Rich in Mercy
By Mary Pickels
Inspired by a book urging visits to the “unholy land,” in particular the slums of Haiti, Dr. Richard Gosser and his then wife-to be, Daneen, made the first of many visits to the impoverished Caribbean nation in 1987.
They soon established the Rich in Mercy Mission Institute, Inc., “to promote a global culture of solidarity with a view to achieving a more just and sustainable world.”
Gosser, 71, is a retired mathematics professor at Saint Vincent College and his wife, 76, is a retired psychiatric nurse. They are parishioners of Holy Trinity Parish in Ligonier and are Lay Spiritans, lay members of the Missionary Congregation of the Holy Spirit.
“Daneen and I read ‘The Fire of God’ by John Michael Talbot (a former musician who became a Franciscan monk) at the same time. He wrote that he wished more people would experience Jesus today in the ‘unholy land.’ Daneen said, ‘I need to see for myself,’” Gosser recalled. “In hindsight, we were absolutely out of our minds. It had to be providential. We knew no one. We had no contacts. We wanted to go to the worst slum in the poorest part of the hemisphere.”
They walked toward the Catholic Church nearest to their “no-star hotel.”
“Within 50 paces, a young man approached and oﬀered to be our friend,” Gosser said.
Yvan Telemaque refused compensation for serving as their guide. He also predicted, Gosser said, that if he did not leave Haiti he would “die here a young man.”
Sadly, his prophecy came true, as he later succumbed to tuberculosis, a complication of AIDS.
Gosser helped him financially, and later vowed to God that he would try to help others in the future.
Decades of assistance
The COVID pandemic and political unrest have brought their travels to Haiti to a halt for now. But the Gossers continue to work on their program goals of resource networking and educational outreach.
“Most of what we do is pretty well established now,” Gosser said.
Their accomplishments include providing academic scholarships for students, food distribution and infrastructure projects in Haiti.
In 1992, Rich in Mercy began making “reverse mission pilgrimages,” taking others to Haiti to see its conditions and learn how they can help to make a diﬀerence.
One example of a reverse mission pilgrimage is the institution’s “Skip a Lunch, Save a Child” fund. Supporters can contribute at least $5 a month to help provide needy preschoolers a daily meal, structured play and formative educational activities.
Grateful for their service
The Institute’s eﬀorts are supported through the Diocese of Greensburg’s Missions Oﬃce, contributions from Holy Trinity’s Faith Formation program, St. Margaret Mary Parish in Lower Burrell and Mount St. Peter Parish in New Kensington, along with private donations.
“The purpose of the oﬃce is to promote missionary activity of the church and to support those who are involved in that activity,” said Father Anthony J. Carbone, Diocesan Mission Director, who is also the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Ligonier. “They provide a very good example for us. Really, very few persons are able to go to the mission. But if one finds oneself in a situation that allows you to share your faith like that, it’s quite admirable.”
Sustainable away and at home
The Gossers live on less than half an acre in Ligonier, and practice bio-intensive gardening — coaxing maximum yield from minimum land.
One of the projects they support in Haiti is the Operation Hummingbird Learning Center, which works to increase food production through bio-intensive gardening, rainwater harvesting and composting.
Haitian farmers must grapple with drought and global warming, conditions that make growing certain crops difficult.
Despite their great poverty, his experience with Haitians is that “90 percent thank God for the way in which he has blessed them and taken care of them.”
“There is a deep faith, a deep trust in providence,” Gosser said.
He is missing the country and people he loves, and hopes to return. “It pains me greatly that I can’t be there,” he said.
For more information on the Rich in Mercy Institute, go to