Religious community rocked by quake in Haiti

By Tracy Simmons/Creedible.com

When the earth shook Tuesday evening in Haiti, the Rev. Erl “Puck” Purnell felt its tremors in his Simsbury home.

Watching the breaking news, powerless, he knew that thousands of people had just died. Maybe, he said, even a half a million.

Since 1997, maybe longer, his church, Old St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Bloomfield, has supported Ecole le Bon Samaritain, an elementary school in Carrefour, Haiti.

Carrefour was the epicenter of Tuesday’s fatal earthquake.

“We haven’t heard any reports from there,” he said from his office Wednesday afternoon, “we think, it’s because nobody’s there.”

But news came in later that day that the children were not in the school when the quake hit, though the reinforced concrete structure had been demolished. However, no one knows where the young students are. And, no one knows where Marie “Mona” Millien is. She’s the executive director of the school and has strong ties to Connecticut.

Her husband, school principal Jean Millian, was in Norwalk for medical purposes when the earthquake occurred.

“Jean-Elie is in Norwalk and trying to decide whether or not to return to Haiti on Monday. The streets are littered with dead bodies and rubble. The situation is dire and getting worse,” Purnell posted to the church’s Web site.

Giovanni Millian, Jean and Marie’s son, is believed to be searching for his missing mother on foot. The house he was staying in was also destroyed by the quake.

“We’re blown away by this, the phone has literally been ringing off the hook today,” Purnell said. “We’re just devastated.”

The church has donated thousands of dollars to help the school succeed, and over the years parishioners have made several trips to be with the students.

On Wednesday afternoon the church gathered to pray for their missing students and director and Purnell plans to discuss the situation further during his Sunday sermon.

News continued to spread across Connecticut Wednesday with news out of Southbury, where a Sacred Heart Church feared the worst.

Deacon Chuck Dietsch was in Haiti when the earthquake rattled Haiti, and so was Jillian Thorpe, director of the Haitian Mission House. Chuck is from Southbury, and Jillian is from Old Saybrook. The pair were rescued Wednesday.

“Both have injuries, but we do not know the extent of them. They were well enough to tell people to call their families here…Please pray for Deacon Chuck, Jillian Thorpe and all the people of Haiti that are now dealing with this tragedy,” read a message posted on Sacred Heart’s Web site.

In Litchfield, The Daughters of Wisdom (who operate the Wisdom House Retreat Center) were busy raising money to help the victims of the earthquake.

“The news of the devastating earthquake in Haiti begs for our response,” Sister Rosemarie Greco, administrator of Wisdom House said in a press release.

The Daughters of Wisdom have more than 100 women serving in Port au Prince schools, and other nearby towns.

Wisdom House is collecting money for AmeriCares to help the victims. To make a contribution, send a check payable to Wisdom House-Haiti, to 229 E. Litchfield Road, Litchfield, CT, 06759. Or, make a donation online at www.americares.org.