WINDSOR TERRACE – The death of retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq leaves both a legacy and unfinished business for an organization he helped create and lead for more than three decades – the National Center for Haitian apostolate (NCHA).
The Brooklyn-based vice-director of the center, Msgr. Pierre-André Pierre, congratulated Bishop Sansaricq, who passed away on August 21, for his leadership which has fostered unity and spiritual growth among Haitian Catholics across the United States
“Bishop Sansaricq was so visionary,” added the Bishop. “It’s a lot of emotion for all of us now. But looking to the future, this ministry will continue.
“And this great heritage will be taken to the next level, trying to unite Haitians in the community of Christ, and integrate them into the adventure of Christianity in the United States.”
Priests born in Haiti in the United States created the NCHA in the 1970s. The founders included an assistant priest at the Parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Cambria Heights, Queens – Guy Sansaricq.
Before coming to the United States, he had served Haitian refugees in the Bahamas for seven years, according to Mgr. Rock.
Bishop Sansaricq became a member of the Haitian diaspora when the president of dictator Jean Claude Duvalier refused to let him return home. Subsequently, Bishop Sansaricq went to Rome, where he studied for four years at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
His next stop was the United States, including the Diocese of Brooklyn, where he saw fellow Haitians in trouble, both economically and spiritually. This prompted him to help establish Queens-based Haitian Americans United for Progress, Inc. (HAUP).
He then turned to a collaboration creating the NCHA, Msgr. said Pierre.
Under the bishop’s direction, the Haitian apostolate center was registered in New York State as a not-for-profit corporation.
In 1988, NCHA became affiliated with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migrant and Refugee Ministry Office. The USCCB also voted to appoint Bishop Sansaricq as the first director of this office, a position he held until his death.
Since its inception, Brooklyn-based NCHA has helped Haitians settle in the United States, find work, and grow in faith through Bible studies and other educational programs.
As the internet evolved, so did the apostolate, using digital platforms like YouTube and social media to reach Catholics in Haitian Creole, French and English, Msgr. said Pierre.
The apostolate center reports that there are approximately 1.5 million Haitians in the United States, and most are recent immigrants. More than two-thirds of them are Catholics, “a fact that makes Haitians the largest group of black Catholic immigrants,” according to the center.
An estimated 150,000 of them belong to parishes in the Diocese of Brooklyn, said Father Hilaire Belizaire, coordinator of the ministry to Haitian immigrants and parish priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish, Cambria Heights.
Mgr. Pierre is president emeritus of the University of Notre-Dame d’Haïti. Bishop Sansaricq invited him to Brooklyn a few years ago to help run the NCHA. The Monsignor declined to discuss how the next director will be selected.
“It’s not for me to say what to do. I don’t want to express any opinion, ”he said. “Let me just say this. We will serve. We are servants.
As of August 31, the USCCB had yet to make an official announcement regarding the new NCHA director. However, Sister Joanna Okereke, program coordinator for the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, which oversees the apostolate, told The Tablet that Msgr. Pierre would be his next boss.
She said that was Bishop Sansaricq’s intention, “and, we will honor that intention.”
In the meantime, there is much to be done for the NCHA, Mgr. said Pierre.
He noted that he and Bishop Sansaricq had planned to announce on August 22 a new initiative with the working title, “Memory Project: Contributions of Haitians to the United States”.
Its aim is to showcase the achievements of Haitians in the United States in various sectors, including doctors, nurses, lawyers, businessmen and the clergy. The format of the initiative is not yet decided, but it could be a book, website or TV documentary, Msgr. said Pierre.
Bishop Sansaricq “wanted to show how, in a generation, [the U.S.-based population] had grown up ”, declared the Monsignor. “This is the story of the last 50 to 60 years of Haitians in the country. It is not a waste of time. “
Instead, he noted, new generations of Haitians have extended their track record of successful careers and achieving equality.
“The American dream, you know, it’s also part of us,” the Monsignor said.