Sunday, September 7, 2008
I first met Father Thomas Wenski in the late 90’s. My eighty year old mother and I stayed in his large rectory with an interesting mix of individuals. There were young law students representing Haitian refugees as well as Haitian-Americans working for Father Wenski.
I think Father charged my mom and me $6 dollars per day and this included three meals that we prepared ourselves in the simple rectory kitchen.
His rectory was located in Little Haiti in Miami and was guarded by two German shepherds. The neighborhood was dangerous. I found a bullet that had been shot on the sidewalk and two Haitian market owners were killed by burglars one Saturday on a bright sunny afternoon.
Fr. Wenski is an advocate for Haitian immigrants and for Haiti. His rectory was next door to a Catholic Church and a large school that seemed to have been vacated years before by middle class Miamians who wanted to flee this part of Miami. Father used this school for Haitians to teach them English and various other skills. He also ran a legal center across the street to give the Haitians as much free legal representation as possible.
Fr. Wenski was very matter of fact and practical. I wouldn’t describe him as warm and fuzzy, but he was very efficient in his work for Haitians. He said mass in the church nearby at 6 PM on weekdays in fluent Creole.
In the last 10 years Fr. Wenski has become a Bishop and is currently the Bishop of the Diocese of Orlando. He is also the chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.
The following article is from the Catholic Post in Peoria:
U.S. church official says Haiti desperately needs political stability
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CNS) -- Haiti desperately needs political stability so that jobs can be created to lift the poor out of a critical situation, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Policy. "The situation is critical, although there is still a glimmer of hope," Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., told Catholic News Service July 16. "Haiti now needs a solid success story so that hope does not disappear." Bishop Wenski, who visited Haiti in mid-July, said that in a private meeting earlier that day, Haitian President Rene Preval expressed his thanks for the work of the Catholic Church in advocating for the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity Through Partnership Encouragement Act and for the job opportunities it could create. The U.S. HOPE Act II, as it is known, allows the United States to import Haitian textiles and could create 30,000 jobs in Haiti where, the bishop said, it is estimated that every job feeds an extended family of 10 people, so "30,000 jobs could feed 300,000 people."
I doubt Bishop Wenski would be thrilled with the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and the way the Diocese supported OSF when the 1.6 billion dollar OSF Medical Center in Peoria cut all funding for Haitian Hearts.