Category Archives: OLD CHURCHES and CHAPELS

The church of Our Lady of Health in CASTLE BRUCE – its history

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Fr. Vrignaud was  the builder of Castle Bruce church  in 1953

Fr. Vrignaud is the builder of Castle Bruce church anno 1953

In 1863 Bishop Rene Poirier , third Bishop of Roseau (1859-1878) made a pastoral visit along the windward coast of the island.  He described the chapel at Castle Bruce  as  “a hovel of a chapel covered with straw.

In February 1872 the Sons of Mary Immaculate, or Fathers of Chavagnes, arrived in Dominica.  Bishop Poirier  undertook, at the age of 72, the long and tiresome ride to the windward side of the island in order to install the french Fathers in their respective parishes.  Having first visited La Plaine and La Roche, he rode as far north as Castle Bruce, where he was received with manifestations of unbounded joy.  He asked the faithful to restore their chapel and build a presbytery if they wished to have regular Holy Mass in their hamlet; until those buildings were erected they would have to go to St. Sauveur for Holy Mass.

In  June 1880,  Bishop Michael Naughten , fourth Bishop of Roseau  (1880-1900), paid his first pastoral visit to the windward district. The church of Rosalie was nearing completion; the  one at St. Sauveur was almost finished.  Castle Bruce was also visited on this occasion.   “As His Lordship does not mention any chapel, in that important hamlet, it is supposed that the chapel which existed there twenty years before had fallen into decay and never been reconstructed” quote from THE ECCLESIASTICAL BULLETIN OF THE DIOCESE OF ROSEAU  (EBR)

Many years passed and nothing seems to have been done : in 1927  regret is expressed that a church has not been built in Castle Bruce and that the parishioners have to cross two, sometime swollen,  rivers to attend Holy Mass at San Sauveur.

Bishop James Moris,  sixth Bishop of Roseau (1922- 1957) , saw the great need for   a church in Castle Bruce and  obtained from  Mrs. Johnson, the owner of the Castle Bruce Estate, 4 acres of  land for this purpose.

In 1940  he mentioned that  the faithful of Castle Bruce, over 700 in number, are gathering native lumber, in order to build a large chapel .

It took however the arrival of  Fr. Pascal Vrignaud  FMI to make this longtime dream come true. On August 12, 1952  Bishop Antoon Demets C.Ss.R. , Coadjutor Bishop of Roseau (1946-1954), blessed the corner stone of the new church at Castle Bruce. It was a grand occasion .

By July 1954 the church was almost completed but some doors & windows and interior fixtures still had to be completed. The church “solid,  all in mason work of 20″ or 18″ thickness and surmounted by a graceful tower was the pride of the people of Castle Bruce.” ( The Dominica Chronicle July 24, 1954)

The stones for the church came from the ruins of the old sugar factory of the  Castle Bruce estate. Fr.  Pascal got permission from the owner to remove and use them  (source : Dr. Lennox Honychurch).

As Fr. Pascal’s health failed him and he left to recuperate in France it became the task of Fr. Hilaire Maupetit FMI to complete the church.

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The Castle Bruce church, without the bell tower, after the damage caused by the earthquake of November 29, 2007

The Castle Bruce church from 1953 till 2007

The Castle Bruce church from 1953 till 2007

The Parish of Our Lady, Health of the sick was canonically erected on February 2, 1954 by Bishop James Moris C.Ss.R, extending from the Pagua River to the Castle Bruce River , including, beyond the Castle Bruce River, the hamlets of Dix Pas and Tranto. This large area was before a part of the Parish of St. Saviour (which was canonically erected on February 8, 1866 by Bishop Poirier C.M.).

By July 1954 the parish church of Our Lady of Health was almost completed. The doors & windows and interior fixtures were installed at a later date by Fr. Hilaire Maupetit FMI, Fr. Pascal’s successor.
The church, surmounted by a graceful tower, became the pride of the people of Castle Bruce.

Fr. Pascal Vrignaud returned to Castle Bruce and was living there in 1978 when Dr. Lennox Honychurch painted the mural behind the altar. Father Pascal sat for his own portrait.

Another important event in the history of this parish church was the extensive damage caused at 3 p.m. on November 29, 2007 by an earthquake. The 2007 Martinique earthquake took place underneath the Martinique Passage and had a magnitude of 7.4 on the Richter Scale.
Damage was located in three areas of this beautiful historical building: the tower, the sanctuary walls including the mural and the pointed arched windows.

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The church was declared unsafe and the community had services in the Government Primary School for several months.
The damage to the church amounted to more than EC $ 200,000.00. As the building was under- insured the pay-out from the insurance was insufficient to do all necessary repairs and reconstruction.
For public safety reasons, the bell tower, cracked from top to bottom, was demolished in February and March 2008 to avoid danger to the public. The bell named PASCALINA MARIA was stored away for future use.
The parishioners moved back into their church on Palm Sunday the 16th of March 2008 although the windows still had to be replaced and repaired. This was done during the months of June- July 2008. The building was also completely rewired and repainted.

Today, almost 10 years after the November 2007 earthquake, the present parish priest Fr. Godfrey Tarimo is constructing a new tower, which will house the old bell.

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Dominica’s National Shrine

Finishing touches by Caesar Catin at the National Shrine

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SANCTUS SANCTUS SANCTUS- HOLY HOLY HOLY

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CEILING WITH STARS

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PROGRESS in Pointe Michel church after the fire (22th July 2016)

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photograph of October 31, 2016

The cleaning and painting works are advancing slowly but surely at the Dominica’s National Shrine at Pointe Michel.

Below are some images from  October 21,  2016.

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THE OLD and BEAUTIFUL CHURCH in SOUFRIERE

By Bernard Lauwyck

One of our oldest and most beautiful churches in the Diocese of Roseau is the church in Soufriere. This small church is worth visiting as it is a real treasure.
soufriere tiling July 2008 007

Over the last 10 years a huge amount of work was done by several priests to preserve and beautify this church and I am honoured to have been part of every phase of restoration and renovation.

The Parish Church of the St. Mark’s Parish was built by Rev. Fr. Antoine Auguste VERGNE of the FMI congregation (Pères de Chavagnes, France). He became Parish Priest of Soufriere on the 21st of December 1876 and remained at Soufriere till his death, 30 years later, on 31st July 1906. His dedication and tremendous efforts in this parish were recognized in a memorial plaque in the church.

On his arrival in the parish in 1876, he met a dilapidated church building, which in his own words was “unworthy of the God of Tabernacles”. He first extended the sanctuary and constructed a new sacristy behind it. Then the existing Marian chapel , “Chapelle de la Vierge” was enlarged. To make the church cruciform, another side-chapel was erected on the opposite side. All walls of the old church building and the roof were raised to their proper height. But Fr. Vergne did not stop there : a choir loft was added and a magnificent belfry with winding staircases, all in concrete. He finally imported from France, three beautiful marble altars and a baptismal font to match them. The installation of brand new church pews and “artistically “ iron-wrought Communion Railings completed the beautiful church.Soufriere Baptismal font for article

Some of his works, especially the exquisite tabernacle and baptismal font and part of the communion rails can still be admired today.

Sadly the high Altar was broken up in pieces after Vatican II to create the present altar and the tabernacle stand.

The yearly pilgrimage of Our Lady of Lourdes was initiated by Fr. Henry Lorieau on February 11, 1914, with the approval of Bishop Philip Schelfhaut C.Ss.R, fifth Bishop of Roseau (1902–1921). This pilgrimage has met astonishing success every year since, up to this day.

In 1995, hurricane Luis removed part of the roof, which was promply repaired by Fr. Clement Jolly, C.Ss.R.

In 2004 Monsignor William John Lewis, with the assistance of DJ sister Jeannette Pelletier, started the renovation of roof and ceiling of the Soufriere church. These works done by a local team were conducted by foremen Peltier and Etienne. Electrical and painting works followed, the latter done by Diocesan workers.

The next phase in the renovation works was the tiling of the floor with marble tiles, donated by Food For the Poor (USA). I prepared a beautiful lay out with the diverse tiles. Francis Daisy did the tiling in July 2008.

tile design for Soufriere church in2008

tile design for Soufriere church in2008

New pews  were constructed in the SMA workshop as funding became available.

Since hurricane David, the once beautiful stained glass windows were in deplorable and damaged condition. Below are some of my photographs of the damaged windows.

In May 2014, Kelvin Cardinal Felix, Parish priest of St. Mark’s, installed three new Stained Glass windows, designed and produced by Vison Art Glass in Canada. It is the cardinal’s hope to continue the replacement of all the 18 windows.
Take some time off and visit this most beautiful church in Soufriere
 

Since hurricane David, the once beautiful stained glass windows were in deplorable and damaged condition.

In May 2014, Kelvin Cardinal Felix, Parish priest of St. Mark’s, installed three new Stained Glass windows, designed and produced by Vison Art Glass in Canada. It is the cardinal’s hope to continue the replacement of all the 18 windows.

Take some time off and visit this most beautiful church in Soufriere Continue reading

The exquisite church of MASSACRE in Dominica

The St. Paul and St. Ann church in Massacre is one of the most beautiful churches in Dominica.

x interior of St. Paul and St Ann's church in Massacre

 In 1987,  I worked with Fr. Franklyn Cuffy C.Ss.R. to construct a new roof and install a roof covering. architectural detail Massacre Church

Many years later, I got the opportunity to bring out the beauty of this church in and out, when Fr. Rodney Olive C.Ss.R. teamed up with Mrs. Nancy Nassief to bring Caribbean colours to this church.
Massacre church

The colour scheme proved quite durable as 10 years later the Massacre church still looks fabulous !!!

The stained glass windows were renovated by Bernard Clerici when Fr. Clement Jolly was Parish Priest.

Blessed Sacrament in Massacre church

Blessed Sacrament in Massacre church

Massacre church stained glass

Sacred Heart window in Massacre church

Sacred Heart window in Massacre church

St. Patrick’s church in Grandbay

beautiful interior of St. parick's church in GRANDBAY

beautiful interior of St. Patrick’s church in GRANDBAY  in 2010 and below 2015

Grandbay June 20 2015

101_PANA-P1010138_P1010138Grandbay church tower

On 25 November 1866, René Marie- Charles Poirier, third Bishop of Roseau wrote to the Propagation of the Faith in Rome “The parish of “Grande-Baie”, ancient mission of the Jesuits, has been abandoned since. The chapel is in ruins, without roof, without door, without windows, and overtaken by bushes ” After the Jesuits abandoned their Geneva estate before 1764 , the Catholic Church never regained possession of the Geneva estate although the use of the chapel and burial ground on that estate continued. This was not without problems. In 1844 there was a violence in the Grandbay area and one of the reasons was “that the attorney of these properties had caused the Roman Catholic Chapel on the Geneva Estate to be locked up which gave great offence”. Attempts by Bishop Poirier in 1866 to secure the portion of land around the chapel for the Catholic Church from the Geneva estate legal owners proved unsuccessful, so a new church was built at the outskirts of the Geneva estate. This parish church, located in the neighbourhood of the present church tower, was the first church in Dominica to be solemnly consecrated. This was in early 1905.101_PANA-P1010151_P1010151 The first time we read about the present parish church in Grandbay , outside the Geneva Estate, is in the Ecclesiastical Bulletin of 1919: “The Bishop left Roseau for Grandbay on April 28, 1919 and held, on the following day, the confirmation service, after the Solemn High Mass, sung by the Rev. Fr. Baudry, FMI, Parish Priest of La Plaine. The presence of 8 priests in the sanctuary enhanced the solemnity and the impressiveness of the Divine Service. 250 confirmation candidates, with their godfathers and godmothers, filled the church. It was, on this occasion, observed once more that the large parish of Grandbay needed a larger church. Rumor has it that the parish priest Fr. Francois had renounced his plans to enlarging the present parochial church, and was, with the Bishop’s approval, determined upon building a new, spacious church.” The parish had increased to well over 4,000 inhabitants, nearly all Catholics. It was decided to build a new church, much larger and much more beautiful than the existing one. Works were started in 1921 and it was considered that it would require 2 years to complete. But, owing to the unforeseen rise in the cost of building materials all available money was spent long before the walls were finished and the people, on account of the trying times, were unable to help, though they showed much good will in voluntary labour.     (sources The Ecclesiastical bulletin of Roseau and the history written by James Moris)Grandbay bell tower .(sources The Ecclesiastical bulletin of Roseau and the history written by James Moris) The present church was renovated with rust proof Aluminium sheets in 1989. At that time it lost the “gargoyles” or waterspouts, an architectural element which reminded the parishioners of devils. The floor was beautifully tiled by Fr. Krastel C.ss. R with a financial grant from Fr. Albert Lamothe (+ 2010). He also expanded the cemetery. Fr. Mark Owen C.Ss.R set up a hardworking pew or bench committee under the chairmanship of president Liverpool. He also replaced the concrete blocks in the windows with timber shutters with stainless steel hooks and stained glass, redid the sacristy, built the choir stalls in the choir loft, and installed a new PA system. Very Rev. Fr. Mark Owen C.Ss.R also brought out the beauty of the architecture of this church by painting it with the colours green and gold/orange, colours associated with the Irish saint St. Patrick. In 2010, Most Rev. Kelvin Felix, archbishop emeritus, replaced the rest of the church pews and added the sanctuary screen and celebrant’s chair.Grandbay celebrant chairs

photograph by Monsignor William John Lewis

photograph by Monsignor William John Lewis

Some of the old wooden church pews, still made with hand tools, were salvaged and refinished. The beautiful church, which you should visit, reminds each of us of the strong faith of the parishioners of St. Patrick’s parish, both past and present.GRANDBAY church

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.