract from an Email of Fr Jean-Michel, Abbot of Landevennec

Abbot Jean-Michel was on a pastoral visit to Morne Saint-Benoit in Haiti at the moment of the earthquake. This is a contemporary witness to the events.

At the moment we are fine at Morne Saint-Benoit. The earthquake of Tuesday afternoon was violent, but here we have suffered no material damage. Very quickly we realized that the situation at Port-au-Prince was dramatic. The young Haitian brothers were very worried about their families. On Friday each of them went back to their families. We are living through hours when people want to be with their nearest and dearest to give each other mutual support.

On Wednesday evening we met some who had witnessed the earthquake, and learnt from them of the death of many friends, religious male and female, of the community. The Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Mgr Serge Miot, was one of them. I see there the signs of a Church which keeps close to its people in their distress. At Morne Saint-Benoit we have taken measures to welcome people: yesterday arrived a group of Redemptorists. Their faces showed what they had seen and lived through. One had seen his mother and sister die. They had lost many of their fellow-students, since the centre for the formation of religious had been destroyed.

The buildings of many communities have been flattened too. Today arrived a group of about fifteen street-children whom Br Jacques and Br Peter had been to seek out in Port-au-Prince. This morning they had no difficulty in getting into the city, getting the children and bringing them back with them.

It seems to us that our only mission now in such chaos is to make sure of the welcome which can be asked of us. The city is destroyed, and its institutions too. International help is slow in coming, so much so that the wounded are dying from lack of care and those who are under the rubble will be, or already are, dead before eventual effective help comes to them.

Brs Jacques (the Prior), Anselme and Michel of La Pierre-qui-Vire are all right. Abbot Jacques of Belloc also. However, we must surely take things from day to day. Thanks for the prayer of all the communities of our Subiaco family. The people and the Church of Haiti are suffering and need our help. They are also giving us a lesson of courage in the face of death and hope for the future.