By John Lavenburg & Currents News Staff
NEW YORK — When Patricia Brintle founded the From Here to Haiti nonprofit in 2010, she remembers that Bishop Guy A. Sansaricq was a stabilizing force throughout the process, remaining by her side for the next 10 years guiding the organization’s efforts to aid the Caribbean nation.
On Saturday, Aug. 21, Bishop Sansaricq, a retired auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Brooklyn and the first Haitian bishop in the United States, died at age 86. Brintle, and others who knew him, describe him as a kind and humble man who was a quiet but effective leader and a “lifeline to the Haitian community” worldwide.
“I feel that we lost a giant. We lost a saint,” Brintle said. “For all From Here to Haiti has accomplished, it has been because of the guidance of Bishop [Sansaricq]. Haitians have suffered a lot, and the bishop had suffered a lot, but he never lost his faith, and that was the example Haitians were following.”
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio described Bishop Sansaricq as an important figure for the Haitian community who was “was very active, right to the end.”
“Bishop Sansaricq was the first Haitian American Bishop in the United States,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “He was a symbol of the progress of the Haitian people here and, as someone who served as a bishop, gave the Haitian community some recognition and stature as immigrant people, a ministry he served very well.”
Sunday, Aug. 22, was the 15th anniversary of Bishop Sansaricq’s episcopal ordination as an auxiliary bishop in the Diocese of Brooklyn. Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of Brooklyn and Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport were episcopally ordained at the same time.
Bishop Cisneros said it was a special day for himself and Bishop Caggiano, as well as for Bishop Sansaricq, who is now “in the company of the saints, together with Jesus who has called us to be his servants.”
He described Bishop Sansaricq as humble and a true pastor.
“He wasn’t very concerned about pomp and circumstance. He would be happy to stand at the end of the line. He will be happy to sweep the floor before a ceremony,” Bishop Cisneros said. “He was the kind of person that we want to see as a pastor. He was a man truly chosen by God to be an example of what it means to be an apostle.”
Bishop Sansaricq was born on Oct. 6, 1934, in the small town of Jérémie, Haiti, located on the country’s southern peninsula about 116 miles from Port-au-Prince.
About a decade later, Bishop Sansaricq’s priestly ordination was on June 29, 1960, at the Cathedral of Port-au-Prince. He spent the next year as an assistant priest at the Cathedral of Les Cayes. Then, in October 1961, he was sent to the Bahamas as the chaplain for Haitian immigrants in that country, where he would remain until September 1968.
Bishop Sansaricq spent the next three years earning a master’s degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome before being assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Cambria Heights, Queens. He served there for 22 years, from 1971-1993.
His next stop was St. Jerome Parish in Brooklyn, where he was pastor from 1993-2006 before being episcopally ordained as an auxiliary bishop for the diocese. He would hold that role until his retirement on Oct. 24, 2010.
Throughout his time in the Diocese of Brooklyn, Bishop Sansaricq was committed to the Haitian community. He helped found and was the first director of the National Center of the Haitian Apostolate and created Haitian-Americans United for Progress.
Bishop Cisneros also noted that Bishop Sansaricq worked hard to translate religious works to Creole for the Haitian community.
Father Hilaire Belizaire, the pastor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Cambria Heights and the coordinator of ministry to Haitian immigrants in the diocese, highlighted Bishop Sansaricq’s work ethic and lifelong commitment to the Haitian community.
“Bishop Sansaricq never retired. He continued up until his last breath,” Father Belizaire said. “This is a man of great heart. He has great love for God and dedicated his life to his people, and he has that kind of spirit to welcome everyone, to be there for everyone.”
Msgr. Sean Ogle, the vicar for clergy and consecrated life in the Diocese of Brooklyn and chairman of the board of DeSales Media, said he last spoke to Bishop Sansaricq on August 17 to offer prayers for the people of Haiti after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the island on Aug. 14.
Msgr. Ogle said Bishop Sansaricq was planning relief efforts.
“So great and immediate was his concern,” Msgr. Ogle said in a statement. “It was typical of this man, who was the soul of both charity and action. Our diocese was blessed to have such a priest and bishop, and he will be sorely missed.”
Only a few weeks earlier, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami last spoke to Bishop Sansaricq about the assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenel Moïse. Archbishop Wenski said he had known Bishop Sansaricq since about 1980. They worked together to coordinate the Haitian Apostolate in the United States, as the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of Miami have two of the largest Haitian Catholic populations.
Archbishop Wenski looks at the growth of the Haitian Catholic community in the United States — which has added many parishioners over the years and now has about 70 priests nationwide — and acknowledges that it wouldn’t have been possible “without pioneers like Sansaricq that kept the faith alive in the early days.”
“May he rest in peace,” Archbishop Wenski said. “It’s the passing of an era.”
A wake for Bishop Sansaricq will be held on Tuesday, August 31, from 3-9 p.m. at St. Jerome Roman Catholic Church, Brooklyn, and Wednesday, Sept. 1, from 3-7 p.m. at St. Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church, Brooklyn.
A vigil Mass will be celebrated on Wednesday, September 1, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church, Brooklyn.
The Mass of Christian burial will be held on Thursday, September 2, at 11 a.m. at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, Brooklyn.
Masks will be required at all public services for Bishop Sansaricq.