MONTREAL — A Quebec priest, Franciscan Father Raymond Mailhiot, has published a harrowing account of an armed holdup that he survived in Haiti.
In a long letter published on Facebook and sent to Catholic News Service, the Franciscan missionary wrote that the group of four or five heavily armed thieves in the Cite Soleil slum even cried, “Let’s kill the priest!” when they discovered that the Franciscans had no money.
Father Mailhiot and three novices were returning from a retreat in southeastern Haiti Nov. 2 when they were surrounded as they drove along the Route de Drouillard, a notorious crime spot as it enters Port-au-Prince from the south of the country.
“Makenson, one of our novices, was visibly shocked,” wrote Father Mailhiot, “while Jean Mary stayed apparently calm.”
Father Mailhiot said he instinctively grabbed back his bag that one of the thieves had taken, then he closed the car window. His driver, however, noting the danger of the situation, was “overcome by fear” and handed back Father Mailhiot’s case to the thief, who had moved around to the driver’s window.
“He showed, perhaps, more common sense than I did,” the priest wrote.
When the novice Makenson, pulled from the car, managed to get back into the car, the four Franciscans drove off at top speed.
Father Mailhiot said the experience reinforced his desire to stay in Haiti.
“While there are people begging me to return to Quebec, I answer them with ‘No! I will not leave Haiti,'” he said.
He added that he believes that his life was spared for a reason.
“I have not yet finished my mission in this country where everything has turned to gloom and despair, because God spared my life,” he said.
The priest also noted the significance of the attack, which occurred Nov. 2, All Souls’ Day.
“It makes me aware that the Day of the Dead (as it is called in Haiti) on Nov. 2 is not the day of the dead, rather it is the feast of life. And God is the source of this. Certain of his love and strengthened in our faith, let’s give thanks to him. Because of him, we are hanging on in, and I continue to sleep in peace,” he said.