Father Stanley Charles, SJ, (center), after being ordained to the priesthood on Nov. 21.
December 4, 2015 — On Nov. 21 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jesuit Father Stanley Charles was ordained to the priesthood at the Chapel of the Brothers of Christian Instruction by fellow Jesuit, Bishop Joseph Gontrand Décoste, SJ, Bishop of Jérémie, Haiti.
Shortly before he was ordained, Fr. Charles reflected: “Just a few hours now before my ordination and so many different emotions go through my mind, but deep down there is a profound inner peace.”
Fr. Charles was born and raised in Haiti. Although his vocation started when he became a novice of the Holy Cross Fathers, Fr. Charles quickly discerned that he was being called to the Jesuits. As part of his Jesuit formation, he studied philosophy in Bogota, Colombia, and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He also worked for a few years accompanying refugees and migrants at the Haiti-Dominican Republic border for Solidarite-Fwontalye (Solidarity at the Border), part of Service Jésuite aux Migrants (Jesuit Migrant Service).
Father Jean-Marc Biron, SJ, provincial of the French Canada Province Jesuits, said of Fr. Charles, “What’s striking about this man is that he has a wonderful passion and zeal for people, especially for the poor. He is very grounded and has such a strong spirituality. I have a great admiration for Fr. Charles and his desire to proclaim the Good News.”
As a priest, Fr. Charles will continue his work as a collaborator at the Peter Faber Center of Spirituality in Port-au-Prince and as a member of the team that accompanies candidates for the Society of Jesus. Although Fr. Charles has traveled widely during his Jesuit formation, Fr. Biron says that he is glad that the newly ordained Jesuit will be ministering in his homeland. “Fr. Charles is very attached to his country and, like all Haitian Jesuits, bears the suffering of the Haitian people in his heart.”
Fr. Charles lies prostrate during his ordination Mass.
Family, friends and religious gathered for his ordination, which was concelebrated by more than 30 priests including: Fr. Biron; Father Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States; Father Douglas Marcouiller, SJ, General Counselor and Regional Assistant for Canada and the USA at the Jesuit Curia in Rome; Father Miller Lamothe, SJ, delegate to the French Canada provincial for Haiti; and Father David Godleski, SJ, Secretary for Formation and Jesuit Life at the Jesuit Conference.
It was Fr. Godleski’s first trip to Haiti, and it reminded him of the global nature of the Society. “The ordination Mass was in both French and Creole,” says Fr. Godleski. But despite the language barrier, Fr. Godleski says the rite itself was similar to an ordination in the United States. The Mass included lively music led by a choir, and at the end, Fr. Charles offered thanks in four languages: French, Creole, Spanish and English. The atmosphere was joyful.
Bishop Joseph Gontrand Décoste, SJ, lays his hands on Fr. Charles during the ordination.
Fr. Godleski notes that it’s common for Jesuits in Haiti to speak these languages. Most know French and Creole and learn Spanish and English. Fr. Charles is quinti-lingual; he speaks French, English, Spanish, Italian and Creole. “Because most of the Haitian Jesuits also speak Spanish, I was able to talk to some of the guys that way, since I know almost no French,” says Fr. Godleski. “It made me recognize that language skills are so important and so helpful to relate to Jesuits around the world.”
Fr. Godleski and the other Jesuits who traveled to Haiti for the ordination had the opportunity to visit two Jesuit communities and the headquarters of the Fe y Alegría schools, Foi et Joie, during their trip. They also stopped by the new Jesuit novitiate on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.
Haiti, which as recently as 1986 had outlawed Jesuits, is seeing an increase in vocations and now has approximately 50 Haitian Jesuits, including 28 in formation.
Fr. Charles, Bishop Décoste and Fr. Biron pray before a meal following Fr. Charles' ordination.
As provincial, Fr. Biron has traveled extensively to Haiti and has witnessed the tremendous struggles of recent years. Yet, there’s consolation. “In the last three years, there’s been great progress. All of the Jesuits came together to create a five-year apostolic plan, and they share a common focus and vision, which is really quite remarkable."
Fr. Charles’ ordination is just another sign of promise for the Jesuits in Haiti. Jesuit scholastic Jean Francky Guerrier says, “Stanley Charles' ordination was a true manifestation of the hopeful joy of the Haitian Church. Let us rejoice for this precious gift and let us pray for vocations to the priesthood."
Fr. Charles (fourth from left) and fellow Jesuits enjoy a meal after his ordination.
Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit www.jesuitvocations.org for more information.