Saturday, October 11, 2008

Co-Cathedral celebrates 150 years

Our year of celebration of 150 years of our parish culminates this December with
1) the special Parish Award Dinner on Saturday, December 6th at the Royal St. Kitts Hotel. Tickets are available at $150 EC per person.
2) Jubilee Eucharist, on the Feastday of Immaculate Conception, Monday, December 8, 2008 commencing at 7.00p.m. in the Co-cathedral.
Other somallre activities during that week still to be announced.

Brief History of the Catholic Church in Basseterre, St Kitts in the last 150 years

Roman Catholicism in St. Kitts revived from its ashes in the 19th century and flourished. In 1846 several hundred Portuguese from Madeira came to St. Kitts and were instructed in reviving the Catholic religion. Together with a few catholic families from the neighbouring islands of St. Maarten and St. Bartholomew, who had already settled on the island. Also some Irish Catholics fleeing the Irish Potato Famine have arrived in Basseterre and settled in what today is known as Irish Town in the western part of downtown Basseterre.


The first priest to arrive and work on theisland was Rev Fr. Hugh MacShane but it was under his successor Fr. John Taaffle that the erection of the church on Basseterre started. During the ministry of Fr. Michael O’Donnelly the church walls continued to rise, but could not be completed due to lack of funds.
In 1858 Fr. Phillip Lynch was officially appointed as the first parish priest of St. Kitts. This date marks the official establishment of the canonical parish on the island. He was sent to reside here in an effort to have the Church completed; there being no Presbytery, Fr Lynch lived free of charge with Mr. Emile S. Delisle, and Divine Service was held in a private home on Liverpool Row. Father worked with great energy on the church which had been under construction for over 12 years. A gift was made to the Church by Bishop Poirier of a beautiful statue of our Lady Immaculate and of a precious Crown of diamonds for the Madonna. In 1863 he also donated the 14 Stations of the Cross. In 1860 Fr. J.G. van Os succeeded Fr. Lynch, and he threw himself heart and soul into this work. His predecessor has completed the Church, but many immigrants were scattered over the entire island and consequently not within an easy reach of the pastor. He asked for and obtained from the bishop permission to say Holy Mass and administer the Sacraments in private homes, in case of necessity, on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Soon the happy results of his zeal were noticeable. His health, however, suffered, and he was transferred. Next pastor Rev Patrick Smith was able to acquire for the Church the two properties; north and south of the Church, where the present Presbytery and Parish Centre now stand. The Title Deed of both properties is dated Sept 3, 1863. In 1864 Fr. John Molly arrived and started to build the Presbytery and the school on the newly acquired lands. The Presbytery was ready for occupation late in 1867, however, the school which he built was forced to close in 1872 through lack of funds. Between 1874 and 1884 no fewer than nine different Priests ministered to the Catholics of St. Kitts. In 1884 Fr. Peter Smyth came, and his ministry lasted for the nearly 20 years.


The Convent was completed in 1895 and in Convent School opened in July 1896 with four Sisters of Mercy from England and 40 pupils. In 1901 Fr Smith imported new Stations of the Cross, and two years later the beautiful Statue of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the Church.
The Redemptorist Fathers arrived in 1904 with Fr. Alphonsus Stainforth CSsR as the parish priest. In 1906 Father purchased a large property beyond the Presbytery gardens, which he turned into schoolroom and the garden into a playground. The old schoolroom he made into a Sacristy and Oratory.
Both the bishop and the Parish priest worked very hard to secure Nuns to re-open the Convent, and finally in August 1911 they obtained the consent of the Order of the Union of the Sacred Heart and the Sisters arrived on December 5 of the same year. The Convent was re-opened in January 1912, and managed to stay open largely due to the benevolence and generosity of Mr Joseph Farrara and Mrs E. Pistana. In 1913 Rev Fr. Joseph Hermans, CSsR arrived, and his work with the youth and the various Church Societies was remarkable. In 1916 yet another property was bought for 300.00 pounds, north of and adjoining the Convent. This was used to expand the schools to build new classrooms and make a space for a playground.
Here a mention of various sisters who administered the schools should be made, especially the Convent of the Union of Sacred heart, the Sisters of Mercy, the ICM sisters and most recently the Caribbean native sisters from Jamaica the Franciscan Missionary Sisters.

BUILDING OF THE (NEW) CHURCH (present Co-Cathedral)

In 1923 the then Parish Priest, Fr. Rabaey expressed from the pulpit the hope the hope that the Catholics of Basseterre be able to boast of the better church. At once collections were taken up, bazaars and concerts organized and appeals were made, and the work was undertaken without delay. On January 16, 1927 a farewell sermon was preached to the old church all furniture including the organ was removed to the hall, transformed into a temporary Church. The walls of the old church were taken down to give space for the new church built on the same spot. The work commenced on the new Church on the 17th of March 1927 St. Patrick’s Day- and on 22nd of April the Memorial stone was solemnly blessed. The church rose as if by magic, under the able direction of Fr. Claeys assisted by Bro. Mathias, with Fr. De Ridder running the Parish, and in less than two years it was completed. The dedication of the new church of the Immaculate Conception took place on December 1928. The Redemptorist Fathers from Belgium and Ireland worked in the parish from 1904 until 1981. One of the well known and remembered Redemptorist priests who worked in the parishes of St. Kitts is Fr. John Bergmans CSsR, now retired in Belgium who worked in St Kitts from 1956 until 1981. The other priest who served only as assistant priest but worked very hard with the choirs and made the Immaculate Conception choir very famous in the Leeward Islands and beyond was Fr. Van den Berge


Until 1970's St. Kitts together with other Leeward Islands was a part of the Diocese of Roseau (Dominica). In 1971 a new diocese was formed comprising of the English speaking Leeward Islands north of Guadeloupe, Most Rev. Joseph Bowers, SVD became bishop of the Diocese of St. Johns (in Antigua) He was able to draw confreres of the Divine Word Missionaries to help in the diocese to carry one the work of Evangelization. The first to answer his call was Fr. Jacques Nyssen, who repaired the church of the Immaculate Conception, the Presbytery and the Convent - now the Pastoral Centre.
Most Rev. Donald Reece D.D from Jamaica became bishop of the Diocese in October 1981 on the retirement of Bp. Joseph Bowers. It was a year in which Antigua and Barbuda gained their independence from Great Britain. Two years later, in September 1983 the twin islands of St. Kitts and Nevis became an independent nation. This was the time when both capitals of the two independent nations needed to have their Cathedral. It was a time when a new cathedral started to be built in St. Johns, Antigua and this church of Immaculate Conception was raised to the rank of the Co-Cathedral.


With the elevation of the Immaculate Conception church to the rank of Co-Cathedral the Diocese’s name has changed from Diocese of St. Johns-Antigua to Diocese of St. John’s-Basseterre. Under the very dynamic leadership of Bishop Donald J. Reece many of the reforms of the Vatican II were implemented and the laity has assumed many responsibilities, including the administration of the Catholic schools and the work of catechists which was largely reserved to religious sisters and priests before. Fr. Jacques Nyssen, SVD besides the work of repair and renovations has also introduced many lay ministries and apostolates which exist till today. He started the St. Vincent de Paul Society and established the first Parish Pastoral Council.
From the early 1980's until today the Parish clergy are from the Society of the Divine Word (SVD’s) with the exception of Fr. Edward Lawlor and Fr. Gerard Critch who were ordained priests for the ne Diocese of St. John’s Basseterre and served the Co-Cathedral in later part of 1980's.
From 1986 until 2007 the Sisters of St. Martha of Antigonish in Canada did pastoral work in the parish and schools. Among them sisters Brendalee, Sr. Donna, Sr. Mary and Sr. Theresa are well remembered among many others. They engaged especially in catechetical, social work and Prison ministry. One of the recent priests, well remembered is Fr. Frank Power, SVD who worked as parish priest for nine years (1991-2000). Under his leadership some new lay ministries and groups were established and the former convent; Formation House was renovated and transformed into Parish Centre. Fr. Larry Finnegan, SVD who succeeded him started fund-raising for the renovation of the Presbytery. The presbytery was completely rebuilt to retain its former façade in 2006. In 2007 with the help of the generous donor the plans for amalgamation of two schools St. Theresa’s Convent and the St. Joseph school has begun. The project envisages complete rebuilding of the schools by 2011 and on the place of the two schools opening one Immaculate Conception School. In 2007 also the plans and fund-raising started for the complete renovation of the Co-Cathedral.

Pastors of the Immaculate Conception Parish - Basseterre, St. Kitts

1858-1860 Fr. Phillip Lynch
1860-1862 Fr. J. G. van Os
1862-1865 Fr. Patrick Joseph Smyth
1864-1874 Fr. John N. Molloy
1875-1876 Fr. A van Lopick
1876-1877 Fr. Anthony Theves
1878-1884 Fr. J. Gangneux
1884-1904 Fr. Petras Smyth
1904-1910 Fr. Alfonsus Stainforth, CSsR
1910-1913 Fr. G. Jenssens, CSsR
1913-1920 Fr. Joseph Hermans, CSsR
1920-1923 Fr. G. Rabaey, CSsR
1923-1924 Fr. O. Cuvelier, CSsR
1924-1924 Fr. P. van den Bemben CssR/
1924-1925 Fr. P Taverniers, CSsR
1925-1927 Fr. H. Claeys, CSsR
1927-1937 Fr. August M de Ridder, CSsR
1937-1938 Fr. Joseph Strijckers, CSsR
1938-1940 Fr. F. Bergmans, CSsR
1940-1943 Fr. Felix Boogaerts CSsR
1943-1946 Fr. Albert Roberge, CSsR
1947- 1948 Fr. James Dwyer, CSsR
1948-1953 Fr. Joseph Duerloo, CSsR
1953-1955 Fr. R. Van Den Berghe CSsR
1955-1956 Fr. Joseph Hermans, CSsR
1956-1963 Fr. John Bergmans, CSsR
1963-1967 Fr. Joseph Duerloo, CSsR
1968-1969 Fr. Michael J Brosnan, CSsR
1970-1981 Fr. John Bergmans, CSsR
1982-1986 Fr. Jaques Nyssen, SVD
1986-1987 Fr. Ed Herberger, SVD
1987-1991 Fr. Edward Lawlor
1991-2000 Fr. Frank Power, SVD
2000-2003 Fr. Larry Finnegan, SVD
2003- now Fr. Bernard Latus, SVD

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gospel Concert

ValLimar & Tom perform ‘In the Power of theSpirit’
by Eleisa L. Maynard

To all in need of Good News, Greetings! To all who miss the spiritual aspect of the annual Music Festival, a word. Allow me a small amount of your time in which to introduce two premier performers of Gospel music who will be bringing their considerable talent to our shores for ONE NIGHT ONLY, this June. In the official Artist’s Biography presented by her promoters, ValLimar Jansen is referred to as a “highly regarded singer, cantor and recording artist. She is also a college professor, a leader of worship and prayer and a workshop presenter at conferences across the United States.” But that is
only a fraction of the story of the woman who has graced the world with her amazing voice.

Born in Killeen, Texas and raised for the most part in Alexandria, Louisiana by her mother and step-father, ValLimar has been singing sacred music since she was five years of age. She “received most of her training in music and performance at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and she holds professional degrees in the Arts from California State University and the University of California”. To date, she has “sung and toured professionally” as a recording artist, throughout the
United States, Europe and in Japan. Additionally, she was cast as Beneatha in the European premier of the Broadway production, Raisin and has co-authored “a onewoman musical about the life of Ethel Waters” - which “received special commendation from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.” This is what is known about the public life of Mrs.
Jansen. However, in interviewing her for this article, I was pleased to discover that success notwithstanding, ValLimar remains a woman of simple yet powerful faith who considers herself blessed to be able to share her gift of music with others. Married since 1994 with three children, her family is based in California and is comprised entirely of artists.
Her husband Frank - himself a pianist and musician - travels and performs with her when he can. For their part,
the children lovingly support her work as a musician - even though it means that they are often deprived of their
mother’s presence. This is not to say that she is neglectful of the duties she performs as a mother, but it is to say that she has mastered the fine art of balancing a rich and rewarding professional life with that of a stable and happy home.
Perhaps her early experiences of traveling around the United States (because of her step-father’s work in Affirmative Action on behalf of the U. S. Airforce), and resultant exposure to a range of diverse cultural identities and modes of expression lay the groundwork for her unique ability to blend seemingly disparate and often contradictory elements with unusual success. It certainly seems to have informed her musicality. Her unique intermingling of jazz & gospel with contemporary and traditional sounds makes for a glorious musical mélange. As an example, consider her album You Gotta
Move in which she juxtaposes the high octane, heart thumping, powerhouse performances of well known numbers like ‘The Cry of the Poor’ against the mellow, soothing notes of her version of ‘[I] Surrender All’ which is rendered with such exquisite tenderness as to melt the most hardened of hearts. The other songs on this CD and Anointing (her most recent release), feature fresh takes on modern music, the melodic re-interpretation of Negro Spirituals and an innovative approach to presenting her own distinctive work. ValLimar remains firmly aware however, of what or rather, Who it is that provides the glue which keeps it all together. Bearing in mind that “gospel is the Good News set to music” and that Gospel music well done “leads the listener to Jesus”, she says earnestly that each performance “is about wanting desperately to disappear” so that God can “let [her] be a good vessel to channel the gift that [He] will give” to all who come within the reach of her
voice. She likes to begin each performance with a prayer and allows the Word of God (in the music) to speak for Itself even as she offers her work as prayer in praise of the Divine Majesty. This humility is born of a life rooted in the Word. Raised a Baptist, ValLimar says that she knew from her experience of the Roman Catholic Liturgy (the rites, ceremonies, prayers and sacraments of the Church), that spiritually she was home. She officially converted in 1991 and delights especially in the fact that having multiple avenues through which to explore and express one’s spirituality, demonstrates just how well the Church embraces everyone.
It is this attitude of loving embrace that led her to accept the invitation to come to St. Kitts and to perform for us as
part of the 150th Anniversary celebrations of Immaculate Conception Parish. She believes strongly in the ‘Great Commission’ given by Christ - to bring the Good News to everyone - and that conviction is what inspired the setting
of this concert.

Joining her here will be her friend and colleague Thomas Kendzia. Married with two children of his own, Tom as he prefers to be called, is himself an accomplished musician of many years’ standing. With over 100 pieces of lyrical & instrumental music published, and with numerous awards to his name, he brings a wealth of experience and a high
degree of professionalism to bear on his work. His career in religious music happened not so much as an accident, but rather as a natural unfolding over the course of a lifetime - he has always loved all kinds of music (including the Motown Sound, that of the Beatles as well as the work of Classical composers - Bach most notably among them), but in particular, he embraces the Irish music of his childhood home (his father is half Irish). Additionally, Tom has devoted his energies to the exploration and celebration of the varied sounds of the world’s many cultures. He indicated to me that he is particularly keen to hear some of the traditional music of St. Kitts so as to expand his considerable repertoire. When asked what he found most rewarding about his career as it is to date, he said that it is most gratifying “to hear people sing [his] music.” He referenced Fr. Liam Laughton, a priest in Ireland who utilizes the music from one of his productions in the Liturgy there. He goes on to state (without a trace of conceit) that it is now not at all uncommon to hear gospel & other types of contemporary music in Irish Catholic churches-due in part to his efforts. He also spoke of his joy in finding on a recent trip to Ireland, that in a culture not known for musical participation during the Mass, “the whole Church sang along” as a young vocalist rendered one of his songs. But, the deservéd adulation does not stop there. He also counts the director of music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Dr.Jennifer Pascual) as one of his fans and says simply that he is as happy to have his music utilized, as it most certainly is in that renowned house of worship, as he is to have it heard anywhere. However, like ValLimar, he is discomfited by the tendency of some modern religious artists to place the focus of their work on themselves. “I do my best to keep me out of the music I write” he says and goes on to add that he “become[s] uncomfortable when it starts to be about one person.” This is part of the reason why he does so much collaborative work, drawing on the substantial skill sets of a wide selection of multi-talented individuals. Their simple goal is to have the listener “experience the Spirit of God move.”
It is with this in mind, that under the Distinguished Patronage of His Excellency, Sir Cuthbert Sebastian Governor General of St. Kitts-Nevis, the Co-Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception invites the general public to an evening of soul-stirring and inspirational Gospel music at the Sir Cecil Jacobs (Eastern Caribbean Central Bank) Auditorium on Thursday, 12th June, 2008. From 7:00-9:00 pm you will be able to hear the LIVE performances of these two exemplary artistes who will share their magnificent music and sublime vocal abilities with us.

Tickets are only $50 for adults/$25 for children under 12 and are available through the Catholic Parish Office on East Independence Square Street. Call 465-2541 or 465- 2464 for more information.

In light of the world’s current unfortunate state - natural disasters that kill thousands in an instant and the ever increasing cost of oil and other necessities (caused in part by the machinations of the wealthiest and most powerful nations) - you are encouraged to bring your cares and concerns to this concert and allow them all to be swept up ‘In the Power of the Spirit.’
As ValLimar states so eloquently, “Jesus [will be there] and is ready to heal whatever is broken”.

You can find information about these artistes and hear samples of their music online at: Tom Kendzia ValLimar Jansen

PLEASE NOTE: Seating is restricted by the size of the auditorium and is therefore, in limited supply - to secure your place, purchase your tickets TODAY. Proceeds in aid of the Church Renovation Fund

The Corpus Christi procession

The parishioners of the Immaculate Conception Co-cathedral has come as usually in big numbers for the Corpus Christi celebration and procession last Sunday, May 25. The Corpus Christi celebration always coinsides with the beginning of the hurricane season. Since 2004 the procession is devoted to special prayer and blessing for the safe passage through the hurrican season. Since we started the procession and prayer and the blessing with the monstrance of the four corners of St. Kitts from the centre of the Independence Square in St. Kitts we did not suffer any major hurricanes we hope that also this year Christ present to us always in the Holy Eucharist will protect us from any dangers this season.

First Communion

On Sunday, May 18, therteen of our children: 10 boys! and three girls recived the communion for the first time. They were well prepared by the catechists and Fr,. Bernard and were set as an example to other young and adult catholics of the reverend manner of how to receive communion. The clergy, Fr. bernard and Deacon James Matthew who celebrated 18th anniversary of his Diaconal ministry have put forward a challange to the young boys especially. mainly that at least one of them becomes a priest and one a permanent deacon. W'll see what the future will give.

Pentecost 2008

By Lesroy W. Williams
Observer Reporter

(Sandy Point, St. Kitts)—The St. Kitts Catholic Community gathered together at Brimestone Hill for their annual Pentecost Mass and fellowship on Sunday May 11. Coming together were people from three parishes: The Co-Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Parish in Basseterre, Sacred Heart Parish in Sandy Point /Old Road and Holy Family Parish in Molineux. In attendance was about 350 parishioners. Presiding at the Pentecost Eucharistic Celebration was Fr. Bernard Latus, SVD, assisted by Fr. Xuan Ho, SVD, Fr. Jan Pastuszczak SVD, Fr. Walter Mendonca, SVD, Deacon James Matthew, Acolytes Jefferson Fraites and Pierre Berry. Fr. Romil Aperocho, Parish Priest of Sacred Heart, was the homilist.
The Feast of Holy Pentecost is celebrated each year on the fiftieth day after the Great and Holy Feast of Pascha (Easter) and ten days after the Feast of the Ascension of Christ. The Feast is always celebrated on a Sunday.
The Feast commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, a feast of the Jewish tradition. It also celebrates the establishment of the Church through the preaching of the Apostles and the baptism of the thousands who on that day believed in the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. The Feast is also seen as the culmination of the revelation of the Holy Trinity. The story of Pentecost is found in the book of The Acts of the Apostles. In Chapter Two we are told that the Apostles of our Lord were gathered together in one place. Suddenly, a sound came from heaven like a rushing wind, filling the entire house where they were sitting. Then, tongues of fire appeared, and one sat upon each one of Apostles. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as directed by the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).
This miraculous event occurred on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, celebrated by the Jews on the fiftieth day after the Passover as the culmination of the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16:10). The Feast of Weeks began on the third day after the Passover with the presentation of the first harvest sheaves to God, and it concluded on Pentecost with the offering of two loaves of unleavened bread, representing the first products of the harvest (Leviticus 23:17-20; Deuteronomy 16:9-10).
Since the Jewish Feast of Pentecost was a great pilgrimage feast, many people from throughout the Roman Empire were gathered in Jerusalem on this day. When the people in Jerusalem heard the sound, they came together and heard their own languages being spoken by the Apostles (Acts 2:5-6). The people were amazed, knowing that some of those speaking were Galileans, and not men who would normally speak many different languages. They wondered what this meant, and some even thought the Apostles were drunk (Acts 2:7-13).
Peter, hearing these remarks, stood up and addressed the crowd. He preached to the people regarding the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Holy Spirit. He spoke about Jesus Christ and His death and glorious Resurrection. Great conviction fell upon the people, and they asked the Apostles, "What shall we do?" Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38-39).
The Bible records that on that day about 3,000 were baptized. Following, the book of Acts states that the newly baptized continued daily to hear the teaching of the Apostles, as the early Christians met together for fellowship, the breaking of bread, and for prayer. Many wonderful signs and miracles were done through the Apostles, and the Lord added to the
Church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).
In his opening words at the Mass, Fr. Latus reminded the congregation that we are called to live and walk by the Spirit. The gathering in one place for the celebration of one Mass is symbolic of the Jews gathering in one place at Pentecost from different places within the Jewish diaspora and Jerusalem.
Fr. Romil in his homily said that Pentecost beckons us to be “instruments of unity.” The Spirit he said brings about unity among us. Those who are not of the Spirit are “instruments of division” he said.
He said that the mission of the Church is to unite people and to break down the barriers that divide us.
“All of us are one in the Spirit despite our culture, nationality, background, race and colour,” Fr. Romil said. “If we are one in the Spirit then we belong to the culture of Christ,” he continued.
“We must banish from among us the demons of hate, fear, division, indifference and prejudice and be united in our stand for justice, peace, equality and reconciliation,” he said.
The eucharistic service was punctuated with appropriate songs such as “One Bread, One Body” reminding us of our unity in Christ and “There’s A Sweet, Sweet Spirit” reminds us that like the Spirit we are called to have a sweet frangrance in our relationships with others. Mrs. Charmaine Donovan ably lead the combined choir.
The Feast of Pentecost this year coincided with Mother’s Day and mothers were recognized and appreciated. Rosemary Jordan Powell was awarded Mother of the Year by the Catholic Community for her outstanding life of faith and service.
After the Eucharist service, there was a Mother’s Day service that saw displays of African fashion wear,masquerade, songs and poems.
At the end of the day, it was truly a mountaintop experience