By: Christiana Abraham

Dominicans and friends of Dominica gathered for a post-hurricane Maria memorial service in Montreal, Canada last Sunday. Officiated by Dominican Priest Fr. Vincent Esprit (FMI), people from across the city participated in an emotional show of solidarity  at the church of St. Anthony of Padua.
Fr. Esprit began the service with a message of solidarity, friendship and courage from the First Nations Mohawk people to the people of Dominica.  Esprit who hails from Dominica, is parish priest of the First Nations community of Kahnawake in Quebec.
Full of poignant symbolisms, the ceremony featured the Dominican flag, Creole songs, prayers and motifs and the Lord’s prayer was recited in the Mohawk language.  The ceremony also featured a choir from the church of St. Anthony of Padua.
The highlight of the service was a Candle Lighting ceremony that memorialized the 64 dead and missing victims of the ravages of the deadly hurricane. In solemn format, the names of the victims and their communities were read out as congregation members whose families or communities were directly affected came forward with lit candles and special prayers.
Fr. Esprit urged Dominicans to face the disaster and the insurmountable rebuilding process in a spirit of unity, courage, compassion, reconciliation and togetherness.  “Such tribulations are part of life” said Esprit, and “God’s courage has given us the capacity to overcome all and become divine lights of this world”.
Since Hurricane Maria, Dominicans living in Montreal like other concerned diasporans have been anxious for news of their relatives and friends at home.
“We were worried sick throughout the period immediately following the hurricane. My concern was for the life of my family and how long it would take to get to them” says long time Montreal resident, Mimi Mourillon.
Mona Jackson who coordinated the event reminded the congregation of the importance of their continued support to those affected by the hurricane.
“People are concerned that the right people will not get the things that we send to Dominica, but we should not let that deter our efforts.  If someone does not pass along the supplies to the right people it is their problem, their conscience. But for us here, it is our responsibility to assist and it is the right thing to do,” says Jackson.
The service was part of continued post-Maria relief efforts in Montreal on behalf of Dominica. Keenly aware of the short, medium and long-term challenges that Dominica faces, the collection of relief supplies, and a community media campaign aimed at keeping Dominica’s situation present in the minds of Montrealers are foremost.
Leading the effort is the Dominica Island Culture Association which is now in the process of sorting and packing a shipment of supplies to be forwarded to Dominica in the coming weeks. Dominica Relief activities conducted by Montreal-Dominicans are expected to continue into the new year.
Association president Phillip Gabriel urges those wishing to assist with the ongoing efforts to contact the Dominica Island Cultural Association in Montreal.
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