St. Thomas Parishioners Study Before Trip to Haiti School
June 15, 2017

CRYSTAL LAKE—Four parishioners from St. Thomas the Apostle Church visited Louverture Cleary School (LCS), a tuition-free, Catholic, secondary, co-ed boarding school in Haiti, April 18-21.

Prior to the visit, Dawn Ahsmann, Kim Perhats, Tammy Kise and Tom Jackson participated in four months of education about poverty in Haiti, Catholic social teaching, and the mission and charism of The Haitian Project, led by parishioner John Donovan.

The Haitian Project supports the school, located in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, near the capital of Port-au-Prince.

Donovan has led several trips to LCS with the parish. Father Jerome Koutnik, parochial vicar at St. Thomas Parish, also helped with the formation process and accompanied the group to Haiti.

While in Haiti, the group entered into community life on campus, following the school schedule from sun up to sun down.

They observed classes, talked with students, residents in the neighborhood and a few Louverture Cleary alumni — all of whom spoke of the need for more education in Haiti.

The school serves academically talented and motivated students from Haitian families who cannot afford the cost of education.

Perhats, a first time participant in the formation process, said, “It fully changed my view of what is happening in our world as it relates to poverty.”

Jackson, a retired teacher, wrote to those who supported his visit, saying, “A quick missionary visit, or dropping off of supplies, while kind, cannot change circumstances in Haiti.  ... The students and staff explain that education is the long-term solution for an improved individual and (for) the nation of Haiti.”

That formation program before the trip has been a work in progress, says Mary Jo LeGrand, director of parish and school development for The Haitian Project.

“We grow every year in our understanding of what preparation is necessary for a trip member to place an experience like visiting Haiti within the context of the bigger picture of our faith and our call to service,” she says. “We are looking for conversion and building the church and avoiding any sense of ‘poverty tourism.’ ”

This was the ninth trip to LCS for St. Thomas the Apostle Parish. The Haitian Project works hand in hand with Catholic communities throughout the U.S. to strengthen the Church locally and in Haiti. It has received support from parishes, schools, and individuals within the Diocese of Rockford for the last 20 years.

On Sept. 16, St. Thomas the Apostle Parish will host the annual “Big Get Together,” an evening for education and support of The Haitian Project.  

Info: The Haitian Project, 401/351-3624;; .