Little Brothers of St. Thérèse strive to make life better in Haiti

(From left) Brother Pierre Destin Leandre and Brother Denis Jean Marie of the Little Brothers of St. Therese work on their English lessons with Charlie and Joan Moran.

LINDENHURST — After 24 years of leading his religious order in Haiti, Brother Pierre Destin Leandre of the Little Brothers of St. Therese decided to take a break.

Over the past month Brother Leandre has visited supporters and worked on his English at the home here of Joan and Charlie Moran, who have supported his order for eight years. The Morans founded the “Friar Suppliers,” who assist the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the Bronx and elsewhere as well as the Little Brothers of St. Therese.

“It’s been very good,” said Brother Leandre, who recently stepped down as superior general for the “Petits Freres de Sainte Therese,” the Little Brothers of St. Therese Lisieux, the Little Flower.  He has also visited the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the Bronx and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, Wyandanch.

He is amazed by what he sees — particularly some everyday facets of life in the U.S.

“You have plenty of water, plenty of light, plenty of wood,” in contrast to his homeland, he noted, where showers are brief, cold, and tentative, electricity is uncertain, and many of the people do not eat daily meals, alternating the days on which they eat.

“It’s good for him to see the U.S. and it’s good for us in the U.S. to be aware of life in Haiti, the great human need, and the brothers who are trying to help,” Charlie Moran said.

“They are so faithful,” Joan Moran said, “and so loving.”

The Morans invited Brother Leandre and Brother Denis Jean Marie to visit. Both brothers have worked on English lessons through DVDs and met with others interested in their ministry. Brother Denis is returning to Haiti this month while Brother Leandre will visit other places in the U.S.

Their order has 89 brothers, 12 novices, and six postulates in 17 houses around the mountainous regions of Haiti, Brother Leandre said. They were founded in 1960 by Brother Louis Farnese Louis-Charles, who is under consideration for canonization and has  been recognized by the Vatican as a “Servant of God.”

“Our charism is to live with and work beside the people of the mountains,” Brother Leandre said.
“They want to keep people in the mountains,” Charlie Moran said, rather than migrating to the city.  Many people go to the city to find work but find poverty and hopelessness.

Toward that end, Brother Leandre said, “we work the land, our own land, and we work with the people on their land, teaching them better methods of farming and land management,” such as water and soil preservation.

“We need good tools,” which are in short supply. For example, “we have one tractor but that is at one end of the country,” Brother Leandre explained. “We are hoping for donations for another.”

They have a shop where they bake Haitian cassava bread. They also make jams and other foods to sell to support their ministry and teach the people how to make them.

In addition, the brothers operate schools. “We have 3,200 students in 10 elementary schools and eight vocational schools” to teach older children jobs skills.

Haiti does not have free education, but the brothers try to offer education to as many as they can. “The families all pay something but it is not enough” Brother Leandre said, not even to pay the teachers’ salaries sometimes. So donations are needed for the schools.

Even the brothers’ growing numbers, Charlie Moran said, pose challenges “because they can’t afford to feed, clothe, and educate those who are in formation.”

“In areas where we have gone, life is better,” Brother Leandre said, “but there is so much more to be done.”

“The work is difficult,” he said, “but we believe in Jesus Christ.” The brothers find strength in their spirituality, which is based on the writings of St. Therese. She emphasized “The Little Way,” doing “little things with great love.”

Those interested in learning more can contact the Friar Suppliers at 108 North Greene, Lindenhurst, 11757, or call at 631-226-0015.