Many people are not aware that there is a beautiful catholic chapel in Pichelin, as it is located from the road. The idea for the chapel was proposed by Monsignor William John Lewis. I had the honour to design it and carefully choose the materials for the building. The late Elliot Rolle (+2010) was the contractor. It was completed in 1991 and blessed on December 1, 1991 by the late Bishop Arnold Boghaert (+1993), while the late Fr. Jerome Moody(+2006) was parish priest of Grandbay. The chapel feast is the Epihany
by Bernard Lauwyck
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) ]
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.
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..”
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.
In this second article on the history of the St. Alphonsus’ church, I am heavily indebted to and grateful for the work of Mr. Kenneth A. Richards. His publication “AMIDST THE SUGAR CANES” published in 1991 is a wonderful source of history.
On August 29, 1979 Hurricane David caused severe damage to the first St. Alphonsus’ church, which was started in December 1929 and dedicated and blessed by Bishop James Moris on October 5, 1930. The roof was torn off, windows blown out . Many arches, columns and walls were severely cracked and damaged beyond repair. The congregation moved to the downstairs of the St. Alphonsus Parish Hall for worship.
The damaged old church was demolished in 1985 and it took till May 20, 1987 before the groundbreaking ceremony for the new church was performed by Fr. Francis Huysmans, Vicar General.
The new church was designed by a Trinidadian architect Geoffrey Maclean and the engineers were the local firm Consulting Engineering Partnership. A scale model was prepared and put on display. An intensive fundraising drive was started.
The local firm L. Luke and Sons Construction was contracted to construct the church in phases. Shortly after the commencement of the works, Fr. Eustace Thomas left to continue his studies and Fr. Paul Loncke C.Ss. R. was appointed parish priest. The task of building a new church fell then on his shoulders. In this task he was ably assisted by the Reconstruction Committee comprising of Mr. Sheridon Jno Baptiste, Dr. Desmond McIntyre, Mr. Jerome Robinson, Mrs. Adwina Magloire and Ms Molly Fontaine., Mrs. Zena Boyd and Mrs. Rona Fingal.
During the years that Fr Charles Martin was parish priest vegetable soil from the Holy Redeemer Retreat Center in Eggleston was sourced and the area around the church was landscaped, fenced and planted under the supervision of the Landscaping Committee, comprising of Mr. Jerome Robinson, Mr. Milton green, Mrs Adwina Magloire, Mrs. Zena Boyd and Mrs. Rona Fingal. During that time, the interior church was also painted by the late calypsonian Roland James “Spider” under the direction of Mrs. A. Magloire. Due to the height of the church, this was quite a dangerous and complicated job.
All the prayers, patience , work and fund raising finally paid off when on the second of August 1999 the new church was solemnly Blessed and Dedicated to St. Alphonsus by Bishop Edward Gilbert, eighth Bishop of Roseau . Fr. Reginald La Fleur was the Parish priest at the time.
When Father, later to be Monsignor, Reginald LaFleur became Parish Priest , he proceeded with the building of beautiful stone walls and metal fencing around the church.
In all the work he did, he was ably assisted by the Fundraising Committee : members : Mrs. Jossie Stevenson, , Mr. Milton Green, Ms. Debra Grell, Ms. Stella Giddens, Mrs. Veronica Younis, Ms. Sherita Gregoire, Mrs. Carol Abraham, Ms. Cloudette Casimir, Mrs. Joycie Alfred, Mrs. Evelyn Guye and Ms. Molly Fontaine.
When Monsignor Eustace Thomas returned to the parish, as Parish Priest, in 2008, he was keen to enhance the liturgical space and the surroundings of the church. In August 2010 a new stained glass window was installed with the crucified Christ as theme. Sometime later , two new stained glass windows, with the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin as themes, were added.
Recently the steps and the patio in from of the church were tiled and an entrance gate installed. Painting works of the church are ongoing presently.
The next step will be the upgrading and development of the church grounds in front of the church . This will enhance the whole church environment.
Part 1 by Bernard Lauwyck
In 1929 the Roseau Parish had three out-stations. THE ECCLESIASTICAL BULLETIN OF ROSEAU (EBR) described that “in the country districts chapels-of-ease existed at Bellevue [Chopin], Morne Prosper and Laudat.” In Giraudel, Holy Mass was celebrated in a “good-sized house of a planter”. No mention was made of Charlotteville (Newtown) , Loubiere, Trafalgar or Wotten Waven till much later.
“On account of the influx of country people to Roseau and especially the Goodwill quarter, it was decided to build a new church . To this end, Mr. Francis Potter, owner of the Goodwill estate, kindly made a grant of [ a portion of land measuring] 100 x 200 feet, to which he added somewhat later another grant for the purpose of building a parochial school. [EBR]. This land was were located in an area called “Balahou Town” now called Pottersville.
The foundations were laid in December 1929, under the supervision of a French priest of the FMI order named Fr. Barreau. The Fils de Marie Immaculée (FMI) or Pères de Chavagne had a proven record of building churches and schools all over Dominica.
“Under the direction of Mr. Ralph E.A. Nicholls the church was started in January 1930, rose from the ground as by magic and at the end of September it was ready to be solemnly blessed.” (EBR)
The church was rectangular with at the front an imposing flight of steps. It was described as follows : “ It has three aisles and extends from east to west 116 feet and from north to south 48 ft. The nave is marked off from the side aisles by seven elegant pillars, connected by elegant arches. Two larger, but equally graceful arches span the sanctuary, which with its two high windows and window in the middle is a marvel of beauty. : In fact, a more devotional interior it would be difficult to conceive. ” (EBR)
It seems that the communion rail and the Stations of the Cross were also very beautiful.
The blessing , performed by Bishop James Moris, a Redemptorist, took place on October 5, 1930. The patron saint of the church was St. Alphonsus Ligouri, the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer or Redemptorists. Much later did this church become the parish church of the Parish of St. Alphonsus, which was canonically established on February 2, 1954. The parish was administered by Belgian Redemptorists Fathers for many years till the local clergy took over .
In 1957, the newly ordained local priest Kelvin Felix was posted to the parish. According to Kenneth Richards, Fr. Felix was the one who “arranged for the old wooden windows in the church to be replaced with metal and glass windows, giving the place of worship a more lightsome appearance.” AMIDST THE SUGAR CANES- 1991- Kenneth A. Richards.
On August 29, 1979 Hurricane David caused severe damage to this almost 50 year old church. The roof was torn off, windows blown out . Many arches and columns were cracked and damaged beyond repair.
The task of building a new church fell on the shoulders of Fr. Eustace Thomas.