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