The history of the St. Ann’s church in Coulibistrie
Part 1 by Bernard Lauwyck
Coulibistrie had a wooden chapel covered with trash before 1892, which was blessed on July 27,1862 by Bishop R.C.M. Poirier, 3rd Bishop of Roseau (1858 – 1878) .
St. Ann , the mother of Mary and the powerful patroness of French Brittany was introduced by the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (the Eudist Order) who came to Dominica, after their fellow Eudist , Bishop Poirier, invited them.
Coulibistrie used to be part of the St. Joseph Parish, but became attached to the St. Peter’s Parish by Bishop Poirier’s Episcopal Degree of August 16, 1866.
At that time, Fr. Peter Lehaire, an Eudist Father was parish priest and devoted his time between Colihaut, Dublanc and Coulibistrie.
When Fr. Camil Marchal was appointed parish priest of the parish of St. Peter in January 1874 he found both church and presbytery in Colihaut in excellent condition, so “he turned his attention to Coulibistrie, where he built a presbytery, the first that ever existed in that locality. Up to that time the parish priest had to go by rowboat to Coulibistrie on certain Sunday mornings, sing High Mass and Vespers, and return the same day to Colihaut. In future he was able to remain from Sunday till Monday, or even to reside there as long as he deemed it necessary for the needs of the district.” (EBR)
Upon Fr. Camil Marchal’s death on Nov. 12 1876, Fr. Jules François Michel, former parish priest of St. Mark’s in Soufriere, was appointed forthwith as his successor.
It was during the long ministry of Fr. Michel that the present stone church in Coulibistrie was built. This church was built of natural stone, which can be found in the nearby river and beach. It has a rectangular shape with a length of 59 feet and is 32 feet wide, The apse is half -circular. Four stone buttresses were placed at the corners.
This church was solemnly blessed by Bishop Michael Naughten , 4th Bishop of Roseau (1880- 1900) on August 24, 1892.
When Fr. Jules Michel died on March 14, 1901 he was buried in the church in Coulibistrie. A memorial plaque in the church commemorate him. Fr Jules François Michel was a French priest, who was ordained in 1865 in the Roseau Cathedral, became parish priest of St. Peter in 1876.
According to THE ECCLESIASTICAL BULLETIN OF ROSEAU (EBR 1924) he was a very energetic priest and a strict disciplinarian with a temper.
In 1904 the FMI fathers took over the parish and Fr. Theodore Gerbier FMI constructed a brand –new presbytery at Coulibistrie described as “the lower storey of which is in stone and the upper storey, with a fine gallery all round, in wood ” (EBR).
I found no reports of damage to this church during the 1916 hurricane, which caused so much devastation in Colihaut, nor the 1928 and 1930 hurricanes.
Fr. Jean Guéry FMI ( + ) was the parish priest in Colihaut at the time of the devastation caused by hurricane David on Aug 29 1979. He contacted his confreres in Guadeloupe and the church roof in Coulibistrie was replaced in the shortest possible time.
In 2004 new beautiful stained glass windows were installed by Fr. Elveau Augustine. A new concrete choirloft and ceramic floor tiles, covering the old flat stone floor, were added also.