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‘Sis Pat had a special gift’


Born on June 6, 1946, Patricia Ann Douglas was one of 16 children of the famous Douglas clan of Portsmouth, Dominica.

The patriarch of the family, whose biography has just been completed, rose from humble circumstances to become one of the pre-eminent landowners of his country, not unlike a similar example in the north of our country, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He fervently believed that education was the template for economic and social advancement, and worked assiduously to ensure that all his children received a tertiary education, a signal achievement for any family of that size, anywhere in the world.{{more}}

Members of the Douglas family have distinguished themselves in a wide range of endeavours, including politics, where Michael served as leader of the Dominica Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition, and Roosevelt as Prime Minister, before their demise. Pat, with a Masters Degree in Education, dedicated her life to the total service of the Lord, through social activism and education. St. Vincent and the Grenadines was the great beneficiary of her life’s work.

As a Sister of the Roman Catholic Order of Nuns of St. Joseph of Cluny, she took charge of St. Joseph’s Convent, Marriaqua in 1980, and served in that capacity until her tragic death in a motor vehicle accident in Barbados, on Friday, May 20, 2005. She was on her way from the airport with her sisters Joyce and Jacqueline. The purpose of her weekend visit was consultation on how the family can best tailor its resources to the further economic development of their native land.

At St. Joseph’s Convent, Marriaqua, commonly referred to as Sister Pat’s school, her contribution to education, as well as her many innovations in other areas of community life are legend: the introduction of steelband music – the school’s band was called JOPAN; the addition of a prayer room for meditation; the essential study of Mathematics and English; the introduction of information technology up to Form 3; the establishment of the entire Science curriculum at a single school – Sister Pat herself was an expert teacher of Chemistry; the establishment of a hostel for disturbed women; the homework assistance programme; and yes, the re-admission of young, first-time mothers to complete their education, in 1991.

In recent times, we have been hearing a lot about revolution in education. Sister Pat, by her quiet, but persistent efforts, has heralded “a real revolution in the education of the young in St. Vincent and the Grenadines”. She had a special gift for spotting a troubled student, and made every effort to find out the matter and render help, by herself, or through the creation of a supportive environment. Indeed, many marvelled that Sister Pat was able to remember her students, past and present, by name and family. Those who benefited from her inspired involvement in education and social work will be eternally grateful for her stewardship.

While attending to the needs of others so effectively, Sister Pat carried her personal trials and tribulations without complaint, always placing the concerns of others above her own. She was diagnosed with cancer, lymphoma of the stomach, and was treated in the United States in January 2004. She was due for re-evaluation in June 2005.

“The Lord moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.” It is revealing that having appeared to have beaten invasive cancer, Sister Pat was summarily relieved of her terrestrial burdens in Barbados, on Friday, May 20, 2005.

Marriaqua was her operational base, and Sister Pat was a genuine “Lilly of the Valley,” a shining example of religious and social involvement in our community. I had the privilege of knowing Sister Pat from the early 1980s, when she invited me to deliver the feature address at one of her graduation ceremonies, and, more recently, through my sister-in-law, Anne Marie Lee-Wilkins, with whom Sister Pat shared a close friendship.

I extend profound condolences to the Douglas family, His Excellency the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kingstown and the Catholic community, Sister Gabrielle Mason, Provincial Superior of the Order of Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny and the community of sisters, the staff and students of St. Joseph’s Convent, Marriaqua, and all her true friends and collaborators.

It will be a fitting tribute to re-name the home for women, now being built in Marriaqua, with Japanese funds obtained through the unstinting efforts of Sister Pat, in her honour.

May the angels lead her into Paradise to rest in peace eternally.

His Excellency Kingsley C. A. Layne, C.M.G.

27th May 2005.