Parishes across Maine have found ways to lend a helping hand to Haiti — support and care that has extended nearly 2,000 miles over many years and into the hearts of thousands in need.

For more than 15 years, St. Joseph Parish in Farmington and St. Rose of Lima Parish in Jay have been paired with St. Laurent Parish in the Diocese of Les Cayes, Haiti. The parishes were connected through the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas.

“The opportunity was introduced to us by Fr. Roger Chabot, who was our pastor at the time. We reached out to St. Rose of Lima Parish and invited them to join us. Since then, participation and members have come from both parishes,” said Janet Brackett, chair of the parishes’ Haiti Ministry Committee and a parishioner at St. Joseph, according to the release.

At the start of the initiative, once a month, volunteers collected donations for their sister parish in Haiti as parishioners left Mass. Interest in offering aid soon grew, and the parishes’ commitment evolved into a monthly second collection in the pews. Regular visits to St. Laurent began in 2008 as parishioners paid their own way to make the journey; funds collected for St. Laurent are never used for the travel of organizers.

During their time in Haiti, the Maine parishioners would purchase Haitian crafts to sell at holiday fairs, community events, and even local galleries, with the proceeds benefitting the Haitian parish. As the donations continued to grow in size, so did the list of ideas to help.

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During the pandemic, the needs have shifted, but the support from Maine has continued. In Sanford, St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish, which has been twinned with St. Anthony the Hermit Parish for more than five years, recently donated nearly $20,000 in food packets to Haitians in need; St. Anthony the Hermit Parish receives approximately $70 per month in collections.

“The twinning relationships become bridges whereby the love of God flows in both directions as parishes learn to care, share, and pray for one another,” said Theresa Patterson, executive director of the program. “Both spiritual and financial support are offered.”

The support from Maine parishes has made a real difference in the lives of countless people the donors will never meet, and the support will continue, as evidenced by the continued generosity present even in the face of a pandemic.

“I can only speak for myself, but the opportunity to be involved in the Haiti Ministry has been a tremendous gift,” said Brackett. “I have gotten to know so many wonderful people in Haiti and in my own backyard. I am thankful for the opportunity to answer God’s call to serve those in need, but it always seems to me that I receive much, much more.”