Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia Eglise Orthodoxe Russe hors Frontières

Parish of St. Augustine

First Catechumens: Guillaume, Georges, Simone, Nicolas, Mikaël
First Catechumens:
Guillaume, Georges, Simone, Nicolas, Mikaël
First Parish Meeting, Sept 01
First Parish Meeting, Sept 01
The First Chapel
The First Chapel
After Liturgy, Feast of St. Augustine 2003
After Liturgy, Feast of St. Augustine 2003
Phase 1: Storage Depot & Well
Phase 1: Storage Depot & Well
First Service in Our Own Home March 2006
First Service in Our Own Home March 2006
Patronal Feast 2006
Patronal Feast 2006
With Banquet
With Banquet
St. Augustine’s sprang from a providential encounter on the seacoast during my first trip to Haiti, early in 1999. A teen-ager with a thirst for understanding plied me for hours with questions about the Faith and the Church. Ernsceau (now Nicolas) Neptune came back the next day for more. In the fall, he and his brother-in-law Guillaume attended their first Orthodox services, in Port-au-Prince. In short order they were joined by others, all teen-agers — Mikaël, Wo-Wo (now Geroges), and Simone, all of whom were soon made catechumens and in due course baptized.

The little group grew in number (still predominantly teen-agers), and in the course of a later visit I suggested that they should begin some kind of common prayers on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings. Nicolas’ response: “But we’ve been doing that for a long time!” When I inquired what they were doing, he replied that they used a Prayer Book and Psalter that I had given him, choosing what prayers seemed appropriate, and reading the lessons from the Epistles and Gospels according to the Church Calendar I had given him. But there was a small problem — they had nowhere to meet except in someone’s yard (few Haitian homes, and none of their, can hold more than a very few people in any kind of comfort; so when it rained, they had nowhere to go.

Thus it was that, with the bishop’s blessing, a search for a suitable room to rent for a temporary chapel was begun, and a name was chosen (by casting lots) for the new mission. The room proved to be very suitable indeed, at least for a time: ample for some 20-25 people, with a reasonably spacious altar constructed at one end. The congregation remained almost entirely very young people, nearly all of them male. With a “permanent” meeting-place established, it was possible to install for the mission a complete set of liturgical books, and begin traning for the proper conduct of readers’ services. In a very short time, several of the young men were competent — vital for a mission which for years to come could only occasionaly be served by a priest.

By the summer of 2003, the character of the parish had changed. No longer made up almost entirely of adolescents and very young, folk, now there were also the very old, and the not so old with their children — and the rented room was no longer adequate. Even for readers’ services (every Sunday and feastday), there were more people present than could fit into the room. Others stood on the terrace outside and even beyond in the yard. When for the first time it was possible to celebrate lliturgy for the patronal feast, over 100 people crowded into and around the chapel. It was obviously time to do something else.

By God’s providence, a suitable tract of land was soon located, between the temporary chapel and seacoast, with good road frontage and a legal power line already in place. Astonishingly, by the spring of 2004 we were able to raise funds for its purchase and begin longer-range planning for a new temporary chapel, adequate to any foreseeable need. The property is within 5 minutes’ walk of the Hôtel Cyvadier and of the main road, and within 10 mintues’ walk of the homes of most of the parishioners. At about this time, Fr. Grégoire Legouté was appointed pastor for the growing congregation, funded to travel from his home in Port-au-Prince once a month. (He was of course dismissed from this post after his submission to the Moscow Patriarchate in the summer of 2007). I continued to serve at St. Augustine’s as well nearly every time I was able to journey to Haiti (4-5 times a year at that point).

The patronal feast in the summer of 2004 was once again celebrated in the far too small temporary chapel. Afterwards, some of us visited the newly-acquired property (temporarily serving as a communal garden) to look around, to plan, to dream, to hope. I began searching for funding to construct first a depot (including a deep well) and then for a temporary building for the church. Space was set aside for a permanent church (still a dream in 2008), east-facing. Once built, it would be visible both from the main road (a few hundred yards to the north) and from the sea (a few hundred yards to the south).

By spring 2006, construction was (more or less) complete for a new home for St. Augustine’s, a spacious temporary chapel with a completely enclosed and secure sanctuary; the nave is roofed but remains open on three sides. Constructed to allow a second story, the building will some day become part of the school (indeed, of necessity the nave is used for some classes now) and, God willing, a medical clinic for the parishioners and others of the region.

(More, and more photos, to come — please be patient!)