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placeholder OBITUARIES:
Msgr. Robert Adams: faithful priest, beloved pastor
Terry Barber, principal of St. John the Baptist School in El Cerrito
Vincentian Service Corps volunteer helps jobless achieve success

Why I became a priest: ‘The unpredictable graciousness of God in my life’

U.S. bishops renew efforts toward comprehensive immigration reform

Churches work to ensure everyone counted in 2010

Global solidarity conference at Holy Names University

French organist to perform at dedicatory cathedral concert

Papal liturgist endorses ‘reform of the reform’ of the liturgy

Saint Mary’s College hosts seminar on future of credit, business lending

Operation Rice Bowl gives social service grants

Haitian woman in Oakland grieves loss of family, friends

Nuns, priests among Haiti’s dead

East Bay Catholics volunteer, raise funds for quake victims


placeholder January 25, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
Haitian woman in Oakland
grieves loss of family, friends

Suzette Bertrand is business manager at Sacred Heart Parish in Oakland.

Suzette Bertrand sat in the living room of her Oakland home Jan. 17, trying to absorb the loss of 12 friends who died in the Haitian earthquake five days earlier. She awaited word about her half-sister Francesca, a retired businesswoman in Port-au-Prince, who might also be among the estimated 200,000 killed in the major quake.

While she grieved, she also remembered — growing up in the 1940s in a Haiti free of widespread corruption and poverty, working as a teacher in a Catholic elementary school in Cap Hatien, and fleeing her beloved country in 1967 after the execution of a brother and cousin by forces loyal to Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, who ruled Haiti from 1957 to 1971 and plunged the nation into the Western Hemisphere’s greatest poverty.

Now the business manager at Sacred Heart Parish in Oakland, Bertrand lamented the Duvalier policies that centralized the nation’s resources in the capital and forced people to leave their farms to seek work in Port-au-Prince, where many now live in abject poverty. It was these impoverished living conditions, including substandard building construction, that contributed to the high loss of life in the quake.

She is also critical of the current government for not doing more to solve the social and economic problems that have plagued the country for the past 50 years. Poor Haitians, she said, have been victims since the 1950s and now their suffering has magnified. She feels a sense of justice that the earthquake has crippled the government. “That’s what I call the cleansing,” she said. “They have to go. We have to have an end to the corruption.”

As of Jan. 20, Bertrand still had not received news about her missing half-sister.

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