As Christmas draws near, I am still very troubled by an old pair of black shoes I saw recently on the street.

I know that the lights, music, trees and Christmas Spirit should help me forget them, but I can’t.

It was just within the last week, and not very late at night, when the owner of these black shoes was kidnapped, not a quarter mile from our hospital gate.

All that was left was a battered motorcycle, and the empty shoes, speaking eloquently of the absence of their owner.

The shoes were no longer near the motorcycle. They were carrying feet running from harm. They ran as far as they could before being overtaken, only about 50 feet from the motorcycle, old worn shoes with weathered laces that did not stay in place during the struggle to be free.

I try to imagine the many ways this might have happened, and I try not to imagine the terrible conclusion.

Oddly enough, I tend to scenarios that paint the  kidnapped person as an aggressor, for example a thief. I seem to feel calmer if I imagine that somehow he (not she, judging by the shoes) provoked what happened. It is more reassuring to think wickedness is not random.

What is going on in our world? It seems like violence and destructive hatred are universal.

And what is wrong with me, that I feel somehow safer by blaming a kidnapped person for their fate?

At Christmas, it just may be worth thinking about this: what is wrong with the world is my own deep tendency to be wrong. (Yours too, so read on.)

The Bible teaches us that we were kidnapped, taken away from God, by the trickery of the Evil One, and the irresistible pride of Adam and Eve.

Now, like these empty black shoes, only their footprints are what are left of Adam and Eve in the gardens of paradise, like relics that speak of once intimate walks with God.

Ever since, the distance between us and God has become the distance between us and every person, and finally the estrangement from ourselves. We are all strangers outside of paradise.

As strangers, we are stuck with the enduring problems of suspicion, prejudice, exploitation, inequality, un-forgiveness, and war.

We also wind up bearing the enduring burdens of addiction, depression, self-harm, disorientation, and aggression. Many people feel lost, and without value or purpose.

While there is a famous saying that “fools rush in where angels dare to tread,” this doesn’t mean you should not take on the problems of life, but rather it is advice as to how not to do it. Rushing in.

This saying shows us the wisdom of  Christmas, shown in the way God came to us, to ransom us from the Evil One (ransom is the very language we use in theology), to redeem us (“redeemer” literally meaning “the one who buys you back”).

Christian tradition teaches that Jesus (whose name means “God saves”) came to us in the dark, and in the middle of no-where. This subtle entrance into our lives was humble, and marked by vulnerability, as shown in the birth in a manger, the slaughter of the innocents, the flight into Egypt.

The tradition teaches that Jesus grew slowly, in wisdom and grace, and that there were many quiet years of maturing, preparation and initiation before he took on the impossible task of buying us back for God.

We call this Incarnation, the taking on of our flesh, the becoming a real part of our blood, our bones, our joys and sorrows, our history and our destiny.

There are those who claim that Christmas is now itself kidnapped, a victim of a cultural war, with increasing disappearance of every public symbol of Christmas.

For all those who look for the meaning of Christmas beyond a Christmas tree on a coffee cup, there is no possible war that could ever win out against the hopeful message of Christmas. And it is a simple message.

God is with us, at every turn of our life, in every joy and sorrow, in every battle between good and evil. And because he is with us, the final victory is guaranteed.

By living as He lived, and imitating His goodness, by joining Him in paying the price required to save those “in darkness and the shadow of death”, we join his movement for salvation.

We must resist everything that is wrong within us and wrong around us, replacing our addictions with freedom, our depressions with longing for truth and justice, our harmful tendencies with life-giving acts. We must narrow the distances between us by building bridges instead of walls, replacing prejudice with respect, and war with peace.

With “God with us”, in our blood and in our covenants, we can topple mountains of pride, fill in valleys of emptiness, and fill all empty shoes with the feet of their captive owners. It is a daunting, but not impossible, task.

We carry it out slowly and steadily, with every growing wisdom and grace, at midnight and in unknown places. We care for the weakest, strengthen the sick, share food with the hungry. We bind the wounds of the injured and battle-worn, clothe the naked, guide children out of ignorance with the light of learning. We bring hope to the forlorn, and bury the dead with respect and in the hope of eternity.

And best of all, we get to do it with good people like you.

Thanks for your ongoing support to our work in Haiti, entrusted to St Luke, physician and evangelist, teacher and friend of God. Let’s continue to work to eliminate distance, and strengthen the ties that bind, and to do so with the joy and hope of Christmas.

And of course, loudly and publically,

Merry Christmas to you and your families!

Fr Rick Frechette CP, Port au Prince, Haiti

First Sunday of Advent, 2015


Since 2013, Fondazione Francesca Rava NPH Italia’s medical teams have worked on board of the Italian Navy’s ships to save and rescue migrants adrift in the Sicily Channel, providing first aid to 90,000 people and focusing on mother and child emergency healthcare: to date the Foundation’s pediatricians, gynecologists and midwives assisted 10,000 women, 9,000 children, 500 pregnant women, several of them during labor and delivery. An estimated 2,000 women and 1,500 children will need help in the next months.

P1180753 BRA_5396-2Women and children embarking on treacherous journeys to escape hunger and wars are found at sea in a desperate life threatening condition, due not only to dehydration, hydrocarbons and sun induced burns, crash syndrome, but also suffering from the consequences of violence and sexual abuse. Pregnant women and babies are especially at risk. To assist them with specialized first aid as soon as they are brought on board of the Navy ships, is of paramount importance.


We select and coordinate teams of experienced doctors, nurses, midwives. We equip them with sonographs, emergency medicines and delivery kits. On board of the ships patrolling the Mediterreanean, our medical volunteers take part in the search and rescue operations and triage of the migrants. The growing emergency in the Mediterranean, with a two digit increase of refugees departing from Lybia as compared to last year, requires additional human resources in the front line.



The main impact of this project is immediate because it ‘s an emergency program. However, a prompt assistance and monitoring of a pregnant woman and a safe childbirth lowers the risk of maternal death and prevents long term neurological and physical damages to newborns.

We need your help! If you want to donate, visit our website www.nph-italia.org

unnamed“Dear Friends,
I have come to call it “the square dance.”
It’s basically what I do from the early hours of the morning to the late hours of the night.
Like in a square dance, when you are going in one direction and someone grabs your arm and turns you in another,
I am often headed to do something important, and get spun in a different direction to do something more important.

It just happened again now. I was heading to our our school for blind and deaf children, to put up some shading since the heat is tremendous and there is summer school in session. A woman, wailing and holding a pillow, was frantic on the road.

I knew from her nearness to our two hospitals that someone dear to her had just died, so I stopped to talk to her and ask her if I could take her home.
In the street, to crying and wailing, I heard the whole story of how she met her husband, how many children they had, their names, and what they are all doing now. The pillow was used to prop her husband Alexander’s head higher on the bed, because his heart failure was drowning him. It was too late. They came from so far away, in a broken down truck.
A pickup truck was coming for the body. Would I take her to our morgue? Would I say a prayer? Would I help put Alexandre in the truck?
Yes. I am so sorry. Of course I will.
It is a long dance. I will tell you a few parts of the dance from just the last 10 days.
About to have a coffee. Forget it. Jacques is here to see me. Jacques starts to cry, to tell me how his daughter Marie died last night giving birth. She and the child are dead. I know Marie, I helped Jacques put her through school. In fact, she is a week away from graduating high school, and she dies having a baby. I am shocked and pained, which is nothing compare to Jacques torment.
Many priests have mercifully listened to such heartaches and offered the feeble consolation and strength of prayer that can be offered. But it doesn’t happen to most priests that the bodies are given to him to bury.
Right there in front of the hospital, was an old heap of a truck hired to bring Marie and her baby to me. Sitting in a plastic chair, arms dropped to her side, all the signs of recent childbirth (if you picture what I mean) including the lifeless baby. Fr Enzo and I lifted her from the chair to care for the bodies of Marie and her baby, and to see to their funeral and burial.
I like to take off my army boots when I am finished the day, usually about 10pm, and do internet work with my bare feet on the cool tile.
Not so fast. Not one, but two battered Haitian women are brought to us. One 7 months pregnant and one with a newborn.

They are victims of the roundup of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, who were beaten and thrown over the border. The pregnant mom’s baby is thankfully fine, but she has a fractured leg from her beating. For the other woman, she is in fair enough physical condition after her beating, but her child needs immediate admission.
It might sound strange to you, but it is not strange here. On with the army boots again. The security come to timidly tell me there is a dead woman in a wheelchair in front of the hospital gate.
I know I heard right. I didn’t doubt it. I jump on a motorcycle to go to St Luke Hospital gate. The blue moon is nearly full. I see the silhouette of a man standing behind a wheel chair, holding up the head of a women so she does not slump forward.
A moonlit Pieta.
They had come from very far, and she had died at the gate. We had to scale the activities at St Luke hospital way back this past June, because of financial constraints, and as a result the small staff was busy with 15 emergencies and did not yet have time to come outside for someone who already died.
Amaral and I wheeled her in. Her head was against my chest as I tilted the chair against me on the rough road. I felt how warm she still was. She had just recently died. As young priests thirty some years ago, we were taught to give the last anointing even if the person had recently died, because there is no way to say at what moment the soul leaves the body. After we lifted her into the body bag, I offered the prayers of parting and deliverance. Her name was Mireille. Her husband dropped to the ground and sobbed. Another long and holy story of their love, their children, of everything he had tried to save her in her illness.
Off to help Mother Theresa’s Sisters in the clinic in the main market of Port au Prince.
So many shocking cases, as always. The usual chronic wounds to wash and bind, the few gunshot market women who’s bullets cannot be dislodged, the terrible abscesses to be drained (some I need to send to specialists or they will lose their limb).
But the saddest: a man with eyes infected to the point of destruction, showing me not his eyes but his ten year old daughter, explaining they live on the streets of the market, that he cannot work or care for her, that even at night on the streets he cannot protect her or keep watch over her because he cannot see.
He was not at the clinic to ask me to help him with his terrible and painful illness, but to beg me to care for his daughter in our orphanage.
As we start August, whoever called these the dog days of summer sure knew what they were talking about. But they are sultry not just because of the heat, but also because of the dire situations of poor people around the world. Pope Francis is trying to have all of us see the poor, understand how real they are, how much their suffering hurts. He wants is to be concerned about them, in a very practical way.
Count me in.
What about you?

“…..a bruised reed he will not break,
a dimly lit flame he will not quench,
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or discouraged,
until he establishes his justice on the earth,
the coastlands await his mercy.”
(Isaiah 42:3,4)

Fr Rick Frechette

Dear Friends,

I think you will agree that it is an overwhelming joy
to see a loving mother looking into the eyes of her adoring child
both their faces radiant with life and love.

I think you will agree that it is also an overwhelming joy
if the child is not fortunate to have their own mother
or the mother her own child,
to see the two hearts blending with the same radiance and light,

it is undeniable that when someone says
“she is like a mother to me”
it really means
“I know a mother’s love.”

And how beautiful over time to see the mother age and ripen
and her child emerge into fullness of adult life and destiny,
how lucky to have mom for many years,
because a deep friendship like no other emerges
as life brings out happiness and tears,
harmony and argument,
struggle and peace,
sickness and health,
an the new generations are born all the while,
into this bittersweetness, mostly sweet.

My dying mother, fully ready for her next and greatest adventure, said to me in her last days
“I am so lucky I was able to bring my children into this life,
and i will be there to bring you into the next.”

On mother’s day let us also remember
those who have never known such love
and live lives far from it

let us remember those mothers and children
whose bond is tested sorely by poverty, tragedy
sickness and war.

And more than remember, let us pledge
to our living mothers honor
or our departed mothers memory
that we will be there
to protect the fragile bonds between mothers and children

and that we will be
just like a mother
just like a father
just like family
to those so thirsty for this love.

Happy Mother’s day!

Fr Rick Frechette


On March 17th, at 9.00 PM. In the basilica of San Lorenzo in Milan

The Fondazione Francesca Rava – N.P.H. Onlus Italy organizes on St Patrick’s Day, the traditional celebration in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, a suggestive concert with the participation of the biggest permanent Celtic harp orchestra in the world. The concert is organized in favor of  Kay Saint Simon, the new project for children in need in Haiti that has been followed for over 20 years by our Irish volunteer Gena Heraty.

The Celtic Harp Orchestra, made up of over 20 harps and led by Fabius Constable, exceptionally talented and internationally famous harpist, who founded and directed the Orchestra in the most famous theaters both in Italy and in the world, will perform in the ancient basilica of San Lorenzo in Milan.

DeSidera, from the stars: the Celtic Harp Orchestra’s performances are a journey in history and in between stories, which engages the audience in a wave of sound and light. The music will be accompanied by the intense visual emotion of lights that will arise from the many cords of the harp and that will dance along with the notes. The Orchestra, who donates this evening to the children of Haiti, will range from classical Celtic tradition to classical music, from the dancing rhythms of Irish jigs to medieval ballads, from jazz to baroque music.

The entire proceeds of the concert will be donated to “Kay St Simon” project in Haiti, a place that will welcome and help rehabilitate children in need with permanent physical and physiological handicaps who have been abandoned by their families. The structure will welcome from 12 to 25 children. Gena Heraty, Irish volunteer for N.P.H, has been coordinating for over 20 years, with great love and dedication, programs for disabled children in Haiti: a country where, according to voodoo, disabled children are considered possessed by evil spirits, specialized structures, family support, physiotherapy and the distribution of adequate medicines don’t exist.

DeSidera: an event for lovers of Ireland and its generous population, for lovers of good music and for whoever wishes for a better future for the children of Haiti.

Minimum donation: 10 euros for adults and 5 euros for children younger than 14 years old.

To reserve: Fondazione Francesca Rava – NPH Italia Onlus, tel 0254122917, eventi@nph-italia.org, www.nph-italia.org


Fondazione Francesca Rava – N.P.H. Italy, in partnership with Fondazione Bracco, in collaboration with the Embassy of Haiti in Italy – Haiti Pavilion for Expo 2015, with the Professional Institute Carlo Porta of Milan and with the sponsorship of Expo for Expo’s topic “Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life “, will allow 25 of the most deserving seniors of the Haitian hotel institute in Port au Prince to carry out an exchange program of experience and training in Italy for two weeks (divided between January, May and October ) at the State Institute for Wine and Tourism “Carlo Porta” in Milan.
This project’s goals are:

– To try to break the cycle of poverty and provide a concrete future to the kids that grow up in NPH’s orphanages and street schools in Haiti by providing them with the tools to be survive on their own, by giving them their self-confidence back through hard work and by giving them the opportunity to contribute to the rebirth of their country and to help their “brothers”.
– Offer real cultural and professional training to both Italian and Haitian students, through sharing of common experiences both scholastic and extracurricular (visits to restaurants, hotels and companies linked to the food and wine sector in the region of Lombardy);
– Develop professional skills and “know-how” to increase employment opportunities in Haiti and in Italy. Students will arrive in Italy thanks to scholarships supported by Fondazione Bracco and will hold brief internship at restaurants, hotels and companies linked to the food and wine sector.

The academic program includes specializations in gastronomy (cuisine and pastry making), dining and sale (with particular attention to sommelier formation) and tourist relations.



In the week of the 5th anniversary of the earthquake that, in January 2010, destroyed the island and caused 230000 deaths, 300000 injured people and 1 million displaced people, the Francesca Rava Foundation – NPH Italia Onlus and Father Rick Frechette, head of NPH Haiti from 28 years and doctor working in Haiti, remembers the victims; gives a message of hope by continuing to bring sanitary assistance, education and acceptance to thousands of children; launches an appeal for help for all of the children who are deeply in need of medical assistance, a home, food and the possibility to attend school.

Francesca Rava Foundation’s St. Damien Hospital welcomes 80000 young patients a year and, even today, remains the only free pediatric hospital in Haiti.