By Jessica Easthope
Ringing in the New Year is a tradition celebrated by all – but for the Haitian community, January 1st means independence.
Every year a Haitian Independence Day Mass is held at a different church in the diocese. This year the Mass was celebrated at Holy Family Parish in Canarsie.
Though the Mass is a joyous occasion, the faithful in attendance were quick to speak about a timely and solemn issue that is on the minds of Haitians this holiday.
Gaelle Prussien comes every year with her family to the Mass. “The majority of Haitians who come to the United States are coming for a better life and Haiti right now is in turmoil,” Prussien said.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio has been celebrating the Haitian Independence Day Mass for the last 15 years. “We also pray for the immigrants especially those dealing with TPS try and get them some permanent status, the political situation is unstable so we try to help whoever we can,” said Brooklyn’s Bishop.
Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, has been extended to January 4, 2021; however, pending further court decision in 2020, that could be the last date Haitians are protected from deportation back to Haiti which is dealing with political corruption and the continued aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island nation.
Despite the stress of uncertainty, celebrating independence was a priority. After Mass, hundreds poured into Holy Family’s gymnasium for a feast.
Guests sat at red, white and blue tables decorated with Haitian flags and enjoyed soup joumou, a traditional Haitian food that’s eaten on Independence Day every year.
“They could not have the soup and when they became free that was their liberty and the way to show their independence,” said Marie Guelda Bericles, who helped prepare the soup.
As 2020 begins, church leaders are working to maintain a safe place for Haitian immigrants and those who need most to be welcomed into the country with open arms.