The St. Peter’s church in Colihaut: the location of Fr. Paddington remains
In two previous articles I published my research on the first black priest in Dominica named Fr. George Paddington, who died in 1851.
In these I cited from several sources, but had very little to present from local sources. I have now found a local source which confirms most of my research and places Fr. George Paddington in a new light. It seems that in the short period, less than two years, that he was living and serving in the St. Peter’s Parish in Colihaut, he must have made quite an impression on the local population.
The local source is THE DOMINICA COLONIST, a newspaper that was not known to be pro-Catholic. Indeed in several issues, I found articles against the “popish religion” (= Catholicism) and in support of the Wesleyan missions and the established church, meaning the Church of England.
Therefore I found, to my great surprise, a very positive OBITUARY of Revd. George J. Paddington in the DOMINICA COLONIST of November 22, 1851.
This could only have been because he was an extraordinary saintly priest.
And I quote: “It is with feelings of the deepest regret, that we have this day to record the death of the Revd. GEORGE J. PADDINGTON, Roman Catholic
Curate of the Parish of Saint Peter – aged 50 years, which melancholy event took place at the presbytery in Roseau, this day at 2 o’clock, after a short illness of eight days.
Mr. Paddington was a colored gentlemen and a native of Kerry in Ireland. His pious and virtuous habits in early life did not fail to attract the notice of several high dignitaries of his Church – among whom we may mention the names of the Bishops of Cork and Kerry. At a later period, yielding to the Divine call he unhesitatingly sacrificed the most favourable prospects of worldly aggrandizement and joined that ministry, of which, to the close of his life, he was a distinguished ornament and most worthy labourer. After having devoted a part of his life to the study of Theology in Rome, he proceeded to St. Domingo [ present day HAITI ], but in consequence of the despotic and tyrannical policy of the government of that country with which his liberal and enlightened spirit could not agree, he left on a tour through the islands, with the intention of proceeding afterwards to his native country; but having landed in Trinidad he was induced at the solicitation of His Grace the Archbishop of Port of Spain, Dr. SMITH, to alter his resolve and to accept a mission in this island, where he arrived in September 1849. From that period this, his zeal in his Master’s cause was unremitting, and his exertions indefatigable.
In fact there cannot be any doubt that his death was exacerbated by his exertion in responding to the calls of the dying, during the Influenza in his parish, being night and day in attendance, and having often to travel at a great distance on foot to the mountainous parts to administer the last comforts of religion.”
In “PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS, HOUSE OF COMMONS AND COMMAND – GREAT BRITAIN. PARLIAMENT”, we read that many islands such as Jamaica and St. Lucia were heavily stricken by Cholera between 1849 and 1850. Dominica however was spared this ordeal but had a flu or influenza epidemic during that period. From reading the above obituary, it seems that this flu caused many deaths in Dominica.
Let us go back to the obituary in THE DOMINICA COLONIST :
“As a clergyman, Mr. Paddington was without blemish; as a friend he was sincere and devoted. To these who were under his spiritual charge, his loss is irreparable, and to his friends, his death must ever be a subject of mournful contemplation.”
And then comes a very interesting piece of information, because Dominica was full of religious strife and discord at the time:
“The Passing Bell announcing that his spirit had winged its flight to the region of immortality had no sooner commenced that it was joined by that of the St. George’s [Anglican] Church and a solemn funeral peal was tolled. This is as it should be. In death there is no difference – A Minister of Christ had gone to his reward and his Brethren in the Ministry, although of another denomination, joined to announce to them the mournful but to him blissful event.
His funeral obsequies will be performed at the [Catholic] church in Town, on Friday morning – after which his remains will be conveyed to St. Peter’s- His parishioners having requested that he should be there interred.”
Fr. George(s) Paddington, a saintly black priest, buried in the Colihaut church, has since that time been forgotten in Dominica .
Fr. George Paddington, the first black priest in Dominica
Part 2 by Bernard Lauwyck
The St. Peter’s church in Colihaut: the location of Fr. Paddington burial
A few weeks ago I promised to let you know more about the first black priest in Dominica, Rev. Fr. George or Georges PADDINGTON.
I did not get back to you earlier as I was waiting for a book named “STAMPED WITH THE IMAGE OF GOD, African Americans as God’s Image in Black” which I hoped would provide me with additional information . Was I disappointed with the paucity of information on him, when I received this otherwise very interesting book !
The authors describe Fr. Paddington as “ a very important historical figure in black Catholic history ” as “one of the first priests of African descent outside Africa”.
They got access to his letters written in 1836 from Haiti to the Blessed Pierre Toussaint, an ex-slave in New York, who will be recognized as a black saint soon. These letters are stored on a microfilm in the New York Public Library. An interesting bit of information is that Fr. George came from an acrobat family in Ireland. Arthur Jones the author of “PIERRE TOUSSAINT, A BIOGRAPHY” refers several times to Fr. Paddington’s letters. He claims that these letters are extremely important for historians of black Catholicism.
While I waited on the above mentioned book, I continued my research in French and English documents as I realised that I was breaking new ground with my own research on this black priest buried in Colihaut .
What did I find out from different sources ?
In 1836 Paddington wrote his letters from Haiti to Pierre Toussaint . He had gone to Haiti as an Irish seminarian and his command of French, a language he needed to minister in Haiti, was weak. He received both the minor and the major orders, and was ordained on 21 May 1836 in Port-au-Prince by an US Bishop named John England of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina. Most Rev. England, who at the time was Apostolic Delegate of Haiti, was originally from the same Irish Diocese as Paddington, which might have played a role in the selection of Fr. Paddington .
Around 1839, George Paddington wrote that he was planning to go and finish his studies in Rome and France .
Fr. Paddington is several times mentioned in “L’HISTOIRE RELIGIEUSE D’HAITI” , “LES MISSIONS CATHOLIQUES FRANÇAISES AU XIXE SIÈCLE/ MISSIONS D’AMÉRIQUE” and “HISTOIRE D’HAÏTI, VOL. 8”.
In April 1843 Fr. Georges can be placed at “the College de la Propagande”, an international seminary in Rome, where he met Abbé Tisserand, a man who was determined to bring the gospel to the descendents of African slaves.
Fr. Paddington returned to Haiti with Abbé Tisserand . “Abbé Georges Paddington, du diocèse de Kerry, en Irlande ” left Le Havre in France on the 3rd of February 1845 for Haiti on an oceanliner. They arrived at Jacmel in Haiti on the first of March 1845.
“A few excellent Priests, for the greater part members of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Mary, instituted for the conversion of the negroes, were sent to Haiti, under the direction of l’Abbé Tisserand… The Haitian people then, at length, saw Priests full of zeal, disinterested, pure in morals, and who—strangers to the dissensions of party [politics]—limited their ambition to the saving of souls, to the enlightening of the ignorant, to succouring the poor and visiting the sick. Unhappily, the title of Prefect Apostolic, with which Tisserand had been invested by the Holy See… excited much opposition in Haiti, and the Government refused to acknowledge him. ” extract from THE TABLET archives of June 1846.
As the situation in Haiti became untenable, due to the Haitian government’s restrictions on clergy, Fr. Paddington left and travelled to Trinidad, an island with many French colonists.
Bishop Richard P. Smith wrote from Port of Spain (Trinidad) on November 4, 1849 to Cardinal Fransoni, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide that Abbé Paddington had arrived in Trinidad from Santo Domingo, about two months before. Smith advised Paddington to report to the Cardinal everything relating to the Mission of Haiti, and to await orders . In the mean time Bishop Smith gave him a post on Dominica . Bishop Smith concluded that he had learned that Fr. Paddington “ is doing much good, and that he is respected and esteemed” in Dominica. [Source: Archives of Propaganda Fide, Rome SOCG 1849-1850 (v. 971) fols 136-145. In French]
In Dominica, Fr. George(s) Paddington was appointed parish priest of St. Peter’s in Colihaut . He mostly resided at Dublanc. Two years after his arrival in Dominica on August 28, 1849 , he became incapacitated by illness. He died and was buried in the shadow of the little parish church in Colihaut, built by his predecessor. His remains were interred under the High Altar of the present St. Peter church in Colihaut, which was built in later years.
Fr. Paddington came with excellent credentials : Abbé Tisserand, his superior called him a pious priest: “ le pieux abbé Georges Paddington”.
The venerable Francis Liberman praised him as “one of our most fervent novices, a man who will rejoice your heart” quote from THE SPIRITUAL LETTERS OF THE VENERABLE FRANCIS LIBERMANN (1802-1852)
Fr. George(s) Paddington, a saintly black priest, buried in the Colihaut church, was forgotten in Dominica up till now.
by Bernard Lauwyck
The St. Peter’s church in Colihaut in 2014: the location of Fr. Paddington remains
Recently I got an e mail from New Orleans asking me if I could find anything about a priest named George Paddington in the records of our Diocese. At first I did not find anything at all, but as my curiosity was kindled I dug deeper and discovered some exciting information.
According to the records Rev. Fr. George “Parrington became parish priest of St. Peter’s [Parish in Dominica] ; but according to a vague souvenir of the population he mostly resided at Dublanc, a pretty large hamlet some two or three miles to the north of the village proper. His stay, however, was of short duration. Two years after his arrival in Dominica ,he became incapacitated by illness. He died before he was able to receive medical assistance, and was buried in the shadow of the little parish church built by his predecessor. His remains are under the High Altar of the present St. Peter church in Colihaut, built in later years.”
This information was published in November 1924 in the Ecclesiastical Bulletin of Roseau.
Upon submitting this information to my US correspondent, Mr. Jari C. Honora, he divulged that Fr. George Paddington was a black priest:
“My interest in Father George John Paddington stems from the fact that he was the first black priest ordained by a North American bishop. He was born about 1808 in Cork City, Ireland. He must have been quite an oddity – a black man with the accent of Ireland! He was ordained at Port-au-Prince on 21 May 1836 by Bishop John England of the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina.”
Well, I can tell you that my heart beat quickened and blood pressure went up as I was in the process of discovering unknown religious history of Dominica:
Fr. George was undoubtedly the first black priest who served in Dominica.
But then my doubts were raised. Was this really the same person or just a name sake? Was there a link between this priest from Port-Au Prince and our priest in Colihaut ? I needed independent attestation .
This I got from a letter written by Bishop Richard Patrick Smith (1802-1852) of Port of Spain on the island of Trinidad, which I found on http://www.library.unisa.edu.au/condon/CatholicLetters/18491104.htm
I quote from his letter, dated 4 November 1849, written to Cardinal Fransoni, the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide : “ Abbé Paddington has arrived here from Santo Domingo, about two months ago. I advised him to write to your Eminence to inform you of everything relating to the Mission of Haiti, and to await orders from your Eminence. I gave him a post on Dominica while he waits. I have just learned that he is doing much good, and that he is respected and esteemed.
Alas! Since the month of January last, we have lost five excellent Missionaries, they unfortunately having been placed in very unhealthy locations, and too far from the care of doctors. But what can I do? In those very locations there are many large Catholic Congregations.”
This corresponds with some additional information I got from Mr. Honora :
“Fr Paddington left Haiti about July/August 1849, arriving in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, where the Vicariate Apostolic was located. The Apostolic Vicar, Bishop Richard P. Smith, assigned him to Dominica. ”
Bishop Smith was Vicar Apostolic of Port-of Spain from 1844 till he became Archbishop of Trinidad in 1850. Most importantly he was an Irishman as was Fr. Paddington. Remember that the first Bishop of Roseau (1850 -1855), Michael Monaghan, a colleague of Smith in Trinidad, was also Irish.
I still wanted confirmation that Fr. Paddington was indeed a black priest and this I found confirmed in the diaries of his fellow traveller, yes another Irishman, on the boat from Trinidad to Dominica. Rev. Dr. John T Hynes (1799-1868) was a catholic bishop who travelled extensively, from his birth in Cork ,Ireland, through ordination in Kentucky, and worked in Cincinnati, Grenada, Demarara (= Guyana), etc.
The DIARY OF JOHN THOMAS HYNES, 1843-1868 can be found on www.library.unisa.edu.au/condon/Hynes/index.htm.
I quote from his entry of August 1849: “In the evening of the 20th.I arrived at Trinidad. Called immediately on Dr Smith, who accompanied me to see the Convent and College.
A few days later as he travelled away from Dominica, Bishop Hynes had a dream :
“ 1849. Sept‘r. 1st. The wind still continues fair but not so strong. Last night I had a strange dream – I thought that one of the Nuns was dead and that I was preparing to perform the funeral ceremonies. …. A carriage drove up to the house in which was Fr. Paddington and another black priest…”
So far the dream of Bishop John Thomas Hynes in which he confirms that Paddington was a black priest.
Having the link between Haiti and Dominica and the identity of Fr. George Paddington, parish priest of Colihaut for two years ( 1849-1851) confirmed , I cannot wait to present you with more information on the first black priest in Dominica.