THE SAN SAUVEUR CHURCH

Interior of the Church at San Sauveur, Dominica

Interior of the Church at San Sauveur, Dominica

The Parish Church of the Parish of San Sauveur was destroyed many times by hurricanes in its history. 

Its history speaks to the resilience of the Catholics of Pte Soufriere, San Sauveur and Good Hope and the tenacity of the FMI missionaries who worked with among them.

Its location on the edge of GRAND MARIGOT bay, close to the Atlantic Ocean, has caused it to suffer greatly from a deeply penetrating sea blast and heavy winds.

On the sixth of August 1864,  Bishop Poirier took possession of a large area that he managed to purchase for a very low price on the windward side of Dominica.  In memory of the church that he blessed in his hometown Redon (in French Brittany ), he called the property  “Saint-Sauveur”.   It was also known as Grand Marigot.  It comprised a complete valley with two hills full with trees. It is watered by two rivers that empty in the Atlantic Ocean in a magnificent bay.

At Sauveur , there was neither church nor chapel; and at Petite Soufriere, about one mile to the south of St. Sauveur, Bishop Poirier offered Holy Mass in the house of Mr. St. Ville, a local patriarch.

In February 1872 the Sons of Mary Immaculate (FMI) , or Fathers of Chavagnes, arrived in Dominica.  The parish of St. Sauveur, stretching from the Pagua River in the North to Delices in the South  was confided to the care of Fr.  Rondard, F.M.I., who was soon succeeded by  Fr. Challet, F.M.I.

Father Berthomé  FMI  was appointed parish priest of St. Sauveur in 1877.  He started the first parish church in masonry at San Sauveur, which was solemnly blessed and opened for divine service in August 1879. When Bishop Naughten paid his first pastoral visit to the district in June 1880, the church  at St. Sauveur was finished, but had no doors and windows.  Sadly enough, three years later, in September 1883, a hurricane badly damaged the new church.   Fr. Berthomé  set out to repair the damage done to the church and built a brand new presbytery.  

On August 28th 1913,  a terrible hurricane struck the island again.  The parish church of St. Sauveur, a massive stone-building, erected by Fr.  Berthomé FMI , was reduced to  “a heap of shapeless ruins”.

Fr. Justin Delès  FMI  started a new church building in 1918, which was solemnly blessed on the 18th April 1923, dedicated to the Holy Saviour. This church lost its roof during the hurricane of September 1930.

In 1965, a new roof was constructed by Fr. Michel Baty FMI. Between 1967 and 1968 the church was completely renovated and new pews were installed.

On August 29,1979 hurricane DAVID destroyed the roof of the church once more. Materials had to be brought in by boat to repair both the church and the presbytery.

renovation in 2004

renovation in 2004

The latest renovation of the San Sauveur church was initiated by Rev. Fathers Jean Martin FMI and  Michel Favalier FMI.    Fr. Jean Martin renovated the windows and placed green, yellow, blue, burgundy plexiglass panes which enhanced the feeling of church. He also collected White Cedar boards in the parish and let the SMP workshop construct new pews.

Church in San Sauveur

in 2003,  Fr. Michel Favalier started the replacement of the roof as the church was leaking badly.  This and additional renovation was completed under Fr. Herman Sharplis FMI by 2006.

Financial assistance was obtained from the German Conference of Bishops through  ADVENIAT and  the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome.  The great assistance, in cash and in kind,  of a twinning  St. Anthony parish in the US,  under the leadership of Fr Len Wenke, was extremely helpful.  St. Anthony’s purchased on my advice stainless steel bolts and shipped them down.  I also specified  stainless steel roofing sheets, hinges, nails and hurricane ties, all of stainless steel quality. The shutters were constructed in Coubaril timber.

The local contractor was Mr. Donald Augustine, who did a commendable job.   Teacher Cynthia Stevenson spearheaded the local fundraising.

The church, once parish church of the San Sauveur Parish,  has been the location of many “heritage day” celebrations and is a pride to its community.

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