Deacon will work double duty in Upstate, school in Haiti

CLEMSON — Serving as a deacon to three Upstate parishes can place plenty of demands on a person. Then add an assignment some 2,000 miles away and covering all the bases becomes a real challenge.
Still, for Patrick Moynihan, deacon at St. Andrew in Clemson, St. Paul the Apostle in Seneca and St. Francis in Walhalla, his new two-year assignment as president of The Haitian Project is essentially a homecoming.
“It’s my first and most important calling in terms of my Christian work,” Deacon Moynihan said.
As president emeritus of The Haitian Project, Deacon Moynihan said he and the organization’s leadership saw the need for change.
“When it became obvious that there was a need to return to a more veteran leadership, largely because of the economic downturn here in the United States, it was opportunity then to return,” he said.
The Haitian Project is a Catholic Mission based in Providence, R.I., and runs the Louverture Cleary School near Port-au-Prince, Haiti. In 1996, the Moynihan family moved to the country and lived and worked at the school for 18 months. They were instrumental in helping it grow from roughly 60 students to around 350 today.
Deacon Moynihan served as president of the organization until 2006. He moved his family to the Seneca area in the summer of 2008 to be near his parents.
Deacon Moynihan said The Haitian Project leadership “realized that we were going to have to retool the machine to survive these tougher times. Sometimes when you retool, you use old and trusted parts, and I’m an old and trusted part.”
The recession has forced The Haitian Project to dip into its endowment in recent months to keep the school afloat, he said.
“Fortunately, we had the foresight to put together an endowment, but we had to take out a substantial portion of that to get us back to zero,” he said. Also, the shrinking economy is making it more difficult for the school to meet its day-to-day needs.
To meet that challenge, a larger community of givers must be built.
“We know that will refine us and make our mission stronger,” he said.
Deacon Moynihan is still working on how he and his family are going to juggle his time in Haiti with his duties here as deacon.
“I feel that this community received us well and we want to do well by the community, but being a missionary means cutting ties. You can’t get the boat from the dock with the rope attached, so we’re going to have to figure out how to keep the boat in port as much as possible,” he said.
For more information, write to The Haitian Project, P.O. Box 6891, Providence, RI 02940, or visit