Sr. Judy Dohner, Sister of the Humility of Mary, arrived at NPFS Haiti in 2002.
Poor Judy. None of us knew we were about to face the worst political and social violence we would ever know in our 30 years of work here.
This would be due to the coup d'etat against President Aristide, and the ongoing unbelievable violent fallout.
At first Sister Judy was with us as the in-country representative of the Naples, FL based charity, Hope for Haiti. At that time Hope for Haiti sponsored many schools in Haiti, including the NPFS School at our children’s home in Kenscoff, called St. Helene.
Judy's work involved visiting all the Hope for Haiti sponsored schools, and verifying that the financial investment was really succeeding to bring the school children forward in life, evidenced by reasonable grades and passing of the National Exams.
Because the work was not full time, and Sr. Judy was living with us at the original St. Damien Hospital in Petionville, she joined the St. Luke team on our daily excursions to Port au Prince, to do medical work in the poorest and most dangerous parts of the city.
Every day was quite an adventure. We brought our own XRAY equipment, our own pharmacy, emergency supplies for every conceivable emergency, and indeed we faced daily emergencies of every kind.
Sr. Judy brought immense experience to our mission. She is certainly as courageous as any member of our team, and she is blessed with a deep and unwavering faith.
Over the years her steadiness and maturity, nurtured by her faith, helped us as we faced revolutions, street uprisings, kidnappings, wartime gunfire, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters, and of sadder memory still, the unspeakable death and destruction that came with the 2010 earthquake, during which Sister was herself seriously injured. Following the earthquake, which demanded of us everything we had day and night for a few years, we could count on Judy to help, with her wounds, especially when we were then broadsided by the massive cholera epidemic that was another pitiful national disaster.
Sr. Judy "graduated" from the street work, in order to help us with the enormous challenge of moving St. Damien Hospital, in it's entirety, from Petionville to Tabarre, to the expansive and beautiful hospital we built with our own hands, during the years of the worse chaos in Haiti.
It was, believe me, a massive job. Only someone super intelligent and super organized could have pulled it off. That was Judy.
With her experience in American hospitals, Sr. Judy was a vital member in the planning, construction and opening of St. Damien's Children’s Hospital in 2006. From trips to Italy to help order equipment, to the logistics of moving furniture and equipment, archives and especially very sick children across the broken roads of Port-au-Prince to Tabarre, Sr. Judy was leading and directing it all.
A logistical nightmare in a challenged country, this counts as a first class miracle in Haiti.
As first administrator of St. Damien's, she led the way forward, and eleven years later, her fruit of her work continues to be evident.
The staff has always had fond memories of Judy, especially of her 'let's just get it done attitude' and her endless generosity.
Keen also in her caring, and tender way with the grieving, Judy had her eye on children coming to us with cancer, and helped set up the strong program in oncology that continues at St. Damien's today, and evolves even more every year.
Sr. Judy is a natural teacher, and would much rather teach you how to fish than do your fishing for you.
Judy is known for her education seminars, and she has always made teaching a central part of her involvement and mission. Starting with teaching young women graduates of NPFS St. Helene how to be young women, Judy then progressed to giving medical courses on a continuing basis to St. Damien staff, the Missionaries of Charity, and the Sisters at Fondwa, to name a few.
By continuing work at the St. Joseph Clinic in the Port au Prince central market, and Mother Theresa's home for the dying in San Fils, even during her administration years, Judy continued to opened their eyes and minds of visitors to the reality and true depth of poverty in Haiti.
At the clinics, volunteers saw, touched and smelled the diseases and poverty. They encountered the kindness, the humility and the deep inner strength of the Haitian people. They left with profound and everlasting memories, often life-changing experiences.
For the past few years, Sr. Judy helped us develop a combined central pharmacy serving both St. Luc and St. Damien hospitals.
It would have been easier to set up a Walmart.
The problems with lack of medicines and medical supplies in Haiti, false medicines, expired medicines, and just plain crap ("junk for Jesus"), in addition to the volumes needed and plethora of families of medicines and supplies, this was an enormous feat, the pulling off of which cannot be underestimated. Sister's last months have been dedicated, once again, to teaching the staff how to carry on.
Sr. Judy will be sorely missed in Haiti - she is at the same time sister, friend, leader, achiever, and servant of her beloved Jesus.
The immigrants and migrants of Immokalee, Florida, whom Judy will return now to serve as she did prior to 2002, will welcome again their amazing woman, and her loving dog Buddy. For sure they will find her even more seasoned and wise by her tough but rewarding years in Haiti.
Please send your well wishes and promise of prayers to Sister Judy at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Judy, go with God, and once again do Him proud, as you have done here. Go with our love and prayers and support, from this beloved shore of yours.
Fr Rick Frechette CP
Port au Prince
September 7, 2018