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From October 10th to the 16th Father General visited the Caribbean District of the USC Province. The following are some of Father General’s recollections and impressions of his visit.

Father General visited the parishes of Holy Rosary Church in Kingston, Jamaica, the Good Shepherd Church in Bridgeport, and Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Morant Bay. The Holy Rosary Parish has a convent and a school for some 600 children.  The Catholic school has an excellent reputation. Most of the students come from families belonging to other denominations. Bro. Bernie Spitzley is the official administrator of the parish.

The second parish, Good Shepherd in Bridgeport, is an interesting parish set-up since the Catholics are sharing a church with the Anglicans. The tabernacle is used by both groups. Fr. Bernard Latus is the parish priest. The third parish, Our Lady of Assumption is under the care of two Polish SVDs namely Zbigniew Orlikowski, the parish priest, and Wloclawek Turek. The SSpS are running a school in this parish and doing social work.

Father General met all five confreres assigned to Jamaica including Frt. Gilmore, an OTP student from Brazil. The confreres are very happy with their work although many of them have more than one assignment and are very busy. It is the love of the people and serving their needs that keep them going, they say.

St. Maarten
Father General arrived at Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church and also met the confreres from the neighboring islands of Anguilla, Virgin Gorda and Tortola. Father General participated in a meeting with some forty lay leaders of the parish of St. Maarten. The commitment of the lay mission partners, who have various immigration backgrounds such as from the Netherlands, France, England, and the Dominican Republic, is quite impressive. The leaders are happy with their Divine Word Missionaries.

The parish priest of St. Maarten is Fr. Yohanes Bally. Father General also visited the French part of the island of St. Maarten. Earlier the bishop had requested the SVD to take over the parish there. Presently USC does not have enough personnel to take over another parish.

Father General had a whole day meeting with the confreres, listening to their stories and mission experiences. In general, the confreres are happy, and some are even eyeing different ministries and even mission places. Some have had successes in their parish work and witnessed a tremendous growth of membership and the collaboration of the people.

St. John’s, Antigua

Father General met here our confreres from Montserrat, St. Kitts and Antigua. The confreres show a keen interest in the developments of the Society. A key question is how to recruit vocations. So far nobody from Antigua (nor St. Maarten) has joined the SVDs. All parishes we are involved in pray for vocations regularly, and some parishes have ad hoc groups that come together to pray for vocations. A key obstacle seems to be that young people today do not like long-term or life-commitments. Another key problem is the status of families not only in the Caribbean islands but worldwide. The District Superior Fr. Ante Jeroncic, who resides in Villa Maria, hosted the meeting.

Father General then visited the Mother of Perpetual Help Parish whose parish priest is Fr. Xuan Ho. He also visited the Holy Family Cathedral under the helm of Fr. Frank Power. Father General had a dialogue with the youths preparing for Confirmation. He met three SSpS from Indonesia, PNG, and Ireland. The Sisters are working in our parishes, in schools in Antigua, and do counseling in a rehabilitation center for abused children. Commitment of confreres is elating.

Father Superior General writes:
Seeing the commitment of our confreres to their mission and the appreciation of their work by the people convinces us that we are in the right place at the right time. The work and commitments on the different islands are very diverse and often they offer the means to minister to small groups of people from various cultural backgrounds. A big challenge is to keep this mission going. Not having found any local vocations since its beginning and with a foreseeably reduced number of confreres is not a good picture. Starting new missions would mean to leave old ones behind.

Within ten years the Caribbean district might have considerably fewer confreres. The arrangements will need to be made accordingly to turn over mainly parishes to the respective dioceses. The high hopes are found in the great and touching participation of the laity in all places visited. It makes one feel good to see our hard working and very faithful confreres, journeying with and close to the people. Care for the poor and a suffering environment play an important role in their ministry and in the various services they render.

I thank the district superior Fr. Ante Jeroncic and all confreres for their great hospitality and warm welcome. The lay people I thank for their unique contributions in building up their parishes and for their generous sharing during our encounters.

Published in the newsletter “Arnoldus Nota” – Dec. 2016