By Allyson Escobar
CANARSIE — Retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy A. Sansaricq was honored on Oct. 5 by the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Haitian Apostolate at Our Lady of Miracles, Canarsie, for his 85th birthday and for his nearly 60 years of service as a priest.
The celebration came during a time of upheaval in Haiti, Bishop Sansaricq’s native country, as Haitians have been violently protesting the economic crisis there. They are demanding that President Jovenel Moïse resign because of alleged corruption and embezzlement.
“We cry about the situation, but what can we do? We just pray for our brothers and sisters,” Bishop Sansaricq, director of the diocese’s Haitian Apostolate, said in an interview with The Tablet.
“It’s a complete mess and out of control; the government cannot control it,” Bishop Sansaricq said. “Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a clear plan or leadership. So nobody knows how this is going to stop.”
As leader of the National Center of the Haitian Apostolate (NCHA) in the United States, Bishop Sansaricq ministers to all Haitian clergy and laypersons in the country.
There are an estimated 1.5 million Haitians in the U.S., and more than 80,000 Haitian immigrants live in the Diocese of Brooklyn, according to NCHA, which is based in Flatbush. The country itself has a population of 11 million, 80 percent of whom are Catholic.
Bishop Sansaricq grew up in Haiti and was ordained in 1960. His first assignment was in Nassau, the Bahamas, where he served Haitians who had fled from their home country, which at the time was ruled by a dictator.
In 1971, Bishop Sansaricq came to the Diocese of Brooklyn to continue his ministry. He served the longest at Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cambria Heights, and later served as pastor of St. Jerome’s in Flatbush.
During that time, Bishop Sansaricq was appointed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to head the diocesan and National Haitian Apostolate, a network for the growing Haitian-American Catholic community. St. John Paul II named Bishop Sansaricq “Prelate of Honor” in 1999.
In 2006, after serving for years at local parishes, Bishop Sansaricq was consecrated an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“When I first came, there were maybe six Haitian priests in the diocese to help cover the ground,” Bishop Sansaricq recalled. “Now we have about 30 Haitian priests — some who are involved in the Hispanic Apostolate, others who are hospital chaplains, several involved in English-speaking parishes, others who are settled in parishes with a large portion of Haitians.”
Bishop Sansaricq formally retired in 2010 at the age of 75. Ten years later, he serves at St. Matthew-St. Gregory the Great Parish in Crown Heights, in addition to his work for the Haitian Apostolate.
“We bring people together to reflect together, to see how we can grow and work as a community,” said Juvinia Joseph, a Sister of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary. The Sisters help run the Apostolate’s events. “The Haitian Apostolate is a place to bring together people’s talents, the gifts of who they are; their passions and the [vibrant] Haitian culture.”
Spearheaded by Bishop Sansaricq, the Haitian Apostolate serves the community nationwide through French-Creole Mass celebrations, yearly pilgrimages, youth rallies/retreats, a national radio and television station, a quarterly bilingual newsletter on matters concerning Haiti and the Catholic Church, pastoral leadership programs, and an annual convention.
Elreta Fowler, secretary for the diocesan Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns, said that the Apostolate has been tremendous at helping Haitian immigrants in need of services, from education to immigration.
“I’ve seen it for myself; the Bishop and the Sisters [of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary] have never turned away anyone in need,” Fowler said.
At the birthday celebration in Canarsie, Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Flatbush) and local City Council members honored Bishop Guy Sansaricq with an official proclamation on behalf of New York state’s 42nd District, Little Haiti and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
“Bishop Sansaricq has really fought for justice, and has been the forefront of all messages of hope, especially for our brothers and sisters in Haiti who are suffering, pressed for justice, peace, equality,” said Dr. Pierre-Paul Cadet, president of the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad, in an opening speech. “He has been a powerful voice in the struggle.”
“His heart and his palms are open,” noted Rosanne Barber, who works at St. Matthew – St. Gregory. “He is a teacher, in all sense of the word. He has really advocated for our community.”
Dominique Mazile, a parishioner at St. Jerome’s, said she received monetary aid and prayerful support from the Haitian Apostolate for a children’s shelter she helps run in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She said that Bishop Sansaricq’s support has made her feel “wonderful and welcomed.”
Gregory Jack from St. Matthew – St. Gregory described Bishop Sansaricq as “a person of great faith. He brings a warmth and peace whenever he is present, and [he is] very unassuming.”
“You sit with him and you don’t necessarily realize that he’s a Bishop, really… he’s such a humble man, in terms of prayer and liturgy.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Sansaricq said his birthday wish is for the Catholic Church — whether in Haiti, Brooklyn, or all over the world — to grow in numbers.
And when asked about the secret to a long, fulfilling life, Bishop Sansaricq simply said, “Prayer,” and a relationship with Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the patron saint of Haiti.