On his pastoral visit in June 1860 Bishop Poirier stopped at La Roche / Victoria where he found a neat little presbytery, nearly finished, and a church under construction.
“… the people of that quarter have done all the work without any assistance…” wrote Bishop Poirier with admiration .
The church was built while Fr. Jacques Souquieres was the resident priest in the La Plaine district. As he was such a dedicated priest , now almost forgotten, I wanted to tell you more about him.
In 1850 Fr. Souquières was “curé et aumônier de l’hospital” (parish priest and chaplain of the hospital) on the island Terre de Haut, Les Saintes. (source : LA FRANCE ECCLÉSIASTIQUE: ALMANACH DU CLERGÉ ).
Born in the Diocese of Clermont, France, Fr. Jacques Souquières came soon after his ordination as a young priest to the French Antilles.
What exactly transpired during his ministry there, I could not find out but in LES ARCHIVES NATIONAL DE FRANCE, we read that “ SOUQUIÈRES, attaché au clergé de la Guadeloupe” was fired (“Licencié” ) from his post on June 28, 1850.
Next we find him in the Register of the parishes of St. John’s and St. Andrew’s as the successor to Father Olivacce , who had to leave Portsmouth in 1850 after two years ministry because of the climate. It was actually Fr. Souquières who completed the church steeple in Portsmouth. He also attended to the St. Andrew’s Parish until the arrival of Fr. De Lettre in October 1852.
On the 10th of January 1855, shortly befor his death, Bishop Monaghan, first Bishop of Roseau, paid his first visit to Portsmouth . Fr. Jacques Souquieres had just returned from a 6 months recuperation leave in France as he was suffering with malaria fever.
Unable to bear the swampy air of Portsmouth any longer, Fr. Souquieres volunteered to move to a healthier district in Dominica.
As the Bishop was anxious to have a resident priest in the isolated area of Dominica’s east coast, he asked Fr. Souquires to take in hand the whole eastern mission. The zealous missionary accepted the invitation and on April 13, 1855 he went there as resident priest, despite suffering from repeated attacks of malaria fever.
From all records, he did all in his power to bring his parishioners nearer to God but recurrent malaria attacks left him so exhausted that he could attend only to the most urgent needs of the immense district under his care. After 4 years alone in the district, an elderly French priest, Father Allouard, was sent to La Plaine to assist him . But Fr. Allouard did not like his new post and left in the early months of 1860, after only a three months stay.
In November 1860, Fr. Souquieres became so exhausted that he had to resign his office . He left for France on May 23, 1861, broken in health, accompanied by Bishop Poirier. Hélas, too weak to travel, he died at sea on board the frigate LA SYBILLE, on the 7th of July 1861. With his death his 12 years mission to the Antilles came to an end.
Bishop Moris described him “A saintly priest , burning with zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls ”, who “established the parish of la Plaine on a definite footing”.