Most Reverend Herbert A. Bevard

Bishop of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands

 

MAY 28, 2009

PRESS RELEASE

Bishop Bevard's Statement

 

STS. PETER AND PAUL CATHEDRAL

RESTORATION PROJECT

"I have vowed since my September 2008 installation as Bishop to see this restoration through to its completion."

Most Reverend Herbert A. Bevard,

Bishop of the Diocese of St.Thomas in the Virgin Islands

 

Press Conference

Renovation of Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral

Bishop Herbert Bevard’s Statement

First of all, I would like to join with Fr. Neil Scantlebury, Msgr. Jerome Feudjio and all the members of the Restoration Committee in thanking all of you, all of our invited guests and all of the members of the media for coming to this press conference today. I am especially grateful to our Governor for honoring us with his presence. It is truly a joy to stand in our cathedral with members of the Catholic Community and also the non-Catholic community, with leaders of other churches and leaders of the civic and business communities, as we announce the end of Phase 1 of the effort to restore this beautiful building and the beginning of Phase 2.

Our Cathedral church was built 161 years ago. Since then she has weathered many a storm. She has seen floods, hurricanes and earthquakes come and go. And today, she stands strong and proud. But although she may be a pillar of strength and a great cause of ever new pride and joy, she is nevertheless, a grand old lady and she needs to be repaired, renewed and renovated.

In 2001, under the leadership of my predecessor, His Excellence Bishop George Murry, this project was commenced. Under the direction of Msgr. Jerome Feudjio bold plans were developed and architects were employed. The overall renovation project was envisioned to include repairs from the roof right down to the foundation, from the front doors on Main Street to the rectory on Frenchman’s Hill. Phase 1 of this project has now been completed.

Today I announce the beginning of Phase 2. This phase will include the construction of a new roof and the repair and strengthening of the columns which hold it up. We also intend to make the structure water tight, not only from the top down, but we will also address the problem of ground water coming from the bottom up, that is, into the foundation.

When this most important phase is completed, we will then commence Phase 3 in which we will concern ourselves with issues involving the electrical component, lighting, air conditioning, the sound system and other important considerations necessary for the total renewal of the building. Finally, we will address issues that are of a liturgical and artistic nature. At this point, we have no plans to drastically change the appearance of the interior of the cathedral; it is our intention, rather to restore its beauty.

This cathedral is truly a building of great significance for many reasons. Of course, it is the Mother Church and the heart of the Catholic Church in the Virgin Islands, but it is also tremendously important from a cultural, historic and civic point of view. As you can see, this building is an artistic gem. I would simply point out to you the ceiling completed over one hundred years ago by Father Leo Servais and Brother Idelphonsus, both members of the Redemptorist Religious Community. The ceiling shows 12 major scenes from the Old and New Testaments plus there are several smaller vignettes as well. The artistry of the ceiling alone places this building in the royal family of local art and beauty and, as such, must be preserved.

From a civic point of view, the presence of this cathedral cannot be over estimated. This church edifice and the school next to it and the headquarters of Catholic Charities across from it have been joined recently by two new additions to our church presence in the west end of town. His Excellency, Bishop Elliott Thomas and his family have graciously donated a building which in past years was their family pharmacy. The first floor of this building will become a chapel of Perpetual Adoration dedicated to Our Lord, under the title of Divine Mercy and to St. Therese, the Little Flower of Jesus. Further down Main Street, we have been given a building by Mr. Bernard MacIhenny, which well be transformed into a soup kitchen under the auspices of the Catholic Charities Program of the Diocese. And so, the Cathedral, and other Catholic Institutions of education and charity really do form an anchor for Savan and the west end of this town. No one who loves Charlotte Amalie can be indifferent to the strategic position that we occupy at the base of Frenchman’s Hill. As we climb that hill, the Chancery and two convents at the top of it also increase the significance of our presence in this part of our capital city. We look to the government in a special way to support our efforts to make and to keep this end of Main Street and this area within Savan a place of dignity, a place of safely, a place of beauty, a place of which we can all be proud.

As we enter into Phase 2, I would thank all the priests, especially, Fr. Neil Scantlebury who completed Phase 1, the pastors of all the parishes of the diocese for their wholehearted cooperation. I am also deeply grateful to all those people who have already supported Phase 1 of the project. Because of them, we can move on to the next part of the renovation project. I thank them for realizing that this is not just a project for all Catholics and all the people of the Virgin Islands, no matter to what parish or church they belong. Indeed, in this very place, we have celebrated the baptisms, weddings and funerals of our relatives and friends. With your prayers and support we hope to continue to serve you in the future. I thank also, Mr. Luis Gomez who has volunteered his services as the project manager to oversee our efforts. Because of him and because of all members of the Restoration Committee, we can look into the future with great hope and confidence.

A few months ago, in a rather discouraging international financial climate, I received the very disappointing and alarming news that Mr. Bernard Madoff had taken away part of our diocesan savings. That blow to our financial security could have been crushing and could have put an end to our hopes to restore Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral. But instead of looking at the situation with depressed self pity, we look instead to God and to God’s good people. God has never failed us nor have the people who love Him and the Church. On God, we rely; on God we stand and in God we hope.

And so, I call upon all the people of this beautiful place to choose victory over defeat, to choose renewal over decay, to choose to create a future of hope and accomplishment over a future limited by some temporary set backs that belong only to the past…setbacks that will NOT be allowed to define our future.

I look forward to the day when you will join me again when this building – renewed, renovated and restored, will be rededicated to the greater Honor and Glory of Almighty God.