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Father Michael makes appeal to help return Centre, school to normalcy

Father Michael makes appeal  to help return  Centre, school to normalcy

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The students and teachers of the St Mary’s Roman Catholic School are not the only persons who have been displaced by the fire that destroyed the Charles Verbeke Centre last Friday night.

Father Michael Stewart, vicar- general of the Diocese of Kingstown, told SEARCHLIGHT{{more}} yesterday that the historic Verbeke Centre hosted a number of organizations, groups, and activities, which would now have to source alternative accommodation.

“The Centre had been used over the years for a number of things, apart from school.

“It housed the youth office; several youth groups would have had their meetings there, and it also housed a group called the Commission for the Development of Peoples; a social action arm of the church that was housed there for many years.

“In recent times, young people had their meetings at the Centre; preparations for the sacraments, especially confirmation and those adults coming in to the church and completing what we call the sacraments of initiation, would have had their gatherings there too….”

The priest also indicated that a group called the Samaritans provided counselling, and the Ladies of Charity operated a thrift shop at the building.

“Those several groups would also be displaced. We have to find an alternative space for the children and young people who would have used the space during the week or weekends; so I think apart from the school, we have to find alternative working space for young people preparing for confirmation, adults for either baptism or confirmation or Eucharist. We have to find alternative space for young people who meet on Fridays, so all these groups who are affected and there are times when we may have something else happening there….”

Father Michael said it would take some time before the church “finds it feet” in the unexpected situation, but he believes that, like the mythological phoenix, the Centre would “rise from the ashes.”

Giving some historical background of the building, Father Michael indicated that the Centre was named after Father Charles Verbeke, who oversaw the construction of the Cathedral of the Assumption, and other Catholic churches in St Vincent.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that Father Charles inspired the use of arches on many buildings in Kingstown during his time here.

The Centre was also the early home of the St Martin’s Secondary School, before it was established at its current location.

One of the school’s competitive houses, Verbeke House, is named after the priest.

“He was an architect and a builder, apart from being a priest and (Benedictine) monk; he was also a musician,” Father Michael said of Father Charles.

“What you see in terms of the edifice, especially when you look at the presbytery, more than the church, it’s his handiwork. Of course, he enlisted local men to help him to make bricks from the sand we have here to put up the structure that we have here today, which is unique and also very attractive to those who see it,” he added.

Father Michael made an appeal for persons in St Vincent and the diaspora to support the church in any effort taken to bring back normalcy to operations that took place at the Centre, especially with regard to the Grade Six students who have been displaced.

He said that it would take prayers and discernment, however, before the church makes any decisions as to the way forward.

“I think that the most urgent is ensuring that those children are settled again and preparing themselves for the CPEA, so I would like to encourage the Vincentian population to help….

“There is also the prospect of the place being vandalized or rummaged further, and I want to say that I pray that that doesn’t happen and that we would be able to expedite the clearing of the space and for that I think we would need help.

“And we want to thank all those who supported on Friday and those who are supporting now to normalize things,” Father Michael said. (JJ)

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