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Operation Starfish celebrates 20th anniversary with completion of 11th village in Haiti

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Father Robert C. Cilinski, pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Burke, recently presented Food for the Poor President/CEO Robin Mahfood with a donation from their 2018 Operation Starfish campaign that will complete its 11th village in Haiti.

After a joyful rendition of the song "Walk in Jerusalem," Father Cilinski spoke passionately about the power of love and how to help the poor by working as a team toward the same goal.

“Through two decades of working together, Nativity parishioners, Food for the Poor and the Haitian people have accomplished a miraculous amount of good," said Father Cilinski. "This project was designed to be funded and built over a three-year period. Today, I am pleased to present to you a gift that will complete development of Nativity Village at Despuzeau in two years. What a beautiful way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Operation Starfish by looking back at the good we started 20 years ago."

Created in 1998 by the late Father Richard Martin, who died four years ago, Operation Starfish is an appeal to each parishioner's ability to make a difference, no matter how small the gift, during the Lenten season. Father Cilinski has continued the work of Operation Starfish and led a parish mission trip to Haiti in October 2015 to dedicate Good Shepherd Village in memory of Father Martin.

In 2017, Father Cilinski returned to Haiti to dedicate the Nativity Village at Despuzeau. He also broke ground for a new school, Ecole Union en Christ de Despuzeau, which has since been built. This year's gift will complete the second and final phase of the 11th village through Food for the Poor.

When complete, 80 families will have a home with sanitation and solar-powered lighting. A community water system and a community center for vocational training and events will be built, and an animal husbandry business co-op will be established.

"The Church of the Nativity has worked side by side with Food for the Poor to help transform the lives of hundreds of families who once lived in deplorable conditions in Haiti," said Mahfood. "Nativity's parishioners have provided homes to more than 1,400 families, schools, clinics, fish farms, sewing co-ops and disaster relief. We are deeply grateful for their loving sacrifice. We were taught as children to love, and Nativity's parish understands Jesus' teaching about love. May God continue to bless their sincere desire to enhance the lives of the poor. We are so grateful."

Find out more

To start an Operation Starfish program at your parish, school or organization, go to FoodForThePoor.org/operationstarfish or call 877-654-2960, ext. 6148. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018