fire/arson at Dominica’s National Shrine

On Friday 22 July 2016 shortly after 8 pm a fire was detected in the church at Pointe Michel, dedicated to our Lady of La Salette; Dominica’s National Shrine

This week cleaning efforts were started as shown below :

PM contrast

 

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St. Michael window restored in the Portsmouth church

June 2016

The St. Michael stained glass, salvaged from the ruins of the old Portsmouth church after the earthquake of Nov. 21, 2004, has now been restored in the southern semi transept of the new catholic church in Portsmouth.                                                                                                                       St. Michael, the archangel, is depicted as defeating the devil.

st michael sgw pth new church June 2016

Fr. George(s) Paddington first black priest in DOMINICA anno 1850

part 3

The St. Peter’s church in Colihaut: the location of Fr. Paddington remains
In two previous articles I published my research on the first black priest in Dominica named Fr. George Paddington, who died in 1851.

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In these I cited from several sources, but had very little to present from local sources. I have now found a local source which confirms most of my research and places Fr. George Paddington in a new light. It seems that in the short period, less than two years, that he was living and serving in the St. Peter’s Parish in Colihaut, he must have made quite an impression on the local population.

The local source is THE DOMINICA COLONIST, a newspaper that was not known to be pro-Catholic. Indeed in several issues, I found articles against the “popish religion” (= Catholicism) and in support of the Wesleyan missions and the established church, meaning the Church of England.

Therefore I found, to my great surprise, a very positive OBITUARY of Revd. George J. Paddington in the DOMINICA COLONIST of November 22, 1851.

This could only have been because he was an extraordinary saintly priest.
And I quote: “It is with feelings of the deepest regret, that we have this day to record the death of the Revd. GEORGE J. PADDINGTON, Roman Catholic
Curate of the Parish of Saint Peter – aged 50 years, which melancholy event took place at the presbytery in Roseau, this day at 2 o’clock, after a short illness of eight days.

Mr. Paddington was a colored gentlemen and a native of Kerry in Ireland. His pious and virtuous habits in early life did not fail to attract the notice of several high dignitaries of his Church – among whom we may mention the names of the Bishops of Cork and Kerry. At a later period, yielding to the Divine call he unhesitatingly sacrificed the most favourable prospects of worldly aggrandizement and joined that ministry, of which, to the close of his life, he was a distinguished ornament and most worthy labourer. After having devoted a part of his life to the study of Theology in Rome, he proceeded to St. Domingo [ present day HAITI ], but in consequence of the despotic and tyrannical policy of the government of that country with which his liberal and enlightened spirit could not agree, he left on a tour through the islands, with the intention of proceeding afterwards to his native country; but having landed in Trinidad he was induced at the solicitation of His Grace the Archbishop of Port of Spain, Dr. SMITH, to alter his resolve and to accept a mission in this island, where he arrived in September 1849. From that period this, his zeal in his Master’s cause was unremitting, and his exertions indefatigable.

In fact there cannot be any doubt that his death was exacerbated by his exertion in responding to the calls of the dying, during the Influenza in his parish, being night and day in attendance, and having often to travel at a great distance on foot to the mountainous parts to administer the last comforts of religion.”

In “PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS, HOUSE OF COMMONS AND COMMAND – GREAT BRITAIN. PARLIAMENT”, we read that many islands such as Jamaica and St. Lucia were heavily stricken by Cholera between 1849 and 1850. Dominica however was spared this ordeal but had a flu or influenza epidemic during that period. From reading the above obituary, it seems that this flu caused many deaths in Dominica.

Let us go back to the obituary in THE DOMINICA COLONIST :
“As a clergyman, Mr. Paddington was without blemish; as a friend he was sincere and devoted. To these who were under his spiritual charge, his loss is irreparable, and to his friends, his death must ever be a subject of mournful contemplation.”
And then comes a very interesting piece of information, because Dominica was full of religious strife and discord at the time:
“The Passing Bell announcing that his spirit had winged its flight to the region of immortality had no sooner commenced that it was joined by that of the St. George’s [Anglican] Church and a solemn funeral peal was tolled. This is as it should be. In death there is no difference – A Minister of Christ had gone to his reward and his Brethren in the Ministry, although of another denomination, joined to announce to them the mournful but to him blissful event.
His funeral obsequies will be performed at the [Catholic] church in Town, on Friday morning – after which his remains will be conveyed to St. Peter’s- His parishioners having requested that he should be there interred.”

Fr. George(s) Paddington, a saintly black priest, buried in the Colihaut church, has since that time been forgotten in Dominica .

The REDEMPTORISTS in DOMINICA and OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP Triptych in the Roseau Cathedral.

by Bernard Lauwyck

The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer or the Redemptorists arrived in Dominica in 1902 with the arrival of Bishop Philip Schelfhaut, a belgian Redemptorist and 5th Bishop of Roseau. He brought with him several Redemptorist priests and brothers to minister and to serve.

The Redemptorists brought with them the devotion to our Lady of Perpetual Help and in 1921 a beautiful triptych of  Mary, the mother of Jesus,  under the title of  Our Lady of Perpetual help was donated and installed in the Roseau Cathedral. 

This religious artwork can now be viewed and venerated at the St. Gerard’s Chapel in Roseau.

OLPH on white background

The definition of  a triptych is any  three-panelled  picture , screen or mirror. The term  was originally applied to three-panel  religious paintings used on altars in churches, one of the most famous being the  Ghent altarpiece (AD 1432)  by Jan and Hubert Van Eyck called  the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb ( in Dutch: Het Lam Gods  or The Lamb of God).

The  painting is set into an oak frame with two side panels attached. When the two panels are closed, one notices the inscription :

“GIFT FROM  LOUISA  POTTER”

I understand that members of the  Potter family, notably Cynthia , played the pipe organ in the Cathedral for many years.

Our Lady of Perpetual Succour blessed on May 1, 1921

The left panel reads

“COMFORT TO THE AFFLICTED”

Comfort to the afflicted

This is based on the fact that Mary is the mother of God in heaven as she was on earth, because Jesus,  remains her Son for all eternity.

She  knows and personally experienced human misery.

She obtains, by intercession with her Son, gentle rest for all who are laden with trouble and pain; she gives comfort to the afflicted and healing to the sick.

The wood carvings of  roots, stem, branches, leaves and flower depicts one of the most commonly Old Testament prophecies in Christian Art;  the TREE of JESSE, which flowers into JESUS, the flower on top.

And there shall come forth a rod out the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” Isaiah (11.1)

 

 

The right panel  reads

“HEALTH OF THE SICK, P.F.U”                                   ( Pray for us).

health of the sick

Mary is asked to pray for us, to intercede on our behalf  before God, her Son, as she did during the wedding in Cana.

A prayer  to  Mary reads :
“O  Mary,  obtain consolation for the sad,
help for the poor, health for the sick
and forgiveness for sinners.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we focus in on the centre panel we notice the words below  :

                                         O.L.OF PERPETUAL SUCCOUR, P.F. U.”   Perpetual Secours

OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP, PRAY FOR US”

Untitled

Fleur-de-Lys

The  Fleur-de-Lys  is placed very prominently on top, gold on blue.  A stylized lily, in French, “ fleur de lis”  literally means “lily flower”. The lily is associated with Mary for her perfect purity and chastity.

close up

 

In the centre panel, a delicately carved oak frame contains the letters A M  for AVE  MARY or  Hail  Mary, the greeting  spoken to young Mary  by the angel Gabriel, announcing the birth of Christ to her (Luke 1:26):               “ HAIL MARY FULL OF GRACE, THE LORD IS WITH YOU, BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN “ .

 

 

 

Like all religious images, an icon is as a “window to Heaven”, a portal through which one sees greater Truths than can be revealed by words alone.  Icons are not painted but written as a prayer, layer after layer, eight layers or more. The painter starts with the darker colours and, as he  or she proceeds, brings out the light from darkness by applying  lighter colours till the final layer:the bright gold leaf.                           “THE LIGHT SHINES IN THE DARKNESS”. John 1:5.

Nearly every aspect of this icon has symbolic meaning. Therefore iconographers will copy older icons as close as possible.  Individuality in style and contents is to be avoided.  This  icon existed already in the 16th Century Serbia (churches of  Lesnovo and of  Konce)  under the name “the icon of the Mother of God of the Passion”  (“STRASTNAIA” ).

The title  is written  on top of the icon: the Greek letters : MP     OY.   This is the abbreviation of  “METER THEOU”, Greek for  “Mother of God”. OLPH icon

Two angels are holding the instruments of Christ’s Passion. They are identified with Greek letters. On the left is the archangel St. Michael.  He is holding the lance and gall-sop. On the right is the archangel St. Gabriel.  He holds the cross and the nails.Passion Angel 2Passion Angel 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this icon the Mother of God has one star on the veil over her head.  She is the Star of the Sea, the one who brought the light of Christ to the darkened world , the star that leads us to the safe port of Heaven, Our Lady of safe Haven.

Mary wears a dark blue mantle (as worn by mothers in Palestine) on a red tunic, the colour worn by virgins at the time of Christ.  The icon illustrates that she is  both virgin and mother.

Next to Jesus appear the letters IC XC  Greek and old Bulgarian spelling for Jesus The Christ .

The Mother of God holds Jesus on her left arm, who looks back fearfully at one of the angels symbolising his passion, his future suffering.  For protection, He seeks refuge with his mother: He seizes with his two hands the right hand of his Mother. This is so beautiful, so very human. detail Jesus

The entire background is golden, symbolic of Heaven where Jesus and Mary are now enthroned. The gold reflects on the highlights of the garments of Mary and Jesus. The  holiness of heaven burst out of this artwork.

Jesus is not depicted as the little baby, but as Christ-Emmanuel “ God among us” , clothed in glorious gold, red  and green.  His mission as Saviour is to come into the world to suffer the Passion. Though he is God, he is human as well and afraid of this terrifying future. One sandal slips from his foot.  He clings to his mother,  who holds him close in this moment of panic and fear.

Mary will be at his side till he dies on the cross. While she can’t spare him his suffering, she can love and comfort him.

This Icon is about Our Lady, not about beautiful colours or shiny gold leaf !!!

OLPH face of he VIRGINThis is a woman with a saddened tender face looking straight at  the spectators.

We, as spectators become part of this icon, we are drawn into her eyes.  Her motherly tenderness, protection and love is not only for her Son, but directed straight at each of us. She offers us the same comfort and love she gave her Son.

This is the meaning and symbolism of  this picture.

This triptych has a prominent place in St. Gerard’s Chapel in Roseau, till the day it will return to the Cathedral. In the mean time, let us take the opportunity to re-discover its meaning and symbolism. One can only appreciate what one understands. 

This is high quality religious art on display in Dominica. Do not miss it. Do not take it for granted.

On Wednesday April 13th 2016 the Redemptorists in Dominica will celebrate and commemorate 150 years of dedication to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the OLPH chapel at GIRAUDEL.

PS : An authentic large icon of OLPH can also be found at the church in St. Joseph. This was obtained and installed by Fr. Mike Houston CSs.R when he was parish priest there.

 

 

 

by Bernard Lauwyck

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                                              a bird’s eye view of the old church in 1980

The Salybia church built by FMI Frs. Daniel Couturier [ +1895] and Jean Bellaudeau [ + 1912] , between 1893 and 1900, did not stand the test of time.

Fr. Jean Baptiste Barreau, FMI [ +1952] arrived in 1913 from St. Lucia to serve the Lasoie district and the Carib Quarter. He soon started a new church in Salybia.
He did not want a timber building, which requires constant repairs, but a strong durable building. He imported from St. Lucia a handpress to make cement blocks. As Salybia had no sand and cement, sand had to be hauled from afar and cement had to be shipped and landed in the Marigot Bay, a distance of several miles. “The pastor convened all the Caribs of goodwill and asked them if they were willing to help him to build a beautiful church for them. They all promised their wholehearted support and help. Some would donate cement, others would provide voluntary labour. A start was made. But soon the goodwill of the Caribs sank into the sole of their feet; and when the hurricane of 1916 swept over the island, the walls of the Carib church were barely finished.” [ source : the ECCLESIASTICAL BULLETIN OF ROSEAU (EBR) ]

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Above : The ruins in December 2014

With time and the grace of God they succeeded.  In the EBR of June 1925 we find a description of the Salybia church, which was almost, but not quite, completed . The occasion was a visit of  Bishop James Moris on a Confirmation tour :  “  been welcomed by hundreds of the tribe along the road , we arrived at the pretty little church….Fr. Barreau is to be congratulated on having brought to completion in a relatively short space of time the two substantial churches of Lasoie and St. Marie and decorated them in such a way as becomes the House of God. ..The altar of  St. Marie, the handwork of Fr. Barreau himself, is made on a … monumental scale and handsomely painted and decorated. The artistic statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, nestled high up in a beautiful niche presents a ravishing sight, irresistibly draws the eyes of those who enter the church and raises their heart in veneration to the Immaculate Mother of God… Once the missing windows and pews will be finished, the choirloft built and a coat of paint applied, the church of St. Marie will be one of the coziest of the island ”.  So ended Bishop Moris’ description.

This church survived the hurricanes of 1926 and 1928 but on September 1, 1930 a destructive violent hurricane reduced it to a heap of rubble.  When the messenger reported the destruction of the church to the Bishop, he used the expression: “Our church is crushed like farine.”   Bishop Moris wrote :  “ Sainte Marie of Salybia fared the worst. There the new church, built after the hurricane of 1916 was leveled to the ground, the school house entirely broken to pieces and the presbytery damaged”. [ EBR September 1930]

Later that same month, on  September 19th 1930  policemen arrived with the aim of seizing  goods allegedly imported from Marie Galante, Martinique and Guadeloupe without payment of import duties. When they met resistance during searches at Salybia they shot four local men, two of which died. This started what became known as the “Carib war of 1930”.

Despite hurricanes, poverty and civil unrest, Fr. Barreau decided to construct  a completely new church but  “this time not in cement blocks, but in reinforced concrete; and to make it still stronger he planned to build side-aisles separated from the nave by concrete pillars and arches.  The work was undertaken without delay and was completed in less than two years.  The result is a beautiful church, 30 x 80 feet, with an open belfry ”, similar to the ones Fr. Barreau remembered from his home country in Brittany, France.

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The chapel with the open belfry, similar to Fr. Barreau’s village church in Brittany FR.  The foundations of the old presbytery are still visible in the front (1991)

When the Bishop visited Salybia on March 20, 1936 , he noted that the church was incomplete as it needed interior and exterior plastering  [ EBR].

The finishing touches  were maybe completed by October 28, 1936 , which is the date stamped on the church floor, still noticeable in the ruins after all these years.  In the words of  Bishop Moris  the church of the Carib quarter was “one of the neatest churches of the Diocese of Roseau, a real gem of beauty..”Salybia 28.10.1936

Three years later, Bishop Moris was back in Salybia on a confirmation tour :

“ the Bishop and party were taken to the Pegoua River, and after a tedious horse ride, rendered more tedious by intermittent showers, they alighted in front of the lovely church of Ste Marie.  A beautiful church, indeed , this is. Outside finishes to the last touches, elaborately done up within, with a fine concrete floor, graceful arches, an altar of immaculate white, a well-built choir-lift, it is one of the most elaborate place of worship in the island, equaled only by Mahaut and Rosalie. ” [ EBR March 1939 ]

This beautiful church served  the community for more than  50 years. THE RUNS and some murals can still be visited and seen today. P1140021

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THE ROSEAU CATHEDRAL: God’s architect

AN ARCHITECTURAL MASTER PIECE                                    By  Bernard Lauwyck,

Mural escape to

mural by brother Xavier Lecointe,  C.Ss.R.

Two weeks ago, I described the history of the Roseau Cathedral up to the completion  of the Western steeple in 1916, without finding  the master planner or the architect behind it.  We noticed that solitary clergy at different times used and directed highly skilled local people.  Their skills were stone shaping, stone masonry and preparation of  lime mortar, joinery and carpentry, roofing, blacksmith work. The work on the Cathedral was stopped and continued as the resources were available both human and financial, and the island’s economic situation was peaceful and favourable.

Entry into Jerusalem mural and ceiling

                                       mural by brother Xavier Lecointe,  C.Ss.R.

As Mrs. Dorothy Leevy wrote : “We  can only conclude that the natural stones are evocative of a period of intense faith and labour as well as of extreme generosity to build the physical structure that is our Cathedral. These same stones which make up the building should  remind us, the Living Stones today, of our responsibility to complete  this present Cathedral renovation project.”

Indeed this Cathedral is not a relic from the past, but a living testimony of our Faith today.  It is the human stories, I find so interesting and would like to get from you, the readers, and weave between the well documented deeds and proclamations of the church leaders. The story of builder Francis Giraud; the “ordinary” stone mason of Roseau, named Thomassin Aubrey,  and his large local crew; The story of Augustus Parker and Brother Jacobs in more recent times and their local co-workers.  And many more: the men and women who carried the stones from the river, sea or quarries. The men who got the ingredients to make “La chaux” and prepared the lime mortar. There must have been huge construction crews with very little lifting equipment.  I am sure that a lot was done by free labour (cou-de-main).

It is clear to everybody that the  front elevation with the 3 steeples was  designed to impress, also due to its location on Constitution hill, overlooking and dominating Roseau.  A beacon on the hill.

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An 80 feet steeple is architecturally not high by international or even regional standards; for example  13th century Chartres Cathedral steeple stands 375 feet tall.  But Bishop Monaghan in 1855 clearly succeeded in creating the effect of an imposing cathedral on the hill, the Catholic Church dominant and triumphant !

 

 

 

 

But it is also the symbol of the Catholic Church , who like Mother  Mary as Our Lady of Fair  Haven places God’s protection over God’s  people in Roseau and throughout  the  Diocese. This historical role of the church in Dominica has been forgotten by many, even by some of our clergy.  The traditional role of offering refuge and protection to the poor, the sick, the weak and the destitute by the Catholic Church resulted in the establishment of an orphanage  in 1866 by Bishop Poirier . The early establishment of pre-schools by the Social Center and its many other programs for troubled teens and adolescents today. Also Calls (Center for adolescents to love, to learn and to serve ) in Portsmouth is doing a wonderful job.  The Alpha Center and the out reach to the elderly (REACH , CARE in Portsmouth and the Infirmary)  were started and staffed by religious sisters up to recently. Did we forget Sr. Maria Eelen starting the group of elderly in Woodfordhill?  Did we forget Sr. Madeleine’s pioneering work with the homeless in Roseau and her role in setting up of the Grotto home?   Do we forget the many works of St. Vincent de Paul Society ?  The role of the Catholic Church in establishing quality education for all” in each parish during the latter half of the 19th century against the opposition of the British administration” (see Lennox Honychurch the Dominica story).  Sr. Alicia’s setting up of the first cooperative Credit Union in Giraudel in 1957 which has blossomed into a huge network and propelled the economic development of ordinary people forward in the island.  All these initiatives and works had their roots in the spirituality and social teaching of the Catholic Church.  Remember this, next time you look at this imposing Cathedral !

The Diocesan Archives record that a lot of renovation work took place between 1902 and 1910.  Actually, repairs were continually ongoing supported by “The Record Cathedral Bazaar” of 1907 and 1911 and other fundraising activities for the Cathedral.  Dr. Lennox Honychurch  provided me with a 1920 photograph , taken from the present SMA yard, which clearly shows the Cathedral surrounded by scaffolding.

french poem in crypt

Crypt where Redemptorist Brother Xavier was buried

My research into the burials in the crypt found a two page obituary of a Redemptorist Brother named Xavier.  From the “The Ecclesiastical bulletin of Roseau” we know that brother Xavier Lecointe,  C.Ss.R.  died on December 26, 1910 at the Roseau presbytery and was buried in the crypt.

He was born in St. Genois in Belgium on December 18,1862 and became an architect by training and profession before making his religious profession on October 28, 1892 at the age of  30.   He arrived in 1902 in Dominica where his architectural skills were very useful during the important renovation project of the Roseau Cathedral between 1902 and 1910.  He also worked on the Bishop’s house, St. Gerard’s Hall, the Roseau presbytery, the presbyteries and chapels at Laudat and Bellevue Chopin.”(Dioc. Archives)

   “No sooner had Bishop Schelfhaut been enthroned (1902) he was determined to build a new Bishop’s house.  The old one, a decayed, shaky, tiny hovel, was razed to the ground, and on its ruins Brother Xavier, C.Ss.R. an architect and master-mason, erected the beautiful and solid Bishop house which is the admiration of all visitors to the island.  Commenced about the end of 1902, it was completed and blessed before the end the following year.”(Dioc. Archives).

In 1909 Brother Xavier supervised the work on St. Gerard’s Hall ”   “A plan was drawn and Brother Xavier, in spite of his failing health, volunteered to supervise the work.  With his characteristic tenacity he brought it to completion, not however before being almost at death’s door.  The hall was blessed about the middle of December 1910, and the good Brother departed this life on December 26.”

Reading the Ecclesiastical bulletins of Roseau, it struck me how Religious Brothers and Sisters are hardly mentioned in these bulletins, except in an obituary.   I also noticed how their work, contributions and achievements remain unrecorded. The mighty and important ones write history: long forgotten architect Brother Xavier Lecointe, God’s architect , died at the age of 48, of extreme exhaustion after  8 years non-stop  designing and constructing buildings  in the larger Diocese of Roseau. He died in the presbytery of Roseau, a building which he built himself and was buried in the Crypt in the Cathedral he beautified.

In 1907 the roof of the Cathedral almost collapsed. We read in the Diocesan Archives: “Early in 1907, when closely examining the wooden pillars, which supported the roof of the Cathedral, it was noticed that they were altogether rotten at the base so that the roof had sunk already some 7 inches. It was more than time to replace them by something more sturdy and damp-proof. The wooden pillars were condemned and round  stone pillars and arches erected instead. The ceiling of the nave, built with local wood, proved to be so worm-eaten that individual boards were becoming loose here and there and accidents were to be feared. It had to be entirely renovated.  A new floor was laid down in the nave and Sanctuary, and the unsightly old pews replaced by brand-new ones.  When the renovation works were completed and the Cathedral painted inside and out ,  Redemptorist Brother Ildephonse Lepas ( + July 10, 1910)  decorated the Sanctuary and fixed two huge paintings from his own brush behind the altars of the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Virgin.” 

So , for a short period , from 1902-1910,  we found the names of God’s architect and God’s decorator. Both died  shortly after they completed their beautiful works. The results of their decisions, skills and work remained for all of us to see.