Twinning programs create two-way street of solidarity in Haiti

Ophthalmologist Dr. Mary Sue Carlson, parishioner of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Arlington, Va., conducts an eye exam during a mission to Medor, Haiti. (Courtesy of Mary Sue Carlson)

Mary Sue Carlson is a giving soul.

Over the past 10 years, living in a time when it's probably easier to tune out, order in and turn on the TV, the 62-year-old ophthalmologist from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., has devoted herself to the cause of assisting the poor. Not only with money, but by actively recognizing their humanity. Working through her church, Our Lady Queen of Peace in Arlington, Va., Carlson has forged a dynamic working relationship with St. Joseph Parish in Medor, Haiti, some 1,400 miles away.

The relationship she helps administer is part a multinational movement calling "twinning." Today, there about 300 twinning programs in existence. Seen as a two-way street between the poor and the well-off, and imbued with a religious sense of solidarity, the movement matches churches in the U.S. with those from more impoverished parts of the world. For the better part of twinning's history, programs have tended to focus on meeting the immediate needs of parish communities suffering from extreme poverty.

But a growing number of parish twinning programs are beginning to do something more.

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