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Protopriest Victor Potapov, Executive Director of the Fund for Assistance, Interviews Priest Gregoire Legoute of Haiti

 

Fr Victor: Fr Gregoire, please tell us of your successes and difficulties.

Fr Gregoire: At the present time, we only have two priests ministering to five parishes and two chapels. It is difficult for us to visit our flock; difficult to pay for the renovation of our premises, where we conduct services where there is no church; we need financial help in buying property to build a church.†

The Government of Haiti provides absolutely no social support for the population, so all social work falls to the Church to perform. So it is important for us to have a school at the church, and a medical clinic. We have centers for mentally-challenged and disabled children, and we do everything we can to expand such work and to educate 100 children under 20 years of age.

Church schools in Haiti do not only provide education, but they catechize students, too. The children pray every day, and the teacher of the Law of God is always present to teach and provide spiritual guidance. That is why school is so important.

We have 12 readers who wish to obtain theological education, become deacons, and then priests, to help us in the near future.

They hold readersí services, while the priests travel throughout the parish twice a month. Fr Jean goes north, and I go south. Besides this we need to perform weddings, baptisms and funerals during the week. Since we donít have cars, we use public transportation, and this leads to many problems.

We count on the aid of all Orthodox Christians in spreading the Holy Faith in Haiti.

Fr Victor: Fr Gregoire, why specificually drew you towards Orthodox Christianity?

Fr Gregoire:†Once, Fr Avraamii invited me to participate in common prayer in someoneís home. I came, and what I saw and heard turned my life upside down. I did not know where I was, in heaven or on earth. That moment I decided to become Orthodox.

Fr Victor: How many Orthodox Christians were there in Haiti at that time?

Fr Gregoire:†There were about 50. The more prosperous Orthodox Christians in Haiti are Arabs and Russian ethnic Jews who live in big cities. But we are too far in the interior of the country, and they do not help us. They would like to visit us, but our parishes are simply too far.

At the present time, there are over 2000 Orthodox Christians belonging to ROCOR in Haiti.

Fr Victor: Priest Gregory Williams helped you for many years. He left into schism, but you did not follow him. How did that come about?††

Fr Gregoire: Not long before the reunification of the Churches in 2007, Fr Gregory announced that he is abandoning his administrative duties, and advised that we transfer all our property to the Synod. But in June 2007, he declared that he would be obedient and would commemorate only Bishop Agathangel. This was right before all-night vigil, and we told him we disagreed, and we left, so he served alone.

Two days later I learned that at a meeting of St John of Shanghai Parish in the town of Okai, Fr Gregory promised everyone that those who would follow him into schism would gain materially, and that those who did not would get nothing. This talk of material benefit insulted us, and we decided to follow the path of faith, and follow our hierarchy.

On Pascha I received a letter from Archbishop Hilarion from Australia with a plea for us to remain in ROCOR. Vladyka Michael also wrote an epistle to us. We felt that we had support and protection, and understood that we must follow our archpastors.

Fr Victor: Fr Gregoire, what is it that you need the most, how can we help you?

Fr Gregoire:In Haiti, we have a need in all things. We lack liturgical books, sacramental items, we donít have land to build a church on, our schools need material support.

Fr Victor: You were a delegate at the Assembly of the Eastern American Diocese, which includes Haiti. How did you feel amidst the American and Russian clergymen?

Fr Gregoire:† I was happy to be among my brethren. Many priests I already knew. Because of visa problems, we were not able to participate in previous Diocesan meetings. This time I came especially to make an appeal to help the Haiti Mission.

I am very happy that everyone, beginning with Metropolitan Hilarion, paid special attention to Haiti, and I felt this attention towards myself, to Fr Jean and our entire flock.

Fr Victor: Are you able to receive pilgrims from the US and Europe?

Fr Gregoire:†There are many foreigners in Haiti, so in that regard there is no problem. The church addresses are located in the Synod list of parishes, a pilgrims are welcome to come and participate in our life; we invite everyone to come.

Fr Victor:I hope that the time will soon come when you and I will pray together in a church built in the capital of Haiti on the donations of Orthodox Christians from all over the world.

Fr Gregoire:†We depend very much on your prayer and help.