FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The University of Saint Francis (USF) is mourning the loss of Reverend Andre Sylvestre after he was killed in Cap-Haitian, Haiti on Monday.
“When I first heard the words that father’s been killed, it took my breath away,” said Amy Obringer, a professor of biology at USF. “How [could] somebody who was so peaceful, who was so humble, who only wanted to improve the country be killed by his own country people.”
According to the Haitian Times, Father Andre “completed a bank transaction and was followed by a gang of armed bandits on motorcycles” who shot him four times as they tried to steal his suitcase.
Obringer said through a Haitian translator, she learned that someone in the bank allegedly “called one of the gangs and said this man just made a large withdraw,” which led to the attack.
Father Andre died shortly after being taken to a nearby hospital. Robbery appears to be the motive in the killing, according to the report.
Obringer said USF has had a longtime relationship with Father Andre, as well as the orphanage he founded in northern Haiti, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Orphanage Foundation. The college supports the orphanage through the activities of a student group known as Formula for Life, which hosts a 5K race fundraiser each year.
“The students who have met him, all of them will say how dramatically impacted their lives,” Obringer said. “They say things like ‘Father Andre taught me to dream big.'”
Father Andre had a dream of his own. He hoped to expand his orphanage, which currently houses 34 orphans, to a large orphanage campus that would provide residential needs and affordable schooling for the community. It would also include a healthcare clinic, along with a literacy center for adults who wanted to come back to learn how to read and write.
Obringer said she, along with USF and another group in Muncie, want to help Father Andre accomplish that dream.
“Then sustain his dream, so that all of the children there who have been orphaned by conditions of malnutrition and their parents, their parents were killed in natural disasters, all of those children that we can still give them hope. We can still give them opportunity to be able to improve themselves in a country that there’s so many things going wrong in,” Obringer said.
The reverend was the oldest of eight children in rural Haiti. He earned two graduate degrees, including one from Ball State University, according to USF.
A memorial mass will be held Friday at 5:30 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. The church’s address is 1200 W. Riverside Ave in Muncie, Indiana. A reception will follow the mass.
Anyone interested in sending a memorial donation can mail them to USF Formula for Life, c/o Dr. Amy Obringer, University of Saint Francis, 2701 Spring St., Fort Wayne, IN 46808.