On the 2nd of September 2016, Sister Isabel Solá, a Religious of Jesus and Mary (RJM) from Spain, was fatally shot at a crowded intersection in Port-au-Prince.
In the message that follows, Sister Matilde Moreno, an RSCJ assigned in Haiti, shares how Isa fully lived her life "committed to and spent for love of a people whose land was her homeland during these last years."
Isa Sola, our friend and companion in dreams, projects and struggles, lived from the heart and transmitted the powerful energy of her love and her commitment to those of us who had the privilege of knowing her and sharing a little of the journey with her.
We met in 2008 when she came to Haití, filled with the urge and desire to serve wherever there was a need. Her role as teacher and nurse opened many doors for her. From the start we saw that sharing our searching, our joys and our failures encouraged both of us to keep on going in the service of this much loved people.
I had already been in Haití for six years, and my work in Faith and Joy had helped me acquire a lot of information and make many contacts. Very quickly Isa got to grips with the network of resources needed to help in the rebuilding and training of teaching staff in some little rural schools that were really in dire need. It was in an area near to Balan, where the first Faith and Joy school was set up in Haití.
The 2010 earthquake made a huge impact on her life, as for many people who had to ask ourselves, in the face of the deaths of so many beloved people: Why have I been spared to carry on living?
It is impossible to describe all she did to help the victims of the disaster. It was only when died that we learned of all she did. In the beginning she worked in the hospital, performing amputations and rebuilding what seemed impossible. Later she set up a workshop for making prostheses to compensate insofar as possible for the loss of so many limbs. The workshop is now in the hands of the Haitian people and is their lifeline for making a living. After a time she organised a mobile clinic that reaches the furthest corners of the country, where medical attention isn’t available. She was not alone in this work; she worked with a group of Sisters and some excellent co-workers, professional Haitian people who share the missionary spirit of the Sisters (The Family of Jesus and Mary, AFJM).
A new dream surfaced in recent years: building, organising a school that under her leadership, would be part of the Faith and Joy network, alongside a dispensary to be managed by the Sisters of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary. Onaville, the area that was decided on, is populated in the main by families who had lost everything in the earthquake, and who had built shacks for themselves.
Beyond these four sketches of Isa’s life, I want to emphasise something she would be furious about if I did not do it, and that in justice is owed to the people of Haití. Isa was murdered, yes, but this is not to say that the Haitian people are all assassins. There is nothing further from the truth. There are people in Haití of every kind, as is the same in any part of the world. I want to give testimony to what I have learned in my 14 years in Haití. The people of Haití paid dearly in becoming the first slave population to achieve independence. Therein lie many of the causes of their poverty, their fragile and volatile social and political story. They are a people of struggle, who are welcoming, courageous, honourable and resilient. A people deserving of all the efforts that people of goodwill, Haitian or foreigner, might make for the growth of dignity, peace and justice in this maltreated society.
This clear and perceptive service for the people of Haití is what impelled Isa to give her life day by day, what impels so many people to give our lives day after day.
Isa gave up her life on 2nd September, a life already committed to and spent for love of a people whose land was her homeland during these last years.
All of her life Isa ran towards the encounter with the One we follow and for whom we live: the Risen One, the Conqueror of death, the constant Companion, the God of the Pierced Heart, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man who precedes us: “Do not be afraid, I have conquered death.” “Whatever you do for one of the least of these my sisters and brothers….”
Thank you Isa, for continuing to be a friend and companion. Amen, Alleluia, Ayibobo.