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Lecture begins week of activities for first ever Roman Catholic Synod

Lecture begins week of activities for first ever Roman Catholic Synod


Different aspects of church history in St Vincent and the Grenadines were discussed last week, as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kingstown hosted a lecture on Monday, January 14.{{more}}

The lecture featured three speakers and marked the beginning of a week of activities for the church’s first ever Synod, which began last Friday and ended on Sunday.

During the event, which took place at the Frenches House, historian Dr Adrian Fraser presented on the topic, “The church within the context of Vincentian History.”

“As we look at the churches throughout the Caribbean, we can indeed tell something of our colonial history by examining the position of the churches today,” Fraser said.

The historian explained that the plight of early missionaries was often described as isolated and full of frustration, as they tried to bridge the gap between the cultures.

Referring to the Catholic Church, Fraser indicated that the denomination was in the minority in the past, as there were many challenges, one being the difficulty of reaching some of their parishioners in far parts of the country.

“In 1861, there were 2,756 Catholics, while the Anglicans numbered 13,652 and the Methodists, 14,177. The 1931 census showed 3,705 Catholics, 22,777 Anglicans and 18,198 Methodists. Compared with the previous census which was taken in 1921, the Anglicans and Methodist had shown small increases, while the Catholics declined by 11,” he revealed.

Parish priest Fr Mark DaSilva was given the task to present on the “Early History of the Church in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

According to DaSilva, in the earliest years, the Caribbean “was a battleground in a sea of blood” and served as the centre stage for inter-European rivalry.

He noted that missionaries and mainly Jesuit priests often frequented the island with the aim of converting the inhabitants to Christianity. However, the priest revealed that the efforts of these religious people were used by Europeans as a pacifying tool for the inhabitants.

“There is no doubt that Christianity was used as a tool to pacify the Caribs and there is no doubt that the first resident missionaries did indeed come to convert the Caribs. They were initially unsuccessful …due almost entirely to the European introduced culture of war and revenge,” DaSilva said.

“One cannot help but suspect that the church was actually sought out and misused by the English and French political authorities to help solve this apparently never-ending war against the Caribs. I suspect also that some of these priests must have eventually realized this evil manipulation, hence their efforts through letters sent home to stop this.”

DaSilva revealed that eventually, efforts to build a Catholic Church community proved futile, but was later developed by a visiting priest, later in history.

Picking up from where DaSilva ended, Dr Veronica Marks, an independent education consultant, spoke on the “Catholic Involvement in Education in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Marks declared that any discussion on the involment of the Roman Catholic Church in education must be placed in context with the presence of the church, its involvement in education and other social services.

She further disclosed that it was not until around 1815 that the rebuilding of the Catholic religion began.

“From 1832 onwards, there was also the presence of one or several priests, although they were of different orders…and they were all engaged in the building and rebuilding of churches and schools…a day nursery and infant hospital and a church/centre at Spring Village,” she explained.

Additionally, Marks pointed out that the formal public education system in St Vincent and the Grenadines had its origin in the 1833 Act of Emancipation, which was passed by the British Parliament.

“The British government mandated that the education to be provided was to be Christian education and the provision was made in the Emancipation Act for the religious and moral education of the negro population to be emancipated,” she said.

Throughout those early years, Marks noted that many schools would have been destroyed by natural disasters and labelled the period as a time of “building and rebuilding.”

However, the educator noted that the Catholic Church was able to establish four prominent schools in St Vincent and the Grenadines, which have been turning out outstanding young men and women.

These schools are the St Mary’s Roman Catholic School, the St Martin’s Secondary School, the St Joseph’s Convent Kingstown and the St Joseph’s Convent Marriaqua.

Following the presentations, members of the audience asked questions and made comments on the topics discussed. Some audience members were assured that some of their questions would be addressed in depth during the Synod. BK)