From the President
We're shivering with hope that Minnesota's coldest stretch of winter is behind us. Stepping off the airplane from an early January trip to Haiti dramatically heightened the "shock and ouch" of the minus-12 degree weather that greeted our return.
The "shock and ouch" of Haiti itself, still struggling to dig out from under the crippling earthquake of 2010, was powerfully matched by the impressive resilience of the Haitians and the splendid work of the 2012 Opus Prize winner, Father Rick Frechette, and the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti in Port au Prince.
Equally impressive was the thoughtful work of our faculty colleagues — Kate Barrett (occupational therapy), Mary Hearst (public health) and Catherine Spaeth (global studies) — who traveled to Haiti with my son, Lahens, and me. I couldn't fail to admire their careful planning for a new course that will take students to the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba to study and experience how culture, geography, politics and economics influence the way healthcare is defined, experienced and distributed.
These women are carefully considering a myriad of details as they meticulously frame the integration of theory and firsthand experience, all designed to prepare students for lives of powerful contribution to the world. I could barely contain my pride as I witnessed the intelligence, purposeful presence and compassionate commitment of our faculty. Their work is a vital part of our strategic initiative around internationalization of the curriculum.
Each morning, we participated in Father Rick's liturgy, enhanced by soulful and captivating Kreyol music. Present at Mass were the bodies of those — mostly women and children — who had died the day before at the pediatric and maternity facility called St. Damien's. Watching the reverent treatment of the mostly tiny corpses, each wrapped simply but carefully for burial, was a stark, sobering and powerfully spiritual experience. Some 40 deaths over the four mornings we were present. An unmistakable and unsettling lens changer. Then, on to the other amazing work of St. Luke's, including locally made bread, pasta and peanut butter.
On Thursday, Lahens and I, along with several Haitian colleagues, Father Rick and a few volunteers (including the son of Opus Prize co-chair LuLu Daly, as well as a Cretin Derham Hall classmate of Lahens), participated in the weekly work of taking the unclaimed and often unnamed dead of Port au Prince to a final resting place of beauty and dignity. No words can describe being inside the starkly primitive morgue in Port au Prince to receive, reverence, bless, encase in cloth and remove body after body of the poorest and most vulnerable of God's people, then drive their remains to the foot of the Haitian mountains for a prayerful burial.
Amid a swirl of sweet-scented cigar smoke and rum used to blunt the odor of unembalmed bodies left in the tropical heat, spirited singing accompanied by pulsing drums, and a deep sense of the sacred, our feelings of dread turned to gratitude for the privilege of playing a small part in making the compassion of Christ present and real.
As Lahens and I flew over the Caribbean back to Miami and the world we know, my thoughts turned to the world that so needs St. Catherine graduates. It will be their world to lead, influence and change for the better. I'm absolutely confident in their ability and intent to do so, and so grateful to you for helping to make our students' fine education possible. Thank you.
May spring find its way quickly to your door, to your driveway and to your heart. I look forward to seeing some of you in my annual winter travels and to Minnesota visits with many more.