I MMA C U L ATA MA G A Z I N E * F A L L 2 0 1 3
As I crossed Canal de Saint Marc off the Haitian Gold Coast
and into the Canal Du Sud via the Baie de Port-au-Prince, I was
heading to a place that a short time ago didn’t have a name near
Point a Raquettes on the island of Gonave. I thought to myself
that I was seeing Dunkirk in reverse.
A mere 15 days after Winston Churchill became prime min-
ister of Great Britain, he had to order the evacuation of British
forces from Europe and take with them whatever other Allied
forces they could. The Allies had failed to stop a German advance.
Perhaps most remarkably, Churchill called upon all available ships
to aid in the evacuation of more than 338,000 British, French,
Belgian and Polish troops from May 27 through June 4, 1940.
Small British fishing boats capable of holding but a few men
strove side by side with British naval vessels to evacuate as many
as they could. In a moment of defeat, average people showed great
heroism, and risked their lives to help others.
Now, as my boat made its way to Saint Mary’s Village, that
place that once had no name but is now named after my par-
ish—Saint Mary’s of Schwenksville, which provided a significant
amount of the funding for construction—I thought of the people
of Saint Mary’s who took their small dugout canoes, small sail-
boats and their four fiberglass boats out into open waters, some-
times for 16 hours round trip, bound for Port-au-Prince to pick
up building supplies that would be used to create Saint Mary’s
Village. It was Dunkirk in reverse. Instead of evacuating in defeat,
they were returning to build anew.
In their own way, these fishermen—a caste of people disdained
by Haitian society—were committing great acts of heroism and
sacrifice. Their village was on the beach, built of nothing except
random scraps of material they could salvage to somehow withstand
the annual hurricanes. They only had a modest supply of brackish
water, which they also used as a toilet, and cholera occurred
frequently. They were completely exposed, and they struggled to
catch sufficient fish to feed themselves.
Now, with the supplies they had ferried across the water, they
would help to build their own houses of concrete, wood and cor-
rugated steel. They would have a rain catchment system that filled
a cistern in each house and a flush toilet. Cholera would become
a thing of the past. They would have solar powered lighting, both
street lights and three lights in each house. Children would not
have to rush to get their homework done before the sun went
down. I thought of the opening lines of the Gospel of Saint John.
While the residents of Saint Mary’s Village had sacrificed, so
had my colleagues from Father Chuck’s Challenge. This small
non-profit based out of Montgomery County, PA, assists commu-
nities in Haiti and Nicaragua with housing, water and sanitation
systems, solar power, deep sea fishing operations, livestock opera-
tions, schools and clinics in an attempt to provide for both the
immediate needs of the poor and to provide them with the means
to be economically self-sufficient. Father Francis X. Schmidt, a
long-serving priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia now in his
80s, started Father Chuck’s Challenge in memory of his friend,
Halus with Bernard Chavet, a native Haitian and an accomplished
sports fisherman, who is instructing Halus on how to drive the 40-
foot boat out to the island of Gonave.
By: Eugene Halus, Ph.D., associate professor of Politics