The Holy Cross Mission Center was grateful to welcome Rev. Jean-Vital Blaise, C.S.C., to South Bend in July. A native of Haiti and a member of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Province, Fr. Jean-Vital came to the U.S. to further improve his English language skills. He already speaks Creole, French, and Spanish, so he figured he would add one more language to his repertoire!
Born June 19, 1991, Fr. Jean-Vital professed Final Vows to the Congregation of Holy Cross on September 8, 2019, and was ordained to the priesthood the following year on February 22, 2020. He now serves as an administrator at Holy Cross College, a Haitian high school where his English language skills will help him educate students in need.
During Fr. Jean-Vital’s orientation week in South Bend, Indiana, HCMC Assistant Director for Community Engagement Michael Jezewak sat down with him to ask him some questions. Some of the answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Michael: Let’s start easy with a few rapid fire questions, Favorite Musician?
Fr. Jean-Vital Blaise, C.S.C.: Dener Ceide, Anthony Santos, and Bob Marley.
Michael: Favorite sports team?
Fr. Blaise: Haiti, Chile, and Liverpool [all soccer teams].
Michael: Favorite childhood memory?
Fr. Blaise: My mom’s love, her compassion, her sacrifices. She changed a 500 bill one evening just because I wanted to buy something for 5 gourdes to eat. She didn’t want to let me sleep without food in my stomach.
Michael: She sounds like a model of self-sacrifice.
Fr. Blaise: Yes, the Lord gave me a wonderful mother.
Michael: What are you most excited about experiencing during your time in the United States?
Fr. Blaise: I have always been interested in the term culture. So, being here, I hope to learn more about American culture, that of other nations, and the mission of my Congregation, Holy Cross. Moreover, following these classes at The Language Company, I would be interested to be able to celebrate Mass in English before my departure.
Michael: Tell me about your vocation to the priesthood. How did God call you to be a Holy Cross priest?
Fr. Blaise: At home, we knew how to pray since I was a child. I still have memories of the animator, my grandmother, who despite her advanced age knew how to kneel down to recite the Our Father.
Michael: That’s beautiful. I love that image of a grandmother as an “animator” of faith and vocations.
Fr. Blaise: In addition, memories of my mother’s meditative silence in the cathedral Saint Joseph of Fort-Liberté, facing this image of Jesus on the cross–those were impactful. But it was at Saint Eugene de Mazenod College, a Holy Cross school that I learned to know and love the Church of Jesus Christ through educated, brilliant, efficient, simple and approachable priests at the same time. The values they instilled coupled with their lifestyle drew me to the Congregation.
In other words, their testimonies of humility and commitment have marked me, pushing me to ask myself, Why not me too? This was how I began my discernment process. It is clear that I was there for something else—following in my dad’s footsteps, having a definite career—but, who am I to resist the call of the Lord?
In the end, I can say that it was a good choice–if not the best–to become a Holy cross priest. Indeed, I found myself with the help of these friends of God—St. Francis of Assisi and Holy Cross brother St. André Bessette. I also found myself alongside these “confrères” on mission, at the service of the People of God. And even today, if I had to choose, I would choose religious life, in Holy Cross of course.
Michael: If you could speak to any Holy Cross priest or brother who has died, who would that be and what would you talk to him about?
Fr. Blaise: I don’t really have one specifically. But sometimes I think of a confrère, relatively young, who died last year. It is Rev. Keith Louidor, C.S.C., a zealous, jovial, and sympathetic brother. Practically, he and I are from the same area in the northeast of Haiti. So, many times I think of him. He knew how to encourage me when I was in the seminary and often told me in our conversations that he was counting on me for the advancement of our Province.
So, briefly, I would tell him that I count on his prayers and that I will do my best to continue this mission of the Church.
Michael: He sounds like he had quite an impact on you. May Fr. Louidor rest in Christ’s peace.
Fr. Blaise: Thank you. Yes, I am grateful for his encouragement in my vocational discernment.
Michael: In addition to prayers for Fr. Louidor, is there an intention that you would like us to pray for?
Fr. Blaise: Rest of the soul of my grandmother, Liliane Lawson, who passed away on June 8, 1999.
Michael: She will be in my prayers, and I’m sure some readers of this interview will pray for Liliane Lawson, too. Thank you for sharing these pieces of your life with us, Fr. Jean-Vital. I hope that your time in South Bend bears fruit in your Holy Cross ministries when you return to Haiti.