by Margarita Mooney Suarez on April 24, 2010

The priest I wrote about in Faith Makes Us Live, Thomas G. Wenski, was named the new Archbishop of Miami on April 20, 2010. For more on Wenski and his appointment to lead the Miami Archdiocese, click here. As he founded the Haitian Catholic Mission of Miami (Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church and the Pierre Toussaint Center), I interviewed Wenski several times for my book. He led those two institutions for two decades before serving as Auxiliary Bishop of Miami and then Bishop of Orlando. I remember Wenski for his great enthusiasm and agility for both pastoral and social work. My interviews with him challenged my presumption that the church’s social work is its most important contribution to immigrant assimilation. “Remember,” he told me, “I built the community starting with the Eucharist. The social programs came later.” He also insisted that rather than sharing a parish with other English-speaking or Spanish-speaking Catholics in Miami, the Haitian Catholic community of Miami needed a place of its own. He moved quickly to find a home for Haitian Catholics and founded Notre Dame and the Toussaint Center in the geographic center of Miami’s neighborhood called Little Haiti. As I argue in my book, Notre Dame and the Toussaint Center have welcomed thousands of Haitians in Miami and helped them successfully integrate in Miami, all the while helping them maintain their devout Catholic faith. Wenski’s return to Miami as Archbishop means, among other things, that his pastoral and social work on behalf of the Haitian community of Miami is greatly valued.