St. Francis Xavier Cathedral
As in The Bahamas, St. Francis Xavier serves today as patron to Roman Catholic missions, parish churches, and the dioceses on every continent around the world.
The archipelago comprising The Bahamas includes seventeen sizable islands and hundreds of smaller ones, cays and rocks. They stretch south-eastwardly from within fifty miles of the east coast of Florida, U.S.A., to a similar distance from the eastern end of Cuba.
The total land surface is only 4,400 square miles, but the islands are spread over a vast area on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. From northwest to south-east, this chain of islands run six hundred miles.
The following outline presents highlights of the growth and development of St. Francis Xavier Church, from the nineteenth century American Catholic Mission in a small British Colony to today's twenty-first century Catholic Cathedral in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
In July 1885, Lady Georgiana and her husband, Surgeon-Major F. G. Ayde-Curran, visited Archbishop Michael A. Corrigan of New York. The reason for their visit was to beg him to send a priest to reside in Nassau, Bahamas. Between 60 and 80 Catholics residing there - British, Irish, Spanish, Cubans, Haitians and other foreign workers, merchants, diplomats, soldiers - had no priestly help for many months on end.
Fr. Charles G. O'Keefe of the Archdiocese of New York, accompanied the Ayde - Currans back to Nassau. Meanwhile, the Congregation of the Propagation of the faith in Rome was preparing to transfer responsibility for evangelizing the inhabitants of the Bahamas Islands from the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolin, to the Archdiocese of New York, U.S.A.
July 28, 1885 New York Archdiocese formally accepted responsibility for evangelization of residents in the Bahamas Island.
In August 1885, was established the first Catholic Parish in The Bahamas by Father Charles G. O'keefe of New York. The world famous missionary, St. Francis Xavier, was selected as its patron.
Father O'Keefe appointed a building committee, and within a few days, construction of a church to seat about 100 persons was stated. One of the building committee members, Samuel Theus Smith, was the maternal grandfather of Peter Bowe, father of Mrs. Ruth Bowe-Darville, currently a member of this Cathedral Parish.
Lady Georgiana Ayde-Curran who strove incessantly for a resident priest and an established Catholic church in Nassau, laid the cornerstone for St. Francis Xavier Church on a small lot on West St. hilltop, which overlooks the Western entrance to Nassau Harbour.
Nov. 7 of 1886, The first Mass for the parish, in the newly completed little church, was offered by Father A.J. Ryan of the Archdiocese of New York.
Feb. 13, 1887, Most Rev. Michael A. Corrigan, Archbishop of New York, dedicated little St. Francis Xavier Church.