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
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
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