Safely out of Haiti, after worst was feared

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 25, 2010

The way parishioner Ociana Placide first heard it, the earthquake that struck Haiti had killed the Rev. Arsene Jasmin when he went to visit family there. Imagine her delight, then, when Jasmin returned to the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Church in Columbia Heights Sunday, donned his green robes and said Mass.

"Somebody confirmed that he died," Placide, 64, said of the popular priest, who also heads Haitian outreach for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. "It's a miracle."

It's also a testament to the limited amount of information from Haiti.

Last week, Jasmin, 44, was considered among the missing in the earthquake-ravaged country, though he was confirmed to be alive and well shortly thereafter. Sunday marked the first time he said Mass in front of many of his parishioners since returning to the District.

"I'm happy he's back," said Milienne Dorange, 54, who had spoken with Jasmin on the phone from Haiti and who came to church Sunday, as she does every week, to hear him say Mass. "He's not finished the work he's doing. God has a plan for us and for him also."

Parishioners hugged Jasmin and shook his hand as he made his way up the aisle at the church, and Jasmin beamed as he sang along with the choir. In his usual mix of Creole, French and English, he told the several dozen people gathered at Sacred Heart not to be disheartened by the disaster in Haiti, but to celebrate the country's resilience.

"Don't be sad, but rejoice," he said. "Rejoice not only because I'm here, rejoice because Haiti will not pass away, but Haiti will live."

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