First Haitian-American Catholic bishop dies at 86

Jonah McKeown   By Jonah McKeown for CNA

Bishop Guy Sansaricq, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Brooklyn, who died Aug. 21, 2021. / Diocese of Brooklyn

New York City, N.Y., Aug 23, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Bishop Guy Sansaricq, a retired auxiliary of the Diocese of Brooklyn and the first Haitian-born bishop in the United States, died Saturday at age 86.

“He was a symbol of the progress of the Haitian people here and, as someone who served as a bishop, gave the Haitian community some recognition and stature as immigrant people, a ministry he served very well,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn said.

Bishop Sansaricq died Aug. 21 at the rectory of St. Gregory the Great Church in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

The bishop was born in Jérémie, Haiti, Oct. 6, 1934 to a devout Catholic family. Feeling a call to the priesthood as a teenager, he was ordained a priest June 29, 1960 for the Diocese of Les Cayes. He had studied at Saint Paul’s Seminary in Ottawa, where he earned his licentiates in philosophy and theology.

Father Sansaricq was assigned to serve as chaplain for Haitian immigrants in the Bahamas, ministering from the Benedictine Priory of St. Francis in Nassau, a post he would serve at for seven years. He later won a scholarship to study social sciences at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he received a master’s degree in 1971.

He began ministry in the Brooklyn diocese in 1977, and Sansaricq served as national director of Haitian Ministry since 1987. He was incardinated into the Brooklyn diocese in 1991.

He spoke English, French, and Creole, and was named a Prelate of Honor in 1999.

In 2006 he was consecrated a bishop, and appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn. He retired in 2010 at age 76.

After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti— from which the island is still recovering to this day— Bishop Sansaricq was named to a Haiti Advisory Group created by the U.S. bishops to aid in the Church’s response. Several members of the group visited Haiti a few months after the quake to assess the damage.

U.S. bishops called for special prayer services and vigils immediately after the quake, and asked all dioceses to take up a collection for immediate emergency needs, leading to some $30 million donated to a Haiti Relief Collection fund within weeks of the disaster.

“We’ve all been horrified by the images of such destruction, and yet, as a Haitian-American, I am deeply touched by the outpouring of love and support to our brothers and sisters in need,” Bishop Sansaricq remarked at the time.

A lawsuit filed in Kings County, New York in October 2019 brought accusations of sexual misconduct against Bishop Sansaricq during his time at St. Jerome’s parish in the 1990s. Bishop Sansaricq denied the allegations, and has never been listed by the Brooklyn diocese as having a credible abuse allegation against him.

Bishop Sansaricq’s hometown is located about 40 miles west of the epicenter of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti Aug. 14. It was stronger than the 2010 earthquake, and thousands were injured by the earthquake and even more remain unaccounted for, according to Haiti’s civil authorities.

“Bishop Sansaricq actually just sent an email out three days ago saying what he was going to do in organizing relief efforts at the National Haitian Apostolate. He had met the week before with the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, so Bishop Sansaricq was very active right to the end,” commented Bishop DiMarzio.

Bishop Sansaricq’s wake is scheduled for Aug. 31 at St. Jerome’s in Brooklyn. A vigil Mass will be held Sept. 1 at St. Gregory the Great church in Brooklyn, and the funeral Mass will take place Sept. 2 at 11am at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph.

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