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Earthquake Hits Episcopal Diocese Hard

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Father John Lawrence shows off one of many Haitian paintings at St. Patrick's.
Rebecca Sheir
Father John Lawrence shows off one of many Haitian paintings at St. Patrick's.

By Rebecca Sheir

News of the earthquake in Haiti has sent aftershocks through an Episcopal church in Northwest D.C. St. Patrick's has had close personal ties with the Caribbean country for nearly 30 years.

As Father John Lawrence sits down to read his latest e-mail, three words escape his lips: "Oh My God." The message is from the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti. Father Lawrence reads it aloud:

"There is no cathedral. The entire Holy Trinity complex is gone. In St. Etienne Bouteau, the church, the rectory and the school are gone," says Lawrence. "In Trouin, four people were killed during a service."

In short, "this is kind of the entire heart of the whole Diocese of Haiti. It makes my heart sick," he says.

For nearly three decades, St. Patrick's has supported the Episcopal Diocese by renovating churches raising funds for schools and holding an annual Haitian art show, with proceeds funding the church's mission in Haiti.

"And we learned this morning the director of the art show's parents were in a house in Port-au-Prince that collapsed during the earthquake," Father Lawrence says. "His father was killed, his mother was trapped, and last we heard they were still trying to get her out."

The Episcopal Relief and Development Fund is sending emergency funding to the Diocese of Haiti, which Father Lawrence says has developed a substantial following in the country, "particularly in the last 50 or 60 years." The Episcopal Church was one of the few bodies that stood up to Papa Doc and the Duvalier regimes. As a result the Episcopal Church has been seen as standing up for the people.

After yesterday's earthquake, Lawrence hopes everyone who hears about the tragedy will stand up for the people, and help them get back on their feet.

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