The Monks who served St. Francis Church
1932 to 1960 - This period during and after Fr. Othmar Hohmann's pastorate in the life of St. Francis Parish was one of continued, tremendous growth and development, even as it was for the entire Bahamas Mission. The young Benedictine Missionaries who arrived, almost like a steady flowing down from Minnesota, did not only "stand tall" on the proverbial shoulders of their zealous precessors.
True to their motto, "Ora et Labora (prayer and work)," they, too lived to the fullest, the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Each one shared his peculiar gifts and talents with the local people.
In matters relative to the Parish Sunday and Elementary Schools, they worked closely with the Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of St. Martin de Porres Convent. Besides teaching and social work among the poor, the Sisters ensured that the sacred vessels, altar linens, vestments and sanctuary were always sparkling clean and in good condition.
Some of the other monks who served St. Francis Church during this period and whose names became associated with activities besides their priestly responsibilities were:
- Fr. Ambrose Wittman - Choral Groups giving concepts of classical music, drama and Orchestra;
- Fr. Quentin Dittberner - Marching Band;
- Fr. Cornelius Osendort - Building Construction; medical and dental services, Home Visits and Sports;
- Fr. Frederic Frey - Youth Development, Education, Sports, Adult Instruction, Building Construction, Home Visits;
- Fr. Marcian Peter - Youth Development (eg. revitalization of Boys Scouts), Sports, Drama, Horticulture, Building Construction, Home Visits;
- Fr. Brendan Forsyth - Male Choir, Liturgical Music, Home Visits, Mentoring Boys and Men's Groups (e.g. Holy name Society; many Altar Servers including males representative of the various races in the Parish, ranging in age from Senior Citizens to First Graders). Building Construction;
- Fr. George Wolf - Home Visits, Building Construction and Youth Development;
- Fr. Silvan Bromenshenkel - Home Visits, Adult Instruction, Mentoring Youth.
It was Fr. Frederic who was responsible for the construction of the basketball court while he was pastor at St. Francis Church (1940 - 1945).
For many years afterward, this was one of only a few basketball courts on this Island. The Church graciously permitted the Government High School (then on Nassau Court downtown) to use it for several hours, two afternoons a week during the school year for many years. It was a popular recreational place. The electric lights enabled numerous Priory Basketball Series to be played and enjoyed by many thousands of young persons after nightfall, from then until now.
In addition to daily Mass, parish devotions included Benedictions of the Most Blessed Sacraments each Sunday afternoon for those who attended Sunday School, and again, later Sunday evening after Complin and Instruction; a Holy Hour with Exposition each Thursday evening; Stations of the Cross on Friday evenings during Lent, and Saturday evening Rosary after Confessions.
By 1960 when the oldest Catholic Mission Church in The Bahamas was formally established as St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, at least ten young parishioners were priests or religious. In various capacities, most of them ministered devotedly for periods from five to twenty years.
Still serving in the priesthood and religious life today are Msgr. Preston A. Moss, Vicar General of the Archdiocese and Pastor of St. Anselm's Church in Fox Hill, and Sister Annie Thompson, OSB, Immediate Past Prioress of St. Martin Monastery on Nassau Street and Administrator of the Nazareth Home for Abused Children, Off Bethel Avenue in Stapledon Gardens, New Providence.
The total number of Catholics in The Bahamas was 20,000, approximately 19% of the entire population in the Colony.
Pope John XXIII agreed with his advisors that there were sufficient strong signs and potential for continued progress and further development of the Church in The Bahamas.
Not surprisingly, therefore, on July 5, 1960 the Holy See designated the Vicariate Apostolic of The Bahamas as the Diocese of Nassau. The Vicar Apostolic of The Bahamas, the Most Rev. Paul Leonard Hagarty, OSB, became the first Bishop of Nassau and his pro-Cathedral, St. Francis Xavier on West Street hilltop, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Nassau.
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