The Healing Gospel Message in Haiti of Richard Frechette, Essay #1

Home / Explore Our History / International Passionist History / Haiti Historical Summary / The Healing Gospel Message in Haiti of Richard Frechette, Essay #1

The Healing Gospel Message in Haiti of Passionist Father and Medical Doctor Richard Frechette
Essay One: Haiti 2010 Earthquake: January 12-17, 2010

Compiled by Father Rob Carbonneau, C.P., Ph.D. Historian and Director of the Passionist Historical Archives.

In the days ahead we hope to have more essays on the archives website. All of these essays were found on the internet and are used for the purpose of educating people about the Passionists.

One: Setting the Context to Understand About the Haiti Earthquake

The January 12, 2010 Haiti Earthquake has provided the world with televised images of suffering and hope. It is compelling news and strikes to the very heart of our faith. Why does such suffering and death happen to those so poor? What is our response? In what way do we pray? The media stories and fund-raising efforts are necessary and real.

Passionist Father Richard Frechette has been in Haiti for some twenty years now. One of the contemporary challenges for the Passionist Historical Archives in Union City, New Jersey is to document this event of death, destruction, and healing and compassion. This whole event of being with those who suffer is at the very heart of the message of St. Paul of the Cross who founded the Passionists in Italy in the early 1700s.

Below is a summary of news about the Passionist response in Haiti as led through the efforts of Father Rick. Please read because it is your response! Please read because it is inspired by your prayers! Please read because this effort is an immediate effort and a long term effort!

The Passionist Historical Archives welcomes any personal observations about this Passionist effort in Haiti for inclusion in our archives on the efforts of Father Rick. Please send your reflections to the archivist and historian of the Passionists Father Rob Carbonneau, C.P., Ph.D. Email them to [email protected]. Please in the email, if you wish, state that you wish your comments to be included on our website. We will not put all on our web site but do hope to select some.

The earthquake in Haiti took place on January 12, 2010 around 5pm EST. As soon as it took place it became personal for Passionists and the friends of the Passionists because of the ministry of Passionist Father Richard Frechette. It did not take long before news emerged that Fr. Rick was home in Wethersfield, Connecticut with his mother who was dying with cancer.

Two: The First Passionist Response to News of the Earthquake, January 14, 2010

Below is the first Passionist response. January 14 saw Passionist Provincial Joseph R. Jones respond quickly with a program to raise necessary funds. In his capacity as Provincial he issued an email to “All” on the Passionist email list serve by way of staff secretary Carol Payor. His statement read:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, This is a follow-up to yesterday’s e-mail regarding Haiti. Since that e-mail we have had several groups starting fund raising efforts to assist Rick: The Western Province, our own Development Office, doctors, lawyers, etc. We have established a Haiti Hospital Relief Fund here at South River. If you wish to do something in our Parishes and Retreat Centers it would be greatly appreciated. Whatever funds you raise can be sent to: The Passionist Missionaries, 80 David Street. South River, NJ 08882. Please make a notation on the check that it is for Father Rick/Haiti.

Attached was a letter which could be given to members of Passionist parishes.

The Provincial’s email then continued offering a second personal appeal which described the personal situation of Father Frechette upon learning about the January 12 Haiti Earthquake. Provincial Jones introduced the second attachment in the following manner:

As an attachment to this e-mail, there is a sample of a letter that we sent as a bulletin insert to a local Diocesan parish. Feel free to use this if you wish. We will be happy to send the acknowledgements from this office. Or if you want assistance with this effort from our Development Office, they are willing to help you, please open the second attachment.

Joe, C.P., Provincial

This second letter issued out of the Provincial Office in New Jersey was entitled “Passionists Haiti Appeal Draft, website of the Passionist Province of St. Paul of the Cross published “Haiti’s newest tragedy. We need God’s help” on January 13th followed by frequent updates.

Three: More Passionists Respond to help Father Rick on January 14, 2010.

Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, West Hartford, Connecticut responded quickly. They issued a bulk email to all members of its Retreat list serve on Haiti. Titled “Support Passionist Relief In Haiti” it educated and promoted the efforts of Father Frechette in Haiti. It reads as followed:

A dear friend of Holy Family’s, Fr. Rick Frechette is a Passionist priest and medical doctor who has served as a missionary in Haiti for decades. Fr. Rick, a Connecticut native, has built two hospitals and an orphanage to serve the poorest of the poor in Port au Prince. All these ministries sustained terrible damage in the earthquake.

As you discern how to help the Haitian people, please consider donating to Fr. Rick and his work. All the proceeds will be sent to support Fr. Rick and his team of doctors, teachers, nurses, and health care staff to care for the survivors. You can donate and learn about Fr. Rick and his work with the people of Haiti at or by checks sent to Passionist Missionaries Union City, New Jersey.

Four: Blogs on January 14, 2010 with news about Father Rick Frechette

On January 14, John Gonzalez of the Brooklyn, New York based office of the North American Passionist Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation gave the following reports at their web site North American Passionist JPIC –

“Haiti Missionary Priest Life Spared” was covered on January 14, 2010 by John Quinn at the web site Courageous Priest –

Five: Father Rick Leaves his dying mother and returns to Haiti via Domincan Republic.

As might be expected the January 14 letters provided much interest and concern for Father Frechette. While there was relief that he was personally safe, having been in Connecticut with his dying mother, there was growing attention about his return to Haiti. How would he get there? Would he be safe? What would he find upon his arrival?

On January 15, 2010 Provincial Joseph R. Jones issued a follow-up email sent to his secretary Carol Payor from Robin Schwarz, an assistant of Father Frechette. It answered many questions that the public had been asking Passionists at so many locations

It read as follows:

Hi Carol,

It’s Robin and I’m helping Fr. Rick answer emails. I thought you might like to see his reflection from today and we hope to keep them up as best we can each day or every few. I love the letter. If there’s anything I can do to help please let me know.

Robin Schwartz
Assistant National Director – NPFS

Hello Friends,

After driving by night to Kennedy Airport January 12th, and flying to the Dominican Republic January 13th, Conan and I arrived to Haiti this morning in the helicopter of the President of the Dominican Republic. This ride was due to the reputation of NPH in the Dominican Republic, NPH Italy, a reputation enhanced in the DR by Andrea Bocelli not long ago.

Our first tasks were the medical evacuation of one of our American volunteers, the medical evacuation of one of our Cuban doctors and the evacuation of the body of one of our American visitors. The search still continues in the rubble for another missing American volunteer, Molly.

We also had 18 funerals today. One for John who works at our St Luke program. We miss John very much. He often stopped to at my door to tell me the milestone of his developing baby, which delighted him no end. John ran our computerized language lab. Another was for Johanne’s mother. Joanne is one of the Directors of the St Luke program. All the others were of unknown people who were sadly rotting by the wayside.

Other sadnesses…the death of Immacula, our only physician assistant, who worked at our huge outpatient side of our hospital. The death of ALL but one of Joseph Ferdinand’s brothers and sisters, the death of the husband of Jacqueline Gautier as he was visiting a school which fell and all the students (all died), the death of our ex-pequeno Wilfrid Altisme who was in his 5th year of seminary for priesthood. Other stories of deaths of people who are dear to us keep coming in.

We spent the rest of the time managing the countless people with serious and severe wounds, coming to our hospital. We are doing our best for them, under trees and in the parking lot with ever diminishing supplies. We will work throughout the night and beyond. No stores are open, no banks are open. Diesel is running out. Will be out in two days if we don’t find a solution, which will mean no power at all. The hospital is without water since there is some broken line between the well and the water tower.

Structural damages to the hospital seem superficial at first glance, but about half the outer perimeter walls have fallen. The old hospital in Petionville is in ruins, and teams of workers, led by Ferel, and been digging for Molly non-stop around the clock.

WE HAVE NO INTERNET. OUR PHONES DO NOT WORK. IF A CALL DOES GET THROUGH WE CAN’T HEAR OR BE HEARD. Robin has internet access through a satellite. I asked her to send this message for me, and to read my emails and answer them as best she can for now.

Please continue to pray for us. We pray for you too.

Fr. Rick Frechette

Six: Passionists In Rome Respond to help Father Rick

January 15 also saw an email generated from the Passionist Jesús Mª Aristín, Passionist Mission Secretary in Rome. It read as follows:

Some have asked us to open an account for aid to victims of the Haiti earthquake. Here is the account number:

IBAN:   IT68U 05696 03224 000002650X35

Conto corrente N° 2650 / 35

Banca Popolare di Sondrio
Agenzia 24 di Roma
Via San Giovanni Laterano, 51 A
00184 Roma (RM)

Thank you very much. Best regards.

Jesús Mª Aristín

Seven: Blogs on January 15th Cover Haiti and Father Rick

For example, January 15 saw an newscast go on line at the Passionist website under the title. Update from Fr. Rick Frechette in Haiti

The Scranton Times, Scranton, Pennsylvania published a news story that emerged via the internet. Interestingly, immediate email responses to the article drew both pro and con points of views from readers.

Eight: More Blogs as news interest on Passionist Father Frechette and Haiti

On January 13th PV Adventures: Haiti: Passionist priest, Fr. Rick Frechette, CP, is a missionary and medical doctor to the people of Haiti. He sent the following letter and will be updating the situation on the Passionists website:

Nine: Mourning and prayers, deaths of Molly Hightower and Ryan Kloos in the Haiti Earthquake.

Sadness was learned when it was reported that one of the volunteers and a visitor to the ministry site of Father Frechette had died. Part of the news was as follows:

It is with deep anguish that Friends of the Orphans is confirming the deaths in Haiti of international volunteer Molly Hightower, 22, of Port Orchard, WA, and Ryan Kloos, 24, of Phoenix, AZ, who is the brother of Friends of the Orphans international volunteer Erin Kloos, 26, also of Phoenix. Ryan Kloos, a 2008 graduate of the University of California-San Diego, was recovered from the Fr. Wasson Center in Petionville on the afternoon of January 13. Erin Kloos was rescued from the Fr. Wasson Center on January 13 and is currently in stable condition in a south Florida hospital’s intensive care unit. Her prognosis is good. After an extensive search, Molly’s body was recovered from the same location at approximately 4:30 a.m. (EST) Friday, January 15.

Web site information: Molly Hightower Found Dead in Haitian Orphanage Where She Worked at “She recently mentioned on her blog that she met with several actors who were visiting the country to meet with Father Richard Frechette (known to many as Father Rick)…”

Ten: ABC News interviews Father Richard Frechette, Passionist

After Earthquake, Fight to Save Haiti’s Children – ABC News
“They made food, beans and, then, after it was all cooked they put it on the table,” Frechette told ABC News senior health and medical editor Dr. Richard …

Eleven: Scranton, Pennsylvania TV News Covers Father Frechette, Passionist

Priest with Local Ties in Haiti – WNEP-TV
Father Rick Frechette is a Passionist priest who appeared on ABC’s World News … And so he went there,” said Father Richard Burke of Saint Ann’s Basilica. …

Twelve: Compassion Weavers, Haiti, and Father Richard Frechette

Also, “Cast yourself into the arms of God…
By nicole…
1) through his “Compassion Weavers” website via the “paypal” link at
2) By check payable to “St. Paul’s Benevolent Institute” and sent to : Fr Richard Frechette CP 8980 SW 56th St. Miami, FL 33165

Thirteen: Italian news and more on Passionist Father Richard Frechette

YouTube – Piccolo Fratello Haiti (terza parte)
…realizzati da NPH Fondazione Francesca Rava sotto con la supervisione di Padre Richard Frechette, medico e missionario che da anni lavora nell’isola. …

Julia Stenson (jgrace334) on Twitter
Help my Mom’s brother in-law, Father Rick Frechette: – 6:38 PM Jan 18th from web
DONATE NPH. – 6:40 PM Jan 18th from web

Fourteen: Catholic News Service and Father Frechette

January 15, 2010 Catholic News Service ran an article on Frechette and the Jesuits in Haiti. It shows how the news release sent out by Provincial Father Joe Jones in New Jersey was picked up by the press and linked to part of a larger Catholic story.

Priest leaves dying mother, Jesuits venture into neighborhood to help” published in The Catholic, Official Newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Fifteen: More News from Catholic News Service on Father Frechette.

January 15 saw Nancy Frazier O’Brien and Alicia Ambrosio of Catholic News Service pick up and carry the same information. However, their report had Frechette, erroneously, at home with his mother in New Jersey rather than Connecticut.
Priest leaves dying mother, Jesuits venture into neighborhood to help – U.S. Catholic magazine: Passionist Father Rick Frechette, the Haiti-based director of medical services for Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos International, was at home in New Jersey with …

Other coverage of Father Frechette included:

News from Haiti – Passionist Rick Frechette – Passionist International Blog by Kevin Dance, C.P.

The Passionist Emergency Fund for Haiti – Passionist’s JPIC (Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation) Blog

A Passionist in Haiti – Laus Crucis, By PF
Father Rick Frechette is a Passionist priest who is also a medical doctor and who has worked as a pediatrician in Haiti for many years. He had been at home in the United States as his mother is dying, but returned to Haiti on hearing …

Laudem Gloriae: Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs – Laudem Gloriae, By Christine
Fr. Rick Frechette, the well-known Passionist priest who helped establish the St. Damien Hospital of NPH in Haiti, who became a doctor in midlife because of his frustration at the lack of medical professionals in the poverty-stricken …

From my cousin concerning Haiti – Sonlight Garden, By Kirsten Butler
Fr. Rick is a passionist priest and a friend of mine. He has been working in Haiti for many years. He left Haiti for a time to study in the states. He felt the need was so desperate for doctors in Haiti that he went back to school to …

Sixteen: Haiti relief efforts and Father Rick covered in upstate NY news

January 16, 2010 coverage: Locals rally to help Haiti – MPN, By Philip Anselmo, staff writer Daily Messenger, Posted Jan 16, 2010

Seventeen: Ireland and the efforts of Passionist Father Frechette

Father John Friel, a Passionist from the Irish and Scotland province provided information on Frechette via his blog, Glimpses of Life:

Latest from Fr. Rick in Haiti – Glimpses of Life, By John Friel, C.P., January 17, 2010

Eighteen: Washington Post and Father Frechette in Haiti

News of Frechette in Haiti led to the following January 17 comments in the Washington Post
By Michael Maccoby under the topic, Crisis leadership

Building Haiti

Haiti is a disaster that has become a catastrophe. For over 20 years, I have worked with Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos with homes for orphaned and abandoned children in nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Haiti, there is a home for 450 children and a pediatric hospital, St. Damien Chateaublond, which treated over 30,000 children last year.

Our Haitian organization, Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs, is led by Father Richard Frechette, a Catholic priest and physician. Father Rick has also organized schools and businesses to provide employment for the children who graduate from our homes. In an environment of corruption, dangerous gangs and very limited resources, he has inspired and developed productive and caring children. He has been helped by dedicated volunteers from Europe and the United States, one of whom perished in the earthquake.

Haiti cries out for our help, and there is human potential to build a creative society. But developmental assistance should be planned and closely directed by people like Father Rick, Dr. Paul Farmer and Haitian counterparts who have demonstrated their competence and integrity. Otherwise with all good intentions, all the funds sent to Haiti will soon disappear just like their trees and other natural resources.

Nineteen: Blog coverage on Haiti Relief and Father Frechette Hospital

St Catherine of Siena: Support Passionist Relief in Haiti
A dear friend of Holy Family’s, Fr. Rick Frechette is a Passionist priest and medical doctor who has served as a missionary in Haiti for decades.

There were numerous Twitter and Facebook posts such as this: Twitter Susan Roby Berdinka “ #haiti #haitianrelief”

Twenty: Baltimore, Maryland responds to the Medical efforts of Father Frechette

On Saturday January 16 and Sunday January 17 St Joseph’s Monastery Parish, Baltimore,Maryland offered a handout in the parish bulletin which was a rewrite of the Provincial Joe Jones letter. Father Rick had been assigned to Baltimore after ordination. News was given on his being in CT at the time of the earthquake and how people might have the opportunity to donate for Father Rick. It was then put up on the parish web site. Also, Father Rob Carbonneau, C.P. preached on the relief effort at the January 17 liturgy at Bon Secours Spiritual Center, Marriottsville, MD. People were given information should they wish to donate.

Twenty One: Passionist Father Rick to publish book on Hospital Work in Haiti.

One of the efforts of Father Frechette has been that of working to publish and educate about his ministries. Even prior to the January 12, 2010 earthquake press releases via the internet described his forthcoming book. This January 14 press release is a good background on Father Frechette.

Haiti: The God of Tough Places, the Lord of Burnt Men

Author: Richard Frechette
Format: Hardback , 134 pp
Publication date: 15 Mar 2010
Publisher: Transaction Publishers
ISBN-10: 1412814200
ISBN-13: 9781412814201

Product Description
As a priest and a physician, Richard Frechette has known the body, heart, and soul of many people in the most anguishing of circumstances, when they faced the biggest challenges to their life and the meaning of it. To make the situation more dramatic, he has carried out his double ministry over the past 25 years in settings of extreme poverty, violence, social upheaval and natural disasters. The backdrop of his profound encounters with other people has often been the crucible. This personal experience of tough realities has been at once a descent into chaos and an ascent into compassion. The reflections in this volume are not properly about Haiti, though they are about real life incidents that happened there, during a particular time in her history. In a fuller sense, these reflections shed light on what happens in any place, at any time, to people of any race or class, who live out an assault on their human dignity. Whenever the dignity of human beings is marred, the human spirit finds itself in threatened conditions, and seeks desperately to preserve what is human about it. It is amazing how the human spirit finds light and hope in the most despairing darkness. This is the unfailing light of God’s grace, ever present and faithful, fiercely persistent in trying to renew the face of the earth and the pilgrim human heart. Grounded in space and time, and yet speaking of universal concerns, these essays show how the ancient human scourges of poverty, ignorance, illness, and violence desecrate humanity and weaken the spirit. Yet from these ashes many people, with the help of God, valiantly rise. This is a stunning work that crosses all conventional barriers between the personal and the political, between degradation by others and elevation by selves.

About the Author
Richard Frechette is a medical doctor and Catholic priest who directs the Haiti programs of Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos International, and of his religious community, The Passionists. These programs include orphanages, schools, a childrens hospital and mobile clinics in and around Port-au-Prince. He did similar work previously in Mexico and Honduras.

Twenty Two: Learn more information about Father Frechette and Haiti Relief

Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos International

Related Articles