The Catholic University of America

Jan. 14, 2010

Through Prayers and Action, CUA Shows It Cares About People of Haiti

  Junior Hanh Le, from Vietnam, makes a donation at the “CUA Cares” table staffed by senior Jenna Edelmayer, from Doylestown, Pa., and graduate assistant Dan Bucherer.


Visit the CUA Cares home page

More than 1,400 miles may separate the Catholic University campus and earthquake-ravaged Haiti, but that divide is being filled with prayers and action.

Led by students, the CUA community is responding to the tragedy in the Caribbean country with a nine-day campaign called “CUA Cares: A Novena of Prayer and Action for the People of Haiti.”

At a Mass to kick off the campaign, CUA’s president, Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., noted that the campus was coming together to support the people of Haiti in “the spirit of love and compassion, because that’s what we do.”

Coordinated by the offices of campus ministry and campus activities, the initiative is being led by a five-member student committee, which is coordinating student volunteers to raise students’ awareness of Haiti, to pray for the victims of the earthquake and to raise money for relief.

“Love compels,” said Father Robert Schlageter, O.F.M. Conv., university chaplain, who is advising students. “CUA students have always been very special,” he added. “The best initiatives come from them. When you give them a mission, give them a task and let them run with the ball, they knock your socks off every single time. This is an initiative very close to their heart.”

During the Mass, Father O’Connell noted that the motto of the Republic of Haiti is “l’union fait la force,” or “strength through unity.”

Those words resonated with John Puskar, a senior who is leading the fundraising along with junior Chris Pierno, who also serves on the Student Association General Assembly. “When you come to Catholic University you hear, ‘Reason. Faith. Service.’ At a time like this, you know that’s really not overrated,” Puskar said.

Haiti and its capital, Port-au-Prince, were devastated by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12, killing tens of thousands and affecting millions in the impoverished Caribbean country.

“You never know when tragedy is going to happen,” said Puskar, a politics major from Trumbull, Conn. “If something like this happened in the United States, you’d like to think that the same thing would be reciprocated.”


Novena cards were imprinted with a Prayer for the People of Haiti.


CUA Cares” is asking every faculty and staff member and student to contribute at least $5 to the fundraising effort. The money collected will be matched by the university and donated to Catholic Relief Services, which is providing emergency-response services to Haiti.

A donation table is being staffed from noon to 6 p.m. each day in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center through Jan. 22 to accept cash and check donations.

Organizers were surprised when a resident of the Brookland neighborhood came to campus Thursday morning with a $100 money order after she heard about the university’s campaign.

Within an hour after Thursday’s kickoff Mass, students staffing the donations table already had gathered a stack of bills from student contributors, according to senior Jenna Edelmayer and graduate assistant Dan Bucherer.

Donations also will be collected at campus sporting events and during activities for the Jan. 22 national “March for Life.” In addition, donations can be sent to the president’s office (The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064), and made online.

Behind the donation table at the Pryzbyla center stands a “Wall of Remembrance,” where CUA community members can post their thoughts, support and concern.  “I want to pray for the children of Haiti,” read one note. “I want to pray for those in Haiti and those helping with the aftermath,” another said.

While many are praying individually — novena cards imprinted with a Prayer for the People of Haiti are being distributed — students will be praying as a community. Prayers will be said in residence halls and other locations on campus at 11 p.m. each day for nine days, said Jonathan (J.J.) Jerome, a senior theology major.

Jerome described the effort as “nine days of prayer, focused on the people of Haiti and their needs and asking God to be with us.” The novena ends on Jan. 22, the date of the “March for Life,” timing that Jerome called “a beautiful witness to the dignity of life.”

Freshman Daniel (D.J.) Burzon is among those closely following the news from Haiti because his parents are on a medical mission with the Crudem Foundation in Milot in the northern part of the country.

As a high school student, Burzon visited Haiti and volunteered at the hospital where his parents are now working. “It’s scary to think how little communication they have,” he said. The history major from Brielle, N.J., has had to be satisfied with only a few e-mail messages and a broken voice-mail message from his parents since the quake hit.

Few other students have ties to Haiti, which is why the campus campaign is sharing the latest news headlines and information about Haiti and its people with students, said Nikki Lynne Stephanou, a senior from Philadelphia. “Students are learning not only about the quake, but also about the people,” said Stephanou, who is leading the campaign’s education effort with senior Katie Blemings.

Education is important, Stephanou said, because it helps students realize that the quake affected real people. “What they need now is our money and our support and our prayers.”