destruction by hurricane MARIA on September 18, 2017

Hurricane Maria, a superior category 5 hurricane, devastated Dominica on September 18, 2017.

The following churches and chapels were severely affected :

  • St. Patrick’s church at Grandbay
  • Holy Trinity chapel at Bagatelle
  • Epiphany chapel at Pichelin
  • Holy Spirit chapel at loubiere
  • Sacred heart church at La Roche
  • Good Shepherd chapel in CONCORD

I am creating a link named ” destroyed by hurricane MARIA 2017″

Destroyed Grandbay church Oct 2017

d cracked bell tower at Grandbay Jan 2018


destroyed Grand bay church

destroyed chapel at Bagatelle

Bagatelle chapel post hurricane Maria

destroyed pichelin chapel



destruction of Sacred Heart chapel in LA Roche, by hurricane MARIA on September 18, 2017






CONCORD chapel destroyed September 2017






destroyed Loubiere Chapel September 2017


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

DEC 2014 125

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.


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.

nov 30 2007 033
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.


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


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.

St. Francis Xavier church in La Plaine

trip Filip en Karin 2009 419

Pictures 2006 2140

“With the reflection of the Sunlight on the windows the interior of the Church in La Plaine presents itself as a serene place of worship reflecting the different colours of the rainbow which can be associated with the different peoples in the world”  as described by Rev. Fr. Vincent ESPRIT FMI


In 1864, Mrs. Anne Elizabeth Royer made a grant to Bishop Micheal Monaghan,
and his successors in office, of the La Plaine estate, containing a little more than
161 acres. The present church is located on what is left of this grant, barely 11
The Parish of St. Francis Xavier was canonically established in 1864. The parish
priest at that time was Father Eugène Vigroux, a young French priest, who started
the present church building . He was allowed to collect and use the cut stones of
the Tabary Estate by its proprietor Mr. Thomas Davies. By the time Fr. Vigroux
left the parish, in 1870, the church was far from completed and the completion
became the task of the newly arrived FMI Missionaries from France.
Three members of the French congregation named “Les Fils de Marie Immaculée”
(FMI) or Sons of Mary Immaculate arrived in Dominica on February 7th, 1872.
Members of this congregation have served the La Plaine Parish faithfully and
consistently up to the time of my writing in March 2014. Today we have Fathers
Louis Vrignaud and Michel Favalier in this parish
Father James Hipolyte Couturier was the first FMI missionary to be assigned to La
Plaine and he became for 39 years, “the heart and soul of the whole district by
his unceasing labours.” He remained most of these 39 years alone in the parish,
without any outside help or support.
Barely a year after his arrival, the parish church, “the very same one which stands
there today” , was completed and dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. Gradually Fr.
Couturier improved the church “by painting and decorating it handsomely”. He
also built a spacious new school, erected a calvary in front of the church and laid
out a beautiful garden. Then he went on to construct a church and presbytery at La
Roche .
But disaster loomed on the horizon in the shape of the hurricane of September
1883. The church of La Roche, just finished, was battered down to a heap of ruins,
the roof borne on the wings of the winds to a neighbouring precipice and the walls
entirely destroyed. Luckily the La Plaine church only suffered minor damage.
In 1908 Fr Hypolyte Couturier ( +1911) resigned his office and put the parish in
the hands of Fr. Ferdinand Baudry FMI.
8 years later the hurricane of 1916 caused considerable damage to the church and
presbytery of La Roche and to the presbytery of La Plaine. It also levelled to the
ground the schoolhouse of La Plaine. 186-8620_IMG
All the damaged buildings were repaired and the schoolhouse raised from its ruins.
After completing all these construction project, Fr. Baudry’s hoped to occupy his
time with taking care of the spiritual interests of the parish but then suddenly his
“ his health gave way” and he had to return to France. His place was taken in
1928 by Father Chaigneau FMI, a young and energetic priest.

Two years later, the hurricane of 1930, badly damaged the church and presbytery
of La Plaine . Again the parish priest of La Plaine became a builder and “in a
little over a year’s time all the damaged buildings were repaired, and a large
substantial schoolhouse erected at La Plaine, as well as a spacious and
comfortable presbytery erected at la Roche”. But the pity is that the good Father
lost his health through overwork and had to leave the island early in 1932.
Father Joussement succeeded him . Untitled
On August 29, 1979, Hurricane David demolished the roof of the church and the
La Plaine presbytery. As in the past, the roof of the church in la Roche lifted from
the church, but this time deposited itself in the yard of the La Roche presbytery,
then inhabited by the DJ sisters.

It took a able man like Fr. Jean Martin FMI to reconstruct the roof and also
the other chapels in the Parish namely the chapel in Boetica, which was a heap of
The most recent renovations were started by Fr. Jean Guéry FMI, when a
complete new steel framed roof structure was installed with Aluminium roof
Fr. Vincent Esprit FMI renewed the windows and tiled the floor. He is also
responsible for the colourful windows and the round window of St. Francis Xavier
above the front entrance.


The FMI Fathers or Peres de Chavagnes (FRANCE) have been very good to this
parish , providing the people with spiritual guidance and direction and living
among them, in sometimes, extreme poverty but never wavering dedication to
spreading the Word of God, under the motto “ GOD AMONG US” “VERBUM
DEI” as can be seen above the side entrance of the La Plaine church.

Glowing coloured window of Patron Saint above entranceLAPLAINE frontelevation

Holy Spirit chapel Loubiere       design Bernard Lauwyck

Holy Spirit chapel Loubiere design Bernard Lauwyck

One of the chapels, which has elicit a very positive reaction, is the renovated chapel in Loubiere.

It was rededicated by Bishop Gabriel Malzaire in 2003, the first year he was Bishop of Roseau.

I made the design of the front elevation or facade during a  first May day holiday at my home and presented it to the congregation and Fr. Ignatius Glanville JOSEPH sometimes in 1998.

design and execution by Bernard Lauwyck

design and execution by Bernard Lauwyck


The St. Anthony of Padua chapel in Toucarie 

by Bernard Lauwyck

Mural by Lennox Honychurch depicting Toucarie Chapel

Mural by Lennox Honychurch depicting Toucarie Chapel

One of the places in Dominica,  I really experienced  the Holy Spirit working in the People of God, is Toucarie.  It was a privilege to assist this Catholic community with the renovation of their chapel between 2004 and 2009, an exciting  experience of  “ Church building church together” .

St. Anthony chapel in Toucarie Aug 2014

The chapel, dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, overlooks one of the most beautiful bays in Dominica.

St. Anthony's feast in June 2005

St. Anthony’s feast in June 2005

We know from THE ECCLESIASTICAL BULLETIN OF ROSEAU  that Fr. William Martel, the builder of the first church in Roseau,  erected a chapel in 1731 on the Malalia Bay, also called “Trou Carré or “Toucarry” or Toucarie  :   “Fr. Martel  says so himself in a letter to his superiors [that he built  a chapel in Toucarie].  Up to the present there stands, on or near the same spot, a chapel dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, and nearby is a graveyard where  a certain Father Dominique was buried many years ago”.

At that time, in 1731, Portsmouth had no church yet.

In May 1925 Bishop Moris wrote that it was Father Paul Tavernier  FMI  “who built the present [=1925] chapel of Toucarry”.  This chapel was blessed on February 24, 1886  by Bishop Michael Naughten , Bishop of Roseau from 1879 till his death in1900.  He was assisted by six priests, presumably Fr. Paul’s French colleagues, the Pères de Chavagnes or Fils de Marie Immaculée (F.M.I.) . “The congregation” wrote Bishop Naughten “was very large. A very poor collection was taken up.  However , there is nothing but poverty at present in Dominica”.

Fr. Paul Tavernier was the priest who died, 10 months later,  during a fire on board of the steamship “France” as I have recounted before.

It must have been Fr. Gustave Berthomé  F.M.I., Parish Priest of Portsmouth from 1888 till his death in 1905, who installed the small church bell that still rings over the bay of Toucarie today.  The 8” diameter bronze bell, named ANTOINETTE, was cast in 1898 in  the foundries of the ASTIER family in the French town of Nantes.

Toucarie June 2006

The chapel that Fr. Paul built and that Bishop Moris mentioned in his 1925 article must have been in a dilapidated state by 1955.   Euphemie  McIntyre, née Douglas recounts that her father rebuilt the chapel in 1956  [ see “REACHING FOR THE TOP: The extraordinary Life of Robert Bernard Douglas”] .  The uniquely shaped tower is indeed dated June 1956.

It was Fr. Charles Martin, who asked me in 2004 to assist the Catholic community in Toucarie as it seemed that the chapel was sinking .

The works to construct a retaining wall to stabilize the foundations and flooring, were started on Carnival Tuesday 2004.  To my surprise and delight, a sizable team of volunteers, men and women, showed up during carnival to do the excavation  for the retaining wall.

This wall and a new roof  were completed just in time for the feast of St. Anthony in June 2005.  The local team of workers was directed by Hubert Carrette and Sebastian Royer, of which I have fond memories.

All these works had to be coordinated by the chapel renovation committee, with whom I had many meetings late at night.

old rusty tower

old rusty tower

After a pause of a few months, which enabled additional fund raising, works were started on the  tower,  which was weakened by the earthquake of November 21,  2004 .   New arched windows with coloured plexiglass,  installed in September  2007, enhanced the liturgical space.  A new entrance door completed the building in 2008.

Recently, access has been created from a side road so that worshippers no longer have to climb 24 steps to reach the chapel.

Visit this beautiful chapel and support this faithful Catholic community.

Toucarie  Feb 2012 003