Good Shepherd Village in Dalon, Haiti was recently dedicated in the memory of the late Father Richard B. Martin.
It is the 10th “Nativity Village” development funded by Operation Starfish and built by Food for the Poor since 1998. The ceremony was attended by more than 1,000 Haitians from the mountainous area around Dalon.
“It was a powerful, powerful trip,” Father Bob said. “I know now why Father Martin became obsessed with raising money for the villages in Haiti. We will continue to do that.”
On the mission trip, Father Bob led a group that included four members of Father Martin’s family and several past and present Nativity parishioners, including Deacon Dale Avery and his wife Sheila, Jim McDaniel and his daughter Jill, Mary Ellen Smith, Jill Chastain and Tom Amodio.
“It was awesome to think that while Pope Francis was convening the Synod on the Family, we had brought together Father Martin’s family, our Nativity family and our Haiti family to celebrate Mass and inaugurate a new Nativity Village,” said Nativity Parish Operation Starfish Coordinator Jim McDaniel.
So far Good Shepherd Village has 60 homes with indoor toilets and access to clean drinking water, a school with over 750 students, a 120-stall market and a community center. A clinic and an additional 20 homes will be built this year and another 40 homes in 2016. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new community center at the top of a mountain with beautiful vistas all around. A meditation garden sits adjacent to the building, with a 20-foot mural that includes a pastoral scene with sheep and a shepherd, recalling Father Martin’s ministry.
Father Martin started Operation Starfish at Nativity Parish in 1998. Since then, Nativity parishioners have worked with Food for the Poor to build more than 1,400 homes in Haiti along with schools, clinics, fishing and sewing co-ops, and many self-sustaining projects. Nativity’s Operation Starfish has also funded Food for the Poor projects in Jamaica, Honduras and the Dominican Republic. Today, Operation Starfish is a trademarked program of Food for the Poor, with more than 300 churches and schools across the country participating.
During the celebration at Good Shepard Village, Fr. Martin’s brother, Jack, spoke to the community. He shared with all of us that he had spent the day walking in Fr. Martin’s shoes…literally. Jack decided to leave Fr. Martin’s shoes in Haiti and they will be given to someone who really needs them. Fr. Martin’s legacy lives on…he continues to love and provide for the people of Haiti.
One of the members on the trip stated “It was very emotional…a blessing to have Fr. Martin’s brother and sister walk through Good Shepherd Village – the nearest essence to his own presence”.
Jim McDaniel concluded, “I felt that this was the point at which we left the real presence of Father Martin and continued our work with the poor under his spiritual presence,” Jim said. “He has taught us well. Now we are on our own, with the help of God, to continue the work of Operation Starfish.”