On the 208th Anniversary of the first Independent Republic in the Caribbean in Haiti, the Diocese of Venice in conjunction with the Haitian Catholic Community celebrated a Mass at Epiphany Cathedral on Jan. 1, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.
More than 600 people from throughout the Diocese of Venice attended the Mass which was celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Dewane and concelebrated by Archbishop Louis KĂ©breau, Archbishop of the Diocese of Cap-Haitian, Haiti. There were nine additional priests from the Diocese of Venice who participated. Also present, was Deacon Max Severe of St. Catherine Parish in Sebring.
The Mass was celebrated in English, but the readings and music were in Creole. Archbishop KĂ©breau delivered the homily.
Archbishop KĂ©breau said he was impressed at how welcome the Haitian community was in the Diocese of Venice and thanked Bishop Dewane for his support in this regard.
â€śIt really means so much to all of us,â€ť Archbishop KĂ©breau said. â€śWe are a proud people who serve God the best way we can.â€ť
He told the gathered faithful that they must examine their heart to gain the courage and confidence to live a life of freedom. He reminded them that many of the people in Haiti remain marginalized and it is the responsibility of everyone to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by giving back to the nation they hold so dear in their hearts.
Deacon Severe noted after the Mass that it is impossible to explain how important Jan. 1 is for Haitians adding that it is a spiritual day, it is also an emoitional day commemorating such an important day in their homeland. It was in 1803 that the Haitians defeated the largest and most powerful army at the time, the army of Napoleon, in Cap-Haitien, the Episcopal See of Archbishop KĂ©breau. Haiti became the second country in the Americas to declare its Independence.
When the French were in control, they enacted a law that said they were the only ones who could eat soup because they were in the upper class. When Haiti proclaimed its independence, all Haitians started to eat soup as a way to demonstrate that everyone was equal. Thus began the custom of cooking and eating soup on New Year’s Day as a way to celebrate freedom.
Soup was offered at the reception that followed the Mass at Epiphany Cathedral.
Bishop Dewane said he was honored and privileged to participate in such an important cultural celebration. He took note to thank the Haitian priests who were in attendance for their dedication in caring for their parishioners.
â€śYou are an important part of the Diocese of Venice,â€ť he said. â€śIt is an honor for the Diocese to have this event each year. We are blessed to have such a strong Haitian community and the priests who serve you each day.â€ť
Parishes with large Haitian communities arranged buses for people to attend the Mass. Many of the people were dressed in the colors of the Haitian flag.