The public is invited to join St. John Vianney Church, Bettendorf, for a Prayer for Peace for Haiti and the World on Sunday, Jan. 19.
The interfaith prayer service will begin at 2 p.m. at the church, located at 4097 18th St.
The service, which will include readings, prayers, songs and reflections, is sponsored by the parish’s Haiti Committee. The committee has sponsored an annual medical mission trip to Jean Denis, Haiti, for the past 10 years. However, violence in the area forced the 2020 trip scheduled for this month to be cancelled.
St. John Vianney leaders said the violence has prevented many children from attending Our Lady of Fatima School at Notre Dame du Rosaire Church — a twin parish to St. John Vianney. The Bettendorf church's parishioners helped fund a new school building, which opened in 2018.
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Ann Wester of Bettendorf, a registered nurse who has participated in the mission trips, broached the idea for a community prayer service.
“Haiti is in a humanitarian crisis,” she said. “For most of 2019, Haiti has been impacted by political unrest and gang violence. This has resulted in schools and hospitals being closed, farmers not safe to be in the fields, and the people unable to sell at market. Gas and food prices have increased drastically. The people are desperate. They have little or no money and little or no food to eat.”
“We need to come together to pray for the end of this violence and for peace in Haiti and the world,” she said, adding people of all faiths are invited and "encouraged to pray so that our brothers and sisters in Haiti can begin to recover from this recent crisis."
St. John Vianney Pastor Rev. James Vrba, who attended the Haiti school's dedication in 2018, recalled the emotional day. “So many children with such smiling faces – so excited about attending a modern school. Parents and parishioners so honored to see all of their efforts come to fruition. How sad it is now that only a few children can attend the school due to the gang violence.”
He added "I pray that faith can also soften the hardened hearts of those who are disrupting the lives of so many people.”
A reception will follow the prayer service in the parish Activity Center. The service is expected to last an hour.