Shortly after the arrival of Pastor Dave Hellmann and associate pastor Bob Klemme at The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Lafayette, Indiana, in 1999, our twinning relationship began. Father Bob had been involved in similar twinning relationships at two prior churches in Indiana. He contacted Theresa Patterson, founder of the Parish Twinning Program of America, and requested a twinning relationship with a church that had a school (since St Mary has a school) and with a church that would encourage frequent visits from our parish. Theresa said that within a week she also got a request from Father Ronel “Cha Cha” Charelus wanting a sister parish that would come visit often. This match was an easy one to make!
Father Cha Cha made a visit to St. Mary in August 1999 and met many parishioners. Plans were set for St. Mary to take its first trip to Haiti in March 2000. Parishioners from St. Mary Cathedral have made annual visits to St. Joseph Parish ever since that time.
St. Joseph Parish in Pendus, Haiti is in the Diocese of Gonaives. Pendus is located in the northwest mountains about 120 miles from Port-au-Prince. It is about 24 miles southeast of Port-de-Paix and 10 miles northwest of Gros Morne. The pastor of St. Joseph Parish has also served surrounding chapel communities (Catholic communities, some larger than Pendus, without a priest in residence). These have included: Montbayard, Savanne Carre, Berard, Kayamit, Mayombe and Massacre.
Since the initiation of the twinning relationship, Father Charelus has been succeeded sequentially as pastor at St. Joseph by Father Wilner Donecia, Father Joseph Telcin, and currently by Father Sylvio Jean. Fathers Charelus, Donecia, and Telcin had served St. Joseph from Gros Morne. Father Sylvio is the first priest in residence at St. Joseph in Pendus. At St. Mary, Father Dave Hellman has been succeeded as pastor by Father Bob Klemme, Father Dan Garland, Father Jeff Martin, and, currently, Father Dominic Petan. Throughout these transitions the relationship between St. Mary and St. Joseph parishes has continued to grow.
St. Mary Cathedral’s Haiti committee was formed shortly after the return of its first group from Pendus in March 2000. It meets regularly on the fourth Thursday of the odd numbered months each year.