Tag Archives: liturgical space

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
  • Our Lady of Martyrs chapel at Mahaut River
  • Martyrs of Uganda chapel at Upper Penville

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 chapel at MAHAUT RIVER below

P1240715 MAHAUT RIVER damage MARIA 2017


Upper Penville chapel


The history of the church at LA ROCHE

Part I by Bernard Lauwyck


“On his pastoral visit to the district in June 1860 Bishop Poirier stopped for a while at the Quanary estate to offer a prayer in the tiny chapel constructed from ruined walls, and used only for prayers and catechism. In the parochial church of La Plaine he held a Confirmation service and blessed a church bell. Then he proceeded to Victoria, and in passing visited a small chapel erected by the labourers of the Belvedere estate. At Victoria he found a neat little presbytery, nearly finished, and a church in the course of construction.
“The spot” , wrote Bishop Poirier , “is badly chosen; but as the people of that quarter have done all the work without any assistance, it is better not to interfere.”” Excerpt from the ECCLESIASTICAL BULLETIN OF ROSEAU
The “badly chosen” location refers to the church at La Roche being perched on the edge of a cliff, as it is still today.
Indeed the location has not changed but about ten year ago Fr. Vincent Esprit FMI, Parish priest of La Plaine at the time, asked me to create a side entrance/ exit. The pavement in front of the old entrance/ exit was crumbling and getting dangerously small. The old presbytery, once a beautiful wooden house, which was used for years as the DJ Convent, is today falling into ruin.

The most important information we get from Bishop Poirier is that the people of Delices-Caribe-Victoria- La Roche were building their church without help from anyone .
The church is located in an area, named after the Roche family who had an estate there. Jean Roche is listed on the John Byres map (1767-1773) as a holder of a lease of land in the parish of St. Patrick.

Cou-de-main was still very much practiced in Dominica up to a few decades ago. It is a tradition where the whole community comes together to help built a neigbour’s house or in this case their church. This church in local stonework reminds us of a period of intense faith which inspired great generosity and efforts. This is how many catholic churches were built in Dominica in past times.

While there are many stones in the neighbourhood, the stone used were cut and shaped and might have been salvaged from some ruins of a plantation factory works in the neighbourhood.
In the vicinity of the church there is an old cemetery, which was abandoned some years ago.
There was no resident priest in this isolated area of Dominica’s east coast until September 1849 . Carib- Delices-Victoria-La Roche was part of the Nord of the St. Patrick’s Parish and so is frequently mentioned in the registers of Grandbay. It was occasionally visited by priests serving Grandbay. One of these priests was Fr. L.J. Cosgrave, an irish missionary who arrived in Dominica in 1842 and was put in charge of St. David and St. Patrick- North.
The first resident priest in the area was Fr. MacNiece, an irish missionary who was stationed in Monserrat before he came to Dominica. He accepted the lonely and difficult post in September 1849, at the request of Dr. Edward Smith, parish priest of Roseau and Vicar General of the Vicar Apostolic Richard Patrick Smith of Port-of-Spain. The diocesan records state that Fr. MacNiece remained until 1852 in the area “In spite of poverty and hardships of every kind”.
He was succeeded by two Italian priests, named Paoli and Zanetlini , who each only stayed for a short time.
With the establishment of the Diocese of Roseau in 1850, its first Bishop Michael Monaghan (1850-1855) sent Father Souquieres to La Plaine to serve as resident priest. more about him in a subsequent article.

Dominica’s National Shrine

Finishing touches by Caesar Catin at the National Shrine







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

The recent renovation of OUR LADY of LA SALETTE National Shrine in Pointe Michel

The History of Our Lady of La Salette National Shrine in pointe Michel

Part 2                                                                                           by Bernard Lauwyck 

JUL 2015 059

In August 2014   part 1 of the history of  Dominica’s  National Shrine was published in  OUR CATHOLIC COMMUNITY .  Today I want to write about the recent history of the National Shrine in Dominica.

The renovation works on the Pointe Michel church were initiated by monsignor Reginald LaFleur in 2009. His aim was to upgrade the church to be a worthy and outstanding place of worship, which would encourage  prayer and pilgrimages.

Monsignor Reginald La Fleur  was of the opinion that fundraising for the renovation of the church was bogged down as people did not see anything happening after many years of raising funds.  He felt that the roof renovation works should be preceded by some smaller works of enhancement and beauty which could be completed in a very short time.  These small achievements  would then  re-energize the fundraising for the  roof replacement.

While this seemed to many at the time to put the cart in front of the horse, this strategy and vision  bore  fruits as we will see below.

But before any construction work  on a church is  started much  work needs to be done with the  “LIVING STONES OF THE CHURCH” : the parishioners need to be sensitized, consulted and motivated. They need to be able to visualize  in their minds what improvements are proposed and understand the liturgical reasons why these are proposed.

In March 2009, I presented  to the church committee a PowerPoint plan of action . This  presentation was based on the latest liturgical guidelines and aimed to inspire and open minds to beautiful, yet meaningful and religious symbolic improvements. It  was very much inspired by  Pope Benedict’s  post-synodal apostolic exhortation which stressed “the  profound connection between beauty and liturgy”.

The proposal was to concentrate on the beautification of  the sanctuary and shrine.  This could be achieved by installing new floor tiles and  beautiful  wall panelling . Also by designing and manufacturing beautiful furnishings  such as a new  AMBO, which should be a dignified place to proclaim the Word of God and a celebrant’s CHAIR as he represents Christ presiding over the liturgy.

The proposal included the highlighting of  the shrine of Our Lady of La Salette by colouring the statues .

The presentation was also displayed on  plywood boards at the back of the church for everybody to see.

Norms regarding a National Shrine state that the shrine should be accessible for all. This meant that a wheel chair ramp had to be  constructed.

Following the acceptance of these proposals  came the choice and procurement of materials. It took quite some time to find the right tiles for the sanctuary. Parishioners got the Forestry Division to provide them with local Red Cedar boards, which had to dry for about six months.

My design of  the cedar panelling and ambo included  several  quatrefoils, a religious symbol representing the four evangelists.

The  placing of the floor tiles and  preparing and installation of the varnished Red Cedar panelling started in July 2010.  After these were completed the sanctuary was repainted and  new light fixtures installed.   The final touch was a beautiful new Ambo. All this was completed before the September 2010 La Salette Feast.

When Fr. Peter Wamutitu became parish priest in 2011, he vowed to continue the renovation works. He had the support of a committed parish council and fundraising committee .  Engineer Kendell Johnson, a parishioner, prepared an estimate for the roof and ceiling replacement  on September 24, 2011 with a total estimate of EC $ 458,600.00 .  While this seemed beyond the means of the parish,  a  fund raising drive started in earnest. People had faith !

In the meantime, small achievable steps were taken towards the completion of the project: additional  Red Cedar paneling and altars  were installed in 2011 in the La Salette Shrine and the Sacred Heart alcove by Marshall Cuffy.

Next was the removal of the ceiling, which contained asbestos fibre-cement panels.  With the experience gained from similar works at the Roseau Cathedral, this was done professionally and environmentally friendly in August 2012.

Fundraising, both local and overseas, continued unabated under the leadership of Ms. Carol Activille.  This was done in so many small ways. For example Mrs. Frances Casimir told me that she and a few friends have been selling coffee after Sunday Mass for the last eight years to raise funds for the project.  Parishioners contributed in any way possible, small or big.  There were also  substantial donations from individuals and organisations:   Propagation of the Faith, one of the five Pontifical Mission Societies in Rome,   and German Catholics through Adveniat in Germany provided  substantial funds .

The roof removal and replacement works were put to tender and three contractors responded.  Stevo Construction  was the lowest bidder and got the job.

The roof  renovation works were started in  January  2014  and were completed by May 2014.

Stevenson Joseph and his team also constructed  the new ceiling based on a design by Kendall Johnson. The painting works were done by  Germaine Etienne.  The electrical installation by  Adams Hidges.    The artful painting such as the imitation stonework on the pillars  was executed by  Caesar Catin.

All this was completed just in time for the La Salette Feast in September 2014.

The most recent works were the tiling of the nave, made possible by a  donation of  tiles by FOOD FOR THE POOR (USA).  The work was done by  Francis Daisy and his team in July/August 2015.  Beautiful brass chandeliers were also installed.

Guidelines tell us that a National Shrine should be a worthy and exemplary space for Liturgy, a place of beauty. I think that Dominica’s National Shrine already fits this description although some more work has to be done.





In 1986, Fr. Charles Vermeulen C.Ss.R. and Belgian volunteer Filip Dedoncker establish the SMA workshop in order to produce quality furniture for churches and have a CXC training program for the students at SMA.  This CXC program has successfully trained hundreds of SMA students.  The teacher for the last 15 years is Mr. Steven Dailey. He is a very committed teacher.

Diocese Construction employed former employees of the workshop and they specialized in local wood products. Their names are Anthony Joseph, Ronald Joseph, Mc William Rolle, Ferdinand Webster.

They are the once who produced  several items for the upgrading of the liturgical space in Our Lady of Fatima church in Newtown.  The baptismal font was ordered by Fr. Charles Vermeulen C.Ss.R.  It was constructed in several rings of local White Cedar.

design by Bernard Lauwyck

design by Bernard Lauwyck

The beautiful PRIE-DIEU or kneeler was commissioned by Fr. Clement Vadakkedath C.Ss.R. and constructed in local  Red Cedar.P1080071

PRIE DIEU designed by Bernard Lauwyck

PRIE DIEU designed by Bernard Lauwyck

The 14 Stations of the Cross were produced and installed for the Ordination of Fr. Elton Letang C.Ss.R. in June 2013.Stations of the Cross FATIMA