MIAMI (CBS4) – For three decades, Notre Dame d’Haiti has provided Miami’s Haitian community with spiritual guidance along with practical social services. It is a place many in the Little Haiti community have called home.
Over the years, the church’s congregation has grown so much the building, which was originally built as a parochial school cafeteria, can no longer accommodate them. During weekend services, it is not uncommon to see the faithful on fold out chairs in the parking lot listening to the service on speakers outside the church.
Last Monday Archbishop Thomas Wenski, who co-founded the church on NE 62nd Street in 1981, celebrated mass there to mark its 30th anniversary. He also made a major announcement. Following a six-year fund-raising campaign led by the church’s pastor, Rev. Reginald Jean-Mary, a new $3.2 million church will be built a short distance away at 130 NE 62nd Street.
“Notre Dame is more than a church,” said Rev. Jean Mary. “This is a lifeline community center.”
Notre Dame d’Haiti’s parishioners have been a blessing themselves. Many in the cash strapped congregation donated money for the new church to help Rev. Jean-Mary raise $2.2 million for the rebuilding effort. The Archdiocese of Miami is loaning the church an additional $1 million.
Over the years, Miami’s Haitian community has come to rely on the church for more than just their spiritual needs.
“Whenever something happens this is where the community gathers to treat whatever the problem is,” said Fritz Armond.
It is a place where both clergy and congregants can speak out about immigration issues.
It is also where many transplanted Haitians go to learn how they can enroll their children in school, find help with immigration paperwork and learn where to find a job. It is also a place where many went to find news and comfort after hurricanes lashed their homeland and the devastating earthquake of 2010.
“Notre Dame is also a place that assists the families in the difficult moments, helping them with bills, helping them with problems and this is a community that has been suffering so much,” said Rev. Jean Mary.
When the new church is built, the current building will be used for social and outreach programs and will also serve as a banquet hall.