Tag Archives: Dominica

June 2017 update on the new Portsmouth church


June 2017  : windows and doors completed


façade facing West with window depicting the DESCENDING DOVE, the two patron saints and the beautifully carved entrance doors in local mahogany timber ( donated by Jacqueline Douglas).PTH door designed bybeautiful stained glass windows PTH church


Dominica’s National Shrine

Finishing touches by Caesar Catin at the National Shrine






Renovation of the St. Francis of Assisi chapel in CAPUCHIN

by Bernard Lauwyck

The renovation of the chapel in Capuchin was a collaborate effort of many many people, as any church or chapel project should be : ” Church building church together”.

My contribution included the design of a new interior with a new curved ceiling and a new sanctuary look.

Also regular supervision of the works was my task.capuchin-proposed-sanctuary-and-ceiling

This is how it looked after Mr. Sebastian Royer and his local team completed the interior.


I further designed a new altar, a  beautiful ambo and candle stand and got it made at the SMA workshop. I also got new images for the chapel/


In 2010, the floor tiles were donated by Serge and Irene Hedreville -Carbon.

exterior viewjune-2008-095

St. Michael window restored in the Portsmouth church

June 2016

The St. Michael stained glass, salvaged from the ruins of the old Portsmouth church after the earthquake of Nov. 21, 2004, has now been restored in the southern semi transept of the new catholic church in Portsmouth.                                                                                                                       St. Michael, the archangel, is depicted as defeating the devil.

st michael sgw pth new church June 2016

Fr. George(s) Paddington first black priest in DOMINICA anno 1850

part 3

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 .


AN ARCHITECTURAL MASTER PIECE                                    By  Bernard Lauwyck,

Mural escape to

mural by brother Xavier Lecointe,  C.Ss.R.

Two weeks ago, I described the history of the Roseau Cathedral up to the completion  of the Western steeple in 1916, without finding  the master planner or the architect behind it.  We noticed that solitary clergy at different times used and directed highly skilled local people.  Their skills were stone shaping, stone masonry and preparation of  lime mortar, joinery and carpentry, roofing, blacksmith work. The work on the Cathedral was stopped and continued as the resources were available both human and financial, and the island’s economic situation was peaceful and favourable.

Entry into Jerusalem mural and ceiling

                                       mural by brother Xavier Lecointe,  C.Ss.R.

As Mrs. Dorothy Leevy wrote : “We  can only conclude that the natural stones are evocative of a period of intense faith and labour as well as of extreme generosity to build the physical structure that is our Cathedral. These same stones which make up the building should  remind us, the Living Stones today, of our responsibility to complete  this present Cathedral renovation project.”

Indeed this Cathedral is not a relic from the past, but a living testimony of our Faith today.  It is the human stories, I find so interesting and would like to get from you, the readers, and weave between the well documented deeds and proclamations of the church leaders. The story of builder Francis Giraud; the “ordinary” stone mason of Roseau, named Thomassin Aubrey,  and his large local crew; The story of Augustus Parker and Brother Jacobs in more recent times and their local co-workers.  And many more: the men and women who carried the stones from the river, sea or quarries. The men who got the ingredients to make “La chaux” and prepared the lime mortar. There must have been huge construction crews with very little lifting equipment.  I am sure that a lot was done by free labour (cou-de-main).

It is clear to everybody that the  front elevation with the 3 steeples was  designed to impress, also due to its location on Constitution hill, overlooking and dominating Roseau.  A beacon on the hill.


An 80 feet steeple is architecturally not high by international or even regional standards; for example  13th century Chartres Cathedral steeple stands 375 feet tall.  But Bishop Monaghan in 1855 clearly succeeded in creating the effect of an imposing cathedral on the hill, the Catholic Church dominant and triumphant !





But it is also the symbol of the Catholic Church , who like Mother  Mary as Our Lady of Fair  Haven places God’s protection over God’s  people in Roseau and throughout  the  Diocese. This historical role of the church in Dominica has been forgotten by many, even by some of our clergy.  The traditional role of offering refuge and protection to the poor, the sick, the weak and the destitute by the Catholic Church resulted in the establishment of an orphanage  in 1866 by Bishop Poirier . The early establishment of pre-schools by the Social Center and its many other programs for troubled teens and adolescents today. Also Calls (Center for adolescents to love, to learn and to serve ) in Portsmouth is doing a wonderful job.  The Alpha Center and the out reach to the elderly (REACH , CARE in Portsmouth and the Infirmary)  were started and staffed by religious sisters up to recently. Did we forget Sr. Maria Eelen starting the group of elderly in Woodfordhill?  Did we forget Sr. Madeleine’s pioneering work with the homeless in Roseau and her role in setting up of the Grotto home?   Do we forget the many works of St. Vincent de Paul Society ?  The role of the Catholic Church in establishing quality education for all” in each parish during the latter half of the 19th century against the opposition of the British administration” (see Lennox Honychurch the Dominica story).  Sr. Alicia’s setting up of the first cooperative Credit Union in Giraudel in 1957 which has blossomed into a huge network and propelled the economic development of ordinary people forward in the island.  All these initiatives and works had their roots in the spirituality and social teaching of the Catholic Church.  Remember this, next time you look at this imposing Cathedral !

The Diocesan Archives record that a lot of renovation work took place between 1902 and 1910.  Actually, repairs were continually ongoing supported by “The Record Cathedral Bazaar” of 1907 and 1911 and other fundraising activities for the Cathedral.  Dr. Lennox Honychurch  provided me with a 1920 photograph , taken from the present SMA yard, which clearly shows the Cathedral surrounded by scaffolding.

french poem in crypt

Crypt where Redemptorist Brother Xavier was buried

My research into the burials in the crypt found a two page obituary of a Redemptorist Brother named Xavier.  From the “The Ecclesiastical bulletin of Roseau” we know that brother Xavier Lecointe,  C.Ss.R.  died on December 26, 1910 at the Roseau presbytery and was buried in the crypt.

He was born in St. Genois in Belgium on December 18,1862 and became an architect by training and profession before making his religious profession on October 28, 1892 at the age of  30.   He arrived in 1902 in Dominica where his architectural skills were very useful during the important renovation project of the Roseau Cathedral between 1902 and 1910.  He also worked on the Bishop’s house, St. Gerard’s Hall, the Roseau presbytery, the presbyteries and chapels at Laudat and Bellevue Chopin.”(Dioc. Archives)

   “No sooner had Bishop Schelfhaut been enthroned (1902) he was determined to build a new Bishop’s house.  The old one, a decayed, shaky, tiny hovel, was razed to the ground, and on its ruins Brother Xavier, C.Ss.R. an architect and master-mason, erected the beautiful and solid Bishop house which is the admiration of all visitors to the island.  Commenced about the end of 1902, it was completed and blessed before the end the following year.”(Dioc. Archives).

In 1909 Brother Xavier supervised the work on St. Gerard’s Hall ”   “A plan was drawn and Brother Xavier, in spite of his failing health, volunteered to supervise the work.  With his characteristic tenacity he brought it to completion, not however before being almost at death’s door.  The hall was blessed about the middle of December 1910, and the good Brother departed this life on December 26.”

Reading the Ecclesiastical bulletins of Roseau, it struck me how Religious Brothers and Sisters are hardly mentioned in these bulletins, except in an obituary.   I also noticed how their work, contributions and achievements remain unrecorded. The mighty and important ones write history: long forgotten architect Brother Xavier Lecointe, God’s architect , died at the age of 48, of extreme exhaustion after  8 years non-stop  designing and constructing buildings  in the larger Diocese of Roseau. He died in the presbytery of Roseau, a building which he built himself and was buried in the Crypt in the Cathedral he beautified.

In 1907 the roof of the Cathedral almost collapsed. We read in the Diocesan Archives: “Early in 1907, when closely examining the wooden pillars, which supported the roof of the Cathedral, it was noticed that they were altogether rotten at the base so that the roof had sunk already some 7 inches. It was more than time to replace them by something more sturdy and damp-proof. The wooden pillars were condemned and round  stone pillars and arches erected instead. The ceiling of the nave, built with local wood, proved to be so worm-eaten that individual boards were becoming loose here and there and accidents were to be feared. It had to be entirely renovated.  A new floor was laid down in the nave and Sanctuary, and the unsightly old pews replaced by brand-new ones.  When the renovation works were completed and the Cathedral painted inside and out ,  Redemptorist Brother Ildephonse Lepas ( + July 10, 1910)  decorated the Sanctuary and fixed two huge paintings from his own brush behind the altars of the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Virgin.” 

So , for a short period , from 1902-1910,  we found the names of God’s architect and God’s decorator. Both died  shortly after they completed their beautiful works. The results of their decisions, skills and work remained for all of us to see.