The Rev. Real “Father Joe” Corriveau has long had support from his native Winthrop for his efforts as a missionary priest in Haiti.

Now, St. Francis Men’s Club at St. Michael Parish, Winthrop, is sponsoring a 24-month campaign to raise $250,000 to rebuild St. Anthony of Padua at Fond Oies in Haiti, the church where Corriveau was pastor when it was destroyed by a major earthquake in January 2010.

The campaign, which began in June, has raised almost $60,000 so far, according to Lou Carrier, who, along with Liz King, heads a 16-person committee working on the project. Corriveau graduated from Winthrop High School in 1951 and Carrier and King in 1952.

“We’ve always helped (Corriveau) out if there is any way we could help him,” King said. And when Corriveau makes his annual pilgrimage to Winthrop, Maine, she said, “I’m always fixing a pot roast for him. He’s nuts over my pot roast.”

The committee has started phone and mail efforts, put up posters and donor envelopes at the entrances to the six churches in St. Michael Parish and is planning an essay contest on the Web.

“We’re going to ask for $20 contributions for someone to write an essay (about) why they would like to have two gravesites at Glenside Cemetery in Winthrop perfect for a husband and wife. We’re calling it the RIP program,” Carrier said last week. “If they don’t want the two gravesites, there’s a shore lot on Annabessacook Lake they can choose.”


While the fundraising is taking place in the United States, Corriveau said, the people from the mountainous Fond Oies parish have attended services in a makeshift chapel.

“It was a canvas chapel, but we used tin roofing on the top and sides to close it up because the canvas didn’t last too long,” said Corriveau, who is staying briefly at the Oblate Missions House in Lowell, Mass., while receiving medical treatment for back problems stemming from years of riding horses, mules and motorcycles to get to his parish — and possibly, he speculates, from the year he played football for the University of Maine.

Corriveau has made several recent trips to the Winthrop area, once to attend a fundraising supper.

He is a priest with the Missionary Oblates of Immaculate Mary and was first assigned to Haiti on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola 50 years ago.

Corriveau, who will be 82 in two weeks, is anxious to get back to Haiti, where he has been assigned the job of raising funds to rebuild the church. Currently he is based in Port-au-Prince and serves as chaplain to the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.

“Since I had my hip operation five years ago, I went back and was able to build a small rectory,” Corriveau said. “I’m getting up there in age, and my hip doesn’t permit me to climb mountains any more. They put a younger priest there in my place and also put a seminarian there to get used to missionary work. I’m still attached to the parish because the young priest doesn’t have all the help that he needs.”


The others also lack a base of support like he has in Winthrop.

“The parish has been very generous and the men’s club very generous, and that’s how we’ve been keeping the (Haitian) parish open,” Corriveau said. “Even right now it’s very hard for a priest to live there unless he has help.”

He said the parishioners there are farmers and engaged in commerce, selling things along the side of the road. “They don’t have much money to share,” he said.

The earthquake killed 222,570 people, injured 300,572, and displaced 2.3 million people, according to a January 2014 “Haiti earthquake: Four-year progress report” by the Red Cross Red Crescent. The number of people who died in the quake has been the topic of some dispute over the years.

“The church is right on the earthquake fault, so there were quite a few houses broken down,” Corriveau said. “The church crumbled.”

Since 2010, he said various organizations, including the Swiss Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and the local Little Brothers of St. Therese Lisieux, the Little Flower, have rebuilt houses in the area.


Figures provided by the United Nations and cited in the Red Cross Red Crescent report say, “(A)n estimated 89 percent of the 1.5 million people originally displaced by the earthquake have now left the camps and over 40,000 of these families were supported by the Red Cross Red Crescent.”

St. Anthony of Padua Church did not receive any relief funds to rebuild.

“The church has been there now since 1912, but it’s been wrecked seven or eight times by a hurricane, and the last time it was the earthquake that took it down,” Corriveau said.

He said that some 7,000 to 8,000 people are in the area of the parish, but only about 2,000 to 3,000 are Catholics.

Carrier said a new church will be costly “because building regulations in Haiti are such that whatever you put up now has to withstand an earthquake.”

Carrier said contributions can be made by check to “‘Father Joe’ at St. Michael” and mailed to Father Joe at St. Michael, P.O. Box 333, Winthrop ME 04364 or dropped in collection baskets at any of the St. Michael Parish churches: St. Augustine and St. Mary, Augusta; St. Denis, Whitefield; St. Francis Xavier, Winthrop; St. Joseph, Gardiner, and Sacred Heart, Hallowell.


The Rev. Frank Morin, the St. Michael Parish administrator, issues thank you letters and receipts if contributions are $250 or more, Carrier said.

As for Corriveau’s nickname, Carrier said, “His father was named Joseph. I imagine they called him ‘Little Joe’ when he was a kid.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.