A farewell to Haiti - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Susan dancing with students and other teachers at Lékol Jezi Mari in Gros Morne.

On Jan. 20, we, Susan Silveus and Mike Lattanzi, left our home in Gros Morne, Haiti for what we had thought would be a brief vacation. The plan was to return on Feb. 5 to resume our work. But that didn’t happen.

We had known before leaving that there would likely be unrest in the build-up to Feb. 7, the date when Ariel Henry, the unelected and unpopular prime minister had promised to leave office. Indeed, we had adjusted our travel plans to avoid demonstrations that had already been called for Jan. 19. But, with turmoil only increasing as our return approached, it became clear that it would have to be postponed.

Kids play at Lékol Jezi Mari.

Roads between the airport in Cap Haitien and Gros Morne were no longer safe. We hoped that this would only be a delay, but there was worse to come. Demonstrations and occupations in the neighboring town of Gonaives meant that police in our town were left without backup and a gang that had been operating just north of Gros Morne entered town and briefly took over the police station.

It was now clear that our town, which previously had been relatively untouched by gang activity, was vulnerable. And with the possibility of return now indeterminate, the decision was made that we would not be returning to Haiti but would continue our work for Maryknoll elsewhere.

Since then, the situation has continued to deteriorate, with gangs increasingly brazen, attacking the airport and two prisons in Port-au-Prince. The other member of our Maryknoll Lay Missioners community, Sami Scott, is now also safely out of Haiti, with her future plans pending .

While we know that this is the right decision, we are heartbroken to be leaving Haiti behind. We had come to love Haiti — the beauty of the country and of its people — and we mourn the loss of the relationships that we had begun to build with people in our town.

It is a hard realization that it will no longer be possible to share a “bon travay” (good work) with Jacques as we complete a job at the tree nursery together; or chat about politics or soccer rivalries with Lamage, our Kreyol teacher turned “adopted son”; or share a weekly meal with Lawong and Fabienne; or immerse ourselves in the lively throngs in the market; or dance with the preschool kids at Lékol Jezi Mari.

Instead, now we can only worry about the friends we have left behind.

Lost too are our hopes for the work that we were just beginning (as we had finally gotten to the point where we could muddle through with our clumsy Creole). The plan to establish a postsecondary agricultural school looks now, somehow, to be finding its feet but I, Mike, will not be there to see this plan come to fruition. And the microenterprise program that I, Susan, was just beginning will simply not happen.

We know that we should begin to look forward — to a new adventure, to new people and a new culture, to new work to be done — and we will in time. But for now, we cannot help but look back … with fondness and sadness in equal measure.

Susan and Mike photos

Left: Susan and Mike with Lamage. Right: Mike and Jacques working in the tree nursery in Grepin.

Mike Lattanzi and Susan Silveus
Susan Silveus and Mike Lattanzi joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 2022 and have served in Haiti.