HAITI: Clergy and their families strengthened for the journey ahead

June 23, 2010

"Kouraj pou vwayaj la -- Ayiti. (Strength for the Journey -- Haiti)," a four-day conference for Episcopal Diocese of Haiti clergy and their families, is underway in Santo Domingo in the neighboring Dominican Republic.

The conference is being conducted and sponsored by the CREDO Institute Inc. and the Church Pension Group, of which CREDO is an affiliate. The Rev. Ron Crocker is leading an 11-person CREDO faculty team and there are 85 participants, including Haiti Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin, 41 clergy, and clergy family members. CREDO Managing Director Bill Craddock is also attending the June 21-25 conference.

"As we start to rebuild our churches, we must rebuild our personal selves to give us the strength to carry on," Duracin said in a CREDO news release. "We now have a deeper understanding of the feelings that come with a disaster and how to cope with the stress and the pain. For many of us, it was the first opportunity to relax in a safe place because we feel the earthquake within us."

CPG's Church Pension Fund is underwriting the cost of the gathering which is meant, the release said, to offer "clergy and lay leaders an opportunity for respite, reflection on the crisis, and rejuvenation for the ongoing recovery in Haiti."

The news release said that soon after the Jan. 12 earthquake CPG began consulting with the Diocese of Southeast Florida, Episcopal Relief & Development, the staff of the Episcopal Church Center and the Diocese of Haiti "on a plan to care for the caretakers -- the clergy and lay leaders who are confronting unfathomable grief, despair, and personal peril."

Craddock, Crocker, and the Rev. Bruce Woodcock, manager of international relations for the Church Pension Fund's policy, education, research and church relations department, met with Duracin in Miami last March to begin conference planning, the release said.

"For so many years, I have been serving others, but have not been served myself. This CREDO conference is an amazing intervention for me at a time when I really need it," the Rev. Yvan Francois, retired priest from Croix-des-Bouquets, said in the release.

The Ven. Kesner Gracia, archdeacon of the South from Petit Trou de Nippes, added that the conference is "so powerful that it has given us faith, hope, and courage, and strengthened our confidence in our future."

CREDO will lead three additional four-day conferences in the Dominican Republic -- in July, September, and December. Two of the gatherings will include lay church leaders of the Diocese of Haiti.

The Strength for the Journey gathering follows a tradition of CREDO, in collaboration with CPG, the Office of the presiding bishop, and other Episcopal Church entities responding to dioceses recovering from natural disasters. In 2006, following Hurricane Katrina, the "Weathering the Storms" conference were aimed at helping bishops, clergy, diocesan staff members, and their families from dioceses ravaged by the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Clergy and their spouses were also invited to a "Lighting the Path" conference in 2008.

More recently, CREDO has responded to crises of a different sort with a series of Strength for the Journey conferences in the four reorganizing dioceses of Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Fort Worth, and Quincy.

CREDO faculty members include the Rev. Canon Lee Crawford (rector); Dr. Jody Horstman (clinical psychologist from Indianapolis); the Rev. Deacon Andrew Klatte (Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis and director of mental health for the state of Indiana); retired Diocese of Maine Bishop Chilton Knudsen; Esperance St. Louis (translator); Jamel Shimpfky (psychotherapist from Ridgewood, New Jersey) Bob Stice (psychotherapist from Albuquerque, New Mexico); David Tezil (translator) and Karen Young (conference coordinator).

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