By Jean Hervé Charles
On Saturday, October 27, 2018, I attended the funeral of Sister Pascal at the beautiful and quaint chapel of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny in Port au Prince. The church was filled like an egg, with nuns, family, pupils and friends of Sister Pascal rendering a last homage to an extraordinary person.
Sister Pascal represented the personification of what Aristotle would characterize as a summum bonum, better than most of us and confident to each one of us. She represented also the spirit of the founding mother of the congregation, Blessed Anne Marie Javouhey, a life possessed by God through his mother the Virgin Mary.
She died at the young age of 71 of complications of the liver. She lived such a saintly life. I would not be surprised to see in my own lifetime Sister Pascal be recognized by Christendom as a saint.
I knew Sister Pascal personally; my two younger sisters grew up in Cape Haitian with Mr and Mrs Waldeck Georges, the parents of Sister Pascal. It was a large family of ten children; two of them died early. A true bourgeois family, where money was not the golden rule but good manners and Christian conduct was the mark, under the baton of Man Germaine, the principal of a public school for girls, and Mr Waldeck, a philosophy and music teacher in most of the schools of the city of Cape Haitian.
It was a Cape Haitian when the city was clean, the men elegant, the women generous, and the children playful and mischievous. In that environment, it was rather easy to develop young men and women who would surprise the world with basic foundation in grace and in virtue.
Upon finishing primary school, the girls, including Lèlène, Marie Hélène who would become Sister Pascal, were sent to Port au Prince at the prestigious St Rose de Lima Externat for secondary education. They excelled so well that one of them became a minister of commerce and the rest, whether boys or girls, fulfilling now as mature with command in engineering, medicine and nursing.
Sister Pascal dedicated her life to God and his children with the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny. As a teacher and later principal of primary education at the Lalue Institution, she has the mission of grounding the young girls of well off families used to immediate gratification. Sister Pascal, in addition to sound educational formation, transformed the children and their families into missionaries for the work of God.
She had an extended family that included all the mothers and fathers of her pupils.
Whether in Jacmel or Petionville, where she was called to duty, Sister Pascal was unusual. Humble, simple, with a devotion to the Virgin Mary, she was not afraid to give and to ask but to give more. She has become a lightning rod for an institution known for self effacing.
The Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny along with the Brothers of Christian of Instruction and the Fathers of St Jacques constituted the bedrock of education for the Haitian middle class family. They were called upon by the Haitian government to the Vatican to establish education in the country around 1864 when the young nation was ostracized by the entire world for daring to explode the universal order of slavery.
Thanks God for the good nuns, you will find them and the Christian Brothers in the main cities of Haiti. While the nuns have survived the test of time in replenishing their ranks locally, the Brothers who this year 2018 are celebrating their 200th anniversary, have not been so successful. Some of the schools where they were entrenched, including in my own town of Grand River, have been given back to the government. Yet to the credit of the Christian Brothers, a Haitian, Brother Hervé Zamor, has been elevated to the role of General Provincial the world over.
Sister Pascal through her life and her death has transformed the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny that counts 13 communities and 70 sisters in Haiti, the largest one in the Caribbean and Latin America for the Congregation.
I spoke with the local provincial of the organization, Sister Christiane, albeit she is at the end of her mandate, we talked about a revolutionary idea of giving a mahogany cone to each one of the girls for planting. During the months of November and December the mahogany trees that adorn the vast fields of the school will produce their seeds that are usually transformed to dust. It will be the first time such a harvest takes place in Haiti, stimulating the greening of Haiti that could become as green as Dominica and as rich as Singapore when the young ladies of St Joseph of Cluny become mature women bearing children endowed with a rich national patrimony.
I suggested to Sister Christiane that next year at the same time the mahogany seedlings should be brought to the school for sale, sending a clear signal to the country that Haiti is on the road to the recovery of its deserted environment. Sister Pascal, like Saul becoming Paul, has energized the Congregation of St Joseph of Cluny in Haiti to be involved in and beyond the world of the classroom.
In the meantime, I will pray to Sister Pascal, sharing my worry and my trouble, I know she will intercede through to the Virgin Mary to God for relief. I will even place myself in the first line to solicit the first miracle leading to sainthood for little Sister Pascal.