The largest diocese in the Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Haiti (Province II) plays a disproportionately large role in Haiti’s educational and health care systems. Ever since the first bishop, James Theodore Holley, set foot in Haiti in 1864, Episcopal leaders have been firm in the belief that it is education that will lift Haiti out of poverty.
A BRIEF HISTORY
1804: Haiti becomes the first black nation in the world to declare its independence. It is second only to the United States in establishing independence in the New World.
1861: The Rev. James T. Holly, a black Episcopal priest from Connecticut, conducts the first Episcopal service in Haiti, marking the beginning moment for the Episcopal Church in Haiti. He is accompanied by 110 black emigrants, some of whom were his parishioners from St. Luke’s Church, New Haven, CT.
1863: Fr. Holly and his parishioners found a church named Holy Trinity in Port-au-Prince.
1870: The Haitian Apostolic Orthodox Church (as it was then known) is officially accepted as a member of the Anglican Communion.
1874: The Rev. James T. Holly is consecrated as missionary bishop of Haiti, making him the first African-American bishop of the Episcopal Church.
1875: The Haitian Apostolic Orthodox Church is formally welcomed as a diocese of the Episcopal Church USA.
1913: Holy Trinity School, adjacent to the Cathedral, was originally founded as a school for girls. Acting on a petition from the Haitian clergy, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.accepts the Church in Haiti as a Missionary District. The work continued under the supervision of visiting bishops from nearby areas until January of 1923.
1923: The Rev. Harry R. Carson is consecrated as the second bishop of the Diocese of Haiti.
1924: The cornerstone of Holy Trinity Cathedral is laid in November.
1927: A convent and elementary school are established by the Sisters of the Society of St. Margaret, an Episcopal religious order.
1943: The Rev. Charles Alfred Voegeli is consecrated as the third bishop of the Diocese of Haiti.
1945: Saint Vincent’s School for Handicapped Children is established by Sister Joan, a member of the Society of St. Margaret.
1950’s: The Cathedral becomes known for its interior murals, which depict various stories from the Bible using only people of black African heritage. The murals were painted by some of the best-known Haitian painters of the twentieth century, including Philomé Obin, Castera Bazile, Rigaud Benoit, Gabriel Leveque, Adam Leontus, Wilson Bigaud, Jasmin Joseph, and Préfete Dufaut. They were created under the direction of DeWitt Peters and Selden Rodman of the Centre d’Art, and finished between 1950 and 1951.
1957: College St. Pierre is founded as a secondary school in Port-au-Prince.
1971: A music school is established at Holy Trinity Cathedral by Sister Anne Marie, a member of the Society of St. Margaret. Among its many accomplishments, Holy Trinity Music School is the site of Haiti’s only philharmonic orchestra and the renowned boys choir, Les Petits Chanteurs.
1971: The Rev. Luc A. J. Garnier is consecrated as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Haiti. He is Haiti’s first native-born bishop.
1994: The Rev. Jean-Zaché Duracin was consecrated as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Haiti on May 22.
2010: Haiti is struck by a devastating earthquake on January 12. Along with many other diocesan institutions, Holy Trinity Cathedral (and the cathedral’s trade school, primary school and music school) are destroyed. The cathedral’s organ, which was believed to be one of the largest in the Caribbean region, is smashed by collapsing debris in the earthquake, and most of the famous murals are lost. Reconstruction work on the cathedral’s frescos is undertaken by experts at the Smithsonian Institution.
2012: The Rev. Ogé Beauvoir is elected as Suffragan Bishop.
2016: The Diocese of Haiti is the largest diocese of the Episcopal Church, with 83,698 members reported in 2008. More than 65 members of the clergy oversee the roughly 250 congregations, preaching stations, schools, and community institutions maintained by the diocese.
A FEW STATISTICS
• Total population (2012): 10,174,000
• Life expectancy at birth (2012): 62.7 years
• Annual number of births (2012): 265,000
• Under-5 mortality rate: 31%
• Population below international poverty line of US$1.25 per day (2007-2011): 61.7%
• Total adult literacy rate (2008-2012): 48.7%
Statistics at a Glance: Haiti.UNICEF. Retrieved 07/18/2016.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH’S PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM
The problems facing Haiti are immense, and it has been this way for hundreds of years. It is unrealistic to think Americans can solve every problem, but there are things we can do.
Because of the Episcopal Church’s long connection to Haiti, a well-established network is already in place and bringing relief. Over 30 years ago, the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Haiti Partnership Program was established to bring American churches and schools into relationship with Haitian churches and schools. Careful relationships built upon trust and clear communication have formed. Because of this network, change can take place immediately and bigger projects begin to emerge over time.
As partners in the Episcopal Church, Haitians and Americans discover how to work together for the good of both countries. The Partnership Program provides a system through which groups can work together with mutual confidence, trust, accountability and transparency.
The love of God is expressed through the mission and ministries of the Partnership Program in a variety of ways: education, healthcare, agriculture, microenterprise, nutrition, food, clothing, water and—of course—sharing the joy of Christ and love of God.
For more information or to become part of the Episcopal Church’s Haiti Partnership Program, please contact Dr. Serena Beeks (firstname.lastname@example.org) or The Rev. Roger Bowen (email@example.com).