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Haiti Quake Inspires Leap of Faith

By Carla E. Aguilar

Two words sum up Sister Jane Meyer's first-ever skydiving experience—absolutely exhilarating!

Sister Jane Meyer, dubbed "The Flying Nun," admits being astounded by her courage to jump, especially because her immediate reaction to her school's request to skydive was "no way!"

Sister Jane Meyer skydiving

Sister Jane Meyer, principal at St. Agnes Academy in Houston, pledged to jump out of a plane if the students raised $25,000 for relief efforts in Haiti following the earthquake. Photo courtesy of SkyDive Houston

But, as someone who is always encouraging her teachers and students to stretch themselves and try new things, she says she had to walk the walk.

So, she agreed to jump if her school raised $25,000 for Catholic Relief Services' Haiti response.

To her surprise, the school, which had successfully raised $18,000 in 2005 for CRS' response to the Indian Ocean tsunami relief, broke a new record by raising more than $90,000 for CRS' response in Haiti.

After far exceeding the fundraising target, the St. Agnes community celebrated its victory and anxiously waited for Sister Jane to suit up and make good her promise.

And, she did. February 14, 2010, is a day she says she will never forget.

"It was an intimidating experience. I literally had to sign my life away," she says. "I was scared all the way up and couldn't believe that I was actually about to skydive," she says.

But, at 14,000 feet, Sister Jane dove headfirst and took the biggest leap of faith of her life. For her, it was a leap in the name of those suffering in Haiti.

"Once the parachute opened, it was truly beautiful and I kept on saying 'thank you, Jesus!' " she remembers.

On the ground, there were several people waiting for her, including camera crews, reporters, parents and students wearing "It's a bird, it's a plane—it's a Dominican—Sister Jane jumps" t-shirts.

"The community support was incredible," says Sister Jane. "I'm very proud of our students for using their talents to help those in need. Part of our mission at St. Agnes Academy is social justice, and it was inspiring to see it in action," she says.

Months after the jump, Sister Jane says that people still ask her how they can continue contributing and helping the people in Haiti.

"My answer is always, send in a check to Catholic Relief Services," she says. "I became very committed to CRS after visiting CRS projects in Ghana and seeing the help provided to people beyond our borders."

Sister Jane says that she was most impressed with the fact that CRS hires local residents to run programs.

"This gave me the confidence that CRS really reaches those who need it the most and works with people to find solutions to their own problems," she says.

While Sister Jane can cite many reasons for jumping, she says the fundamental reason was to remind people that we are one human family.

"We are all God's people and we are all brothers and sisters," she says. "My message to people is that they not be afraid to try new things and to encourage people to expand their hearts beyond boundaries.

Carla E. Aguilar is an advocacy program officer based out of CRS' Southwest regional office in San Antonio, Texas.

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