There was only one U.S. flight out, the main road to the capital was blocked, and Brother Bill Griffin had a leg infection in need of medical attention. Living in Haiti for the last 11 years had always been unpredictable, challenging, and adventurous; a thrill Brother Bill had become quite familiar with. In late November 2021, he cruised through a blockade on the back of motorcycle to the airport in Port-au-Prince where he peacefully boarded the last U.S. bound flight.
“It was certainly an adventuresome departure,” Brother Bill laughed, making himself comfortable in the conference room of the Generalate Office in Baltimore several days later. “God’s providence cleared the way and brought me back safely.”
For this 60-year Xaverian Brother, his mission in Haiti began in 2000 when a group of Brothers visited the country for ten days. Impressed by the hospitality and overwhelmed by the needs, Brother Bill joined Brothers Harry Eccles and Mike McCarthy in 2011 to work at an orphanage.
In 2015, his mission shifted to St. Gabriel’s School, opened by Pierre Louis, a former student at Sant Zaveryen. The Sant program encourages students to give back to their local community upon graduation. St. Gabriel’s was Pierre’s way of doing exactly that. In 2012, when the school was dedicated as the first institution that resulted from the Sant mission, Brother Bill joined in celebration as students moved into the new school building.
“It was such a marvelous time,” he declared. “When that first class of 20 students graduated, people came from the U.S. to visit, and it was a glorious day I’ll never forget. Only 40% of Haitian students pass their national exams, and all of ours did. I have countless stories, but this was just a magic moment of accomplishment in the Brothers mission in Haiti.”
Originally from Silver Springs, MD, and a 1962 graduate of Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Brother Bill joined the Brothers at the novitiate in Leonardtown, MD, and has been “living a marvelous life ever since!”
“My mission in Haiti is very simple,” he said. “It’s to be a Brother to our Haitian sisters and brothers, the same as Christ is our brother, and to try to help, serve, and love them. The mission is to give them the lifetime gift of an education and a sense of wonder and dignity of being Christ in our world today.”
Brother Bill hopes all his students can be liberated to live joyfully and abundantly in their humanity, even amid extreme poverty and hardship.
“I want them to discover who they are in Christ, and to be a part of the ministry of God, living and loving in Haiti,” he shared. “It’s a simple but glorious mission, and the Holy Spirit is behind it all. I am simply, in my weak little humanity, part of this great plan that is unfolding in Haiti.”
In recent months, Haiti has undergone a series of challenging events. From the Covid-19 pandemic to a destructive earthquake, a government coup, and a presidential assassination. Trust is scarce and a functioning government remains fragile.
“Haiti needs prayer and public servants willing to lay down their lives and serve for the common good of the nation,” Brother Bill stated. He also mentioned that Haiti needs visitors, volunteers, and missionaries, boasting of Haitian hospitality. He encouraged schools and students to coordinate mission trips, assuring that visitors will benefit tremendously from meeting the Haitian people and witnessing a whole different way of life.
“Not only will it leave an appreciation for what we have available to us in the U.S.,” he said, “but it will also provide the opportunity to see the matchless beauty of Haitian life.”
Many crucial projects enable Haiti to develop for generations to come and are the byproduct of vision, support, and prayer.
“In harmony, small things grow,” Brother Bill stressed the Xaverian Brothers motto. “My hope is that our mission educating will continue to plant seeds that will carry on the mission to care for and give the gift of dynamic faith that’s willing to sacrifice and develop Haiti.”
Brother Bill hopes that those the Brothers have helped educate, orient and form will stay rooted and committed to Haiti in furtherance of the mission.
“I hope to stay in Haiti as long as I have the health and vitality to do so,” said Brother Bill. “Perhaps another 11 years, God willing.”