As we enter the dark, gloomy, moist area that is the Cathedral crypt, we immediately ask ourselves why candles are not burning in this burial place of the Bishops of Roseau.
The back wall has a painted white cross with black drapes painted above.
The painted black drapes, faded badly, continue along the side walls. Otherwise there is no decoration.
To the left and right of the white cross, on the back wall, is a barely readable French poem . I have been able to decipher this beautiful text with the help of a lot of learned friends, mainly local ones, some overseas and I thank each of them for this.
They are the 8th and 9th stanza of a POEM called “STANCES CHRETIENNES SUR L’HOMME” from the pen of Monsignor Olympe-Philippe GERBERT (1798 -1864), Bishop of Perpignan in France.
It can be found in its totally in his volume “LE CHANT DES CATACOMBES” on Google “Annales de philosophie chrétienne, Volumes 70-71” by Augustin Bonnetty, R. P. Laberthonnière, Charles Denis
« N’éteignez pas la lampe solitaire
Qui veille et luit dans un sombre caveau ;
N’éteignez pas l’espoir qui seul éclaire
La nuit du cœur et la nuit du tombeau.
Dieu lui réserve une fin magnifique ;
Il s’éteindra dans une autre clarté ;
Pour expirer, sa lueur prophétique
Attend un jour qui soit l’éternité. »
Rev. René-Stanislas LAVA, Redemptorist, was born in 1859 in Poperinge, Belgium and died in 1903 in Roseau Dominica, where he was doing God’s work the last 16 months of his life.
For several years a missionary in Belgium and Canada, he had, by his powerful sermons, converted many a sinner.
On April 15th, 1903, he arrived at Roseau and was attached to the Cathedral staff. A few months later he was in the grip of one of the most dreadful and dreaded of all tropical diseases, yellow fever, and died after only a few days’ illness, on September 13th, 1903.
From the Diocesan records we know that Rev. Fr. Patrick O’Reilly is also buried in the crypt :
“ But the angel of death was already hovering over Father O’Reilly and struck his fatal blow on 1st June 1882, not however in Roseau, but in New York whither he had gone, under medical advice, for the restoration of his health, which had been very badly impaired. Arrangements were made at once to have the earthly remains of the zealous priest of God conveyed to Roseau, the scene of his 20 years’ labour for the salvation of souls. Early in November the corpse arrived in Roseau, and after an imposing service at the cathedral, was conveyed to its last resting place in the vault beneath the St Joseph’s chapel”
From the “The Ecclesiastical bulletin of Roseau” we know that brother Xavier, C.Ss.R. died on December 26, 1911 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, the presbyteries and chapels at Laudat and Bellevue Chopin.