In the aftermath
July 3, 2024
Catholic schools celebrate SEA success
July 3, 2024

We can’t wait anymore’

Grenada parishes urged to form disaster committees

By Lara Pickford-Gordon


In the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl, which struck Monday, July 1, Bishop Clyde Harvey of St George’s-in-Grenada expressed deep concern for the people of Petite Martinique and Carriacou. The hurricane left the islands cut off and inaccessible, with reports of significant devastation.

Hurricane Beryl made history as the earliest Category 4 Atlantic hurricane, causing minimal damage to Tobago but severely impacting Carriacou,  Petite Martinique in Grenada, and Union Island in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Initial reports indicate two fatalities in Carriacou and one in SVG.

Bishop Harvey, who himself was unreachable for several hours on Monday due to a loss of electricity, spent Tuesday morning mopping up the living room at Bishop’s House, Church Street from overnight flooding.

He said St Patrick’s RC Church in Hillsborough, the main church in Carriacou, had lost its roof.

Bishop Harvey was concerned about the parish of Windward which he described as “a parish on its own on the island” and where the storm surge would hit. It was an area of fisherfolk. “The last thing I heard about them is that they were battening down themselves and hoping for the best….”

Bishop Harvey told The Catholic News that Petite Martinique was a major concern because it was hilly and very vulnerable. He however highlighted, “We have one of the most faithful Catholic communities in the diocese.” He hoped the church was not damaged because it was a “relatively new building”.

Despite the challenges, Bishop Harvey urged people to pray for courage and the strength “for whatever comes.”

He mentioned plans to bring people together to share their experiences. He voiced disappointment people had not heeded his many calls over the years to form disaster committees in parishes to deal with events, particularly hurricanes. Bishop Harvey hoped the lesson from the passing of Beryl will be “we can’t wait anymore”.

“The review will set out what needs to be done, the whole question of training people. We had one dry run, practice run, two days before the actual storm hit but that’s not enough. I hope more priests will get involved in the work of disaster preparation and relief. We need to train more people in that regard”.


Church property damaged in SVG

On Sunday, June 30, Beryl increased to a Category 3 hurricane very quickly heading toward the Windward islands. Bishops of dioceses in her path—Archbishop Gabriel Malzaire of Castries, St Lucia and Apostolic Administrator for Roseau, Dominica; Bishop Harvey, Bishop Gerard County CSSp of Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines; and Bishop Neil Scantlebury of Bridgetown, Barbados offered prayers and words of comfort to their flocks. Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon, President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference prayed for protection of the islands.

Meanwhile, Trinidad-born Fr Collin Jackson, assistant priest at the Cathedral of the Assumption, Kingstown, walked down Edinboro Road, passing the hospital and into Kingstown to see what was happening. He told The Catholic News early on Tuesday, “reports I received was that Union, Union Island was badly damaged.  We are yet to get in contact with the church leaders there to find out if there was any damage to the church itself. But from the lay people that I know, they said Union got hit pretty badly, which makes sense because Union is pretty close to Carriacou”.

Fr Jackson said he had yet to get information on Mayreau island and was concerned about the residents. “Here in Kingstown, a number of schools lost their roof, St Joseph Convent lost its roof over its pan house. The pastoral centre sustained some damage to its roof. A number of persons lost their homes,” he said. Among them was one of his students from St Martins Secondary school.

Fr Jackson said the Vincentian people are very resilient and he saw them walking around and some had begun doing roof repairs. “It’s really awesome how people were able to get up and start moving again”. He described the passage of Beryl as “quite an experience, what is normally a beautiful calm blue sea really became an abyss of darkness.”


Barbados churches not affected

“Lord, this is in Your Hands; I surrender to You”. This was the supplication of Bishop Scantlebury as he retired to bed Sunday night, trusting in God’s providence with the approach of Hurricane Beryl. High winds began Sunday night and continued through Monday.

He rose at 4.30 a.m. on Monday and checked around the presbytery to see if there was any water damage and if it “still have a roof”. He said everything was fine.

Bishop Scantlebury has experienced hurricanes before and knew what had to be done. He was thankful Beryl was not a “direct hit” to the island. Across the street from the presbytery is the St Patrick’s Cathedral. Bishop Scantlebury said a “little water” got in because of a roof issue. The present Cathedral is 125 years.

Bishop Scantlebury later updated that he got feedback from priests, “the churches and presbyteries have no damage”.

As Hurricane Beryl headed towards Jamaica as a Category 5 hurricane on Tuesday, Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston urged faithful to secure their lives and property, emphasising the power of prayer and the intercession of Our Lady of the Assumption for protection.