The Priest’s Wife From Haiti: “We pray that God will help our country”

In Haiti, where gangs have essentially seized power, something terrible is happening: People can’t go outside, and they don’t have jobs or the money to buy the basics. But there is a mission of the Russian Church there, which has seven parishes and about 3,000 members. In my opinion, its clergy and parishioners are heroes—they not only live in such conditions but also stoke the fire of the Orthodox faith.

Matushka Rose Legouté, widow of the priest Grégoire Legouté, is formally the administrator of the mission. But after talking with her, feeling her unshakable faith, I realized that she is a mother who worries about all her parishioners as if they were her own children. In order to visit her daughter in Florida, she had to take with her only a bag with the most necessary things, because a large suitcase could attract undue attention. And even despite all this, Matushka Rose counts the days to return home and serve the mission, the people, and serve God there.


Matushka, I have heard that you were supposed to visit your daughter in Florida only for a week but have remained here for more than a month already. What has happened?

—Yes, I left Haiti about a month ago, and I wanted to spend a week with my daughter in Florida. I was already ready to go back to Haiti, but the airport is currently closed because of the situation.

I heard that the gangs attack our churches. What can you tell about the life of our parishioners in this situation?

—It is very difficult. Roads are not functioning correctly, gangs are fighting amongst each other. Some of the priests can not go to their churches or see parishioners. Our priest in Leogane has no chance of going back to the church because it is very difficult with road closures and kidnappings.   

Even if a priest lives just minutes away from the church, it is very difficult to go there. So, many times, they have to serve liturgies in chapels at home.


Some of the parishioners have had to flee their homes because of the gang violence. The gangs are now controlling their villages and their homes. The situation is very difficult.

Fights between gangs are also terrifying because bullets are going over the house. People are afraid. You are scared everywhere. You are sacred in the church, you are scared in your home, and you are scared of going outside.

Now, since the country is in trouble, it is very difficult for people to find a job, and they face a lack of food. There is no commerce, people are struggling for food, they are like “open” stores to take away food.

Besides that, the situation is very difficult for priests, who are the focus of gangs because of their status as priests. So, it is very difficult for them to serve the community.

I cannot even imagine how it is possible to live in such a situation.

—People try to find ways, but it is difficult. For example, a bullet went through the window in one of the priests’ home, and now he has to live under the floor because it is very scary.

Have you or other members of the mission received threats from the gangs?

—One of our priests came back from the bank, and someone was following him and robbed him.

The neighborhood where I live is controlled by gangs now, so there are always people coming to ask for money. They do not use violence, but they come and ask for money with pressure.

Sometimes people come and ask for food, but it is always very scary because we do not know who those people are. You are also afraid not to give it to them because they can become violent.

You said you can not return to Haiti because the airport is closed. Are you going to go back once it is open?

—Yes, of course. I am going back because I have my activities over there, I have my community, the church, I have people there that I am serving. So, one month away is already too much. I have to go back.


When it is calm children come to school, and the parishioners need me. If I come to them, they will come to me. So, yes, I have to go back.

Everybody supports each other, especially in a difficult situation. I always think, what about the mission, what about the school, what about the people?

In my eyes, you are a hero. And all of your mission members are heroes. I cannot even imagine how it is possible to live and still keep our Orthodox faith in this situation.


—Our Orthodox faith is strong because of what is going on now in Haiti—everyone is talking about it—but it has been for years. And people can go to church and keep their faith.

How are you able to continue Divine services and prayers in this situation? How are you serving in the church or at home when you cannot even go to church?

—It depends on the situation in the country. When everything is calm, we keep our schedule, with all of the prayers, with the Liturgies and Vespers. When it is not, we have to go on, depending on how the country is doing. If we can do it in the morning, we do it in the morning. If we can, we do it at night, but that is sometimes not possible. The schedule has become irregular, but we still function.   

When there is calm, everyone shows up. When there are problems, only just a few people can and go across the gangs’ fighting.

Once again, I can not imagine how it is possible to serve. It is like a war. You are living in a war, and you still keep your faith. What are you praying about now?

—We pray a lot for the mission, for the country, for peace, for reconciliation, for forgiveness, so that God forgives us, so we can continue to go on with strength, even when we are afraid. We are praying for the situation to resolve itself. That other people who are in Haiti understand that this is temporary, that they understand that this will eventually be over.

We believe that God will reestablish His authority in Haiti. We have confidence that we will survive. We are praying for support from our friends so we can face this situation with their help.

How can we help the mission? What does the mission need?

—Our mission is still alive despite the situation in the country, and it’s still doing what it’s supposed to be doing.

You can help by providing funds for the parishioners who left their homes. Everything is very expensive in Haiti, and they need money to get food and medicine. People are getting sick with all the epidemics that are happening.

Our clergy need health insurance. Our schools need help, because we accept children who can’t go to public and private schools, because it’s very expensive. We are taking in children who can’t pay for education.

Right now, people can’t volunteer because of the situation. So having some money will help with jobs, and the functioning of the schools. By helping schools, you’re helping parishioners and the clergy. Even with all that’s happening, the priests are the ones supporting the parishioners.


Mathushka Rose, as almost all in our mission in Haiti, speaks only in French, so her daughter Anastasia helped us with translation. In the end, I asked Anastasia if she wanted to stop her mother and say, “Please do not go where it is so dangerous, please, stay with me!”?

“Everything in me is asking for her to stay, but I know that it’s very difficult, I know she’s very attached to the country. I am as well,” Anastasia said. “Even though I’m here, I know that the fight in Haiti is also my fight. Of course, I don’t want her to go back. I would love for her and my sister to come here. I haven’t seen my sister in three years. But I grew up with the same mindset—of serving the community. It’s very painful for me that she wants to go back. But I trust God that she will be alright.”

Dmitry Zlodorev
spoke with Matushka Rose Legouté
All photos provided by the Fund for Assistance to ROCOR


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