Meeting Saint Fleur Junior Charles

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Sometimes, no amount of research can prepare you for an interview. Such was my recent experience in interviewing Saint Fleur Junior Charles, a 32-year-old man brimming with courage, strength, and- more recently, he says - faith.

Junior, as he prefers to be called, is the administrative head of St. Joseph's Clinic in Thomassique, Haiti, a hospital run by the Medical Missionaries of Manassas. There, he enables healthcare professionals to serve 25,000 patients a year in one of the Western Hemisphere's most impoverished places. The valedictorian of his college class, Junior also is a recent law school graduate and an aspiring judge.

To add to his accomplishments, he taught himself Spanish and English (adding to his linguistic repertoire of Creole and French); designed the house where he lives with his retired mother; and is writing a book on handicapped law in Haiti. He spends his free time drawing local churches, flowers and birds. His life is one of discipline.

Junior has achieved all of this despite suffering an accident made more serious by the fact that it happened in a developing country with a dearth of adequate medical care. At age 16, Junior fell from a mango tree and broke his spinal cord, interrupting his studies and sending him into a dark period where he said he hoped for death daily.

As a paraplegic, he is confined to a wheelchair, but today Junior feels grateful that he escaped the fate predicted by doctors in his homeland: that he would spend the rest of his days bedridden, unable to finish school or achieve any sense of normalcy.

Yet Father Jack O'Hara, a priest then serving at Arlington's Bánica Mission in the Dominican Republic and now parochial vicar of Holy Family Church in Dale City, told him to have faith. So Junior took his mother's lead and began to pray.

In 2001, American doctors performed an operation that got him out of bed, literally. He woke up to new possibilities. After he learned to use a wheelchair, he went back to high school and began to flourish.

I was humbled to meet Junior at the home of the Manassas couple hosting him earlier this month. His smile was the kind that stretched across his face and illuminated his eyes. He still seemed positively infected by the idea that God's world is beautiful and vast.

But I am far from the only one to be touched by Junior's story. Among the Medical Missionaries of Manassas and those who staff St. Joseph's Clinic, Junior has earned the kind of celebrity status so unlike the notion of celebrity prevalent in our "throwaway culture," to borrow Pope Francis' term. Junior's is the kind of celebrity worth celebrating. He's overcome tremendous obstacles, does valuable work for his community and cultivates his faith with an admirable fervor.

Read Junior's story, "Faith as medicine." I suspect you'll be in as much awe of him as seemingly all who meet him are.

 

Stoddard can be reached at cstoddard@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015