Photo by Chris Hondros
he overwhelming damage left in the wake of Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks is staggering. Tens of thousands are dead, untold numbers are injured, and survivors face unbelievable hardship.
While the news of the tragedy is distressing in the extreme to all of us, it hit one retired University of San Diego employee on a deeply personal level.
“I’m devastated,” Sister Virginia McMonagle RSCJ, a former assistant vice president for University Relations, said. “My heart has been there ever since it happened.”
McMonagle, now 88 and living in Atherton, Calif., traveled to Haiti six months out of each year for 21 years, dating back to the late 1970s. In 1987, she was part of a group service project that ultimately resulted in the creation of a mountain orphanage in Kenscoff and a hospital in Petionville, now operated by Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH).
January’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake caused the collapse of the hospital in Petionville and resulted in the death of at least two volunteers. McMonagle is still mightily concerned about other friends that she knew were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake.
She finds some comfort in the knowledge that one of her friends is not only alive and well, but is on the ground providing aid and comfort to the afflicted.
Father Rick Frechette, regional director for NPH, was in the U.S. visiting his terminally-ill mother at the time of the earthquake. With her blessing, Frechette returned to Haiti to care for the injured.
Frechette first met McMonagle when he was able to complete some courses through USD while working abroad in Haiti doing mission work prior to being accepted into medical school.
“He’s my best friend,” McMonagle said of Frechette, who speaks with her via phone regularly and visits once a year. Her admiration for the physician Frechette runs deep. “Haiti means the land of mountains. I think he’s a saint in those mountains.”