Our Lady of Mount Carmel
This chapel has been our family’s favorite place of worship for a very long time.
My husband and I were married here and relatives have had their children baptized.
Since its opening, its been renovated to accommodate the growing number of visitors to the island during the high season.
Today, our parents and many friends still worship with the congregation every week.
Curious about its history, I dove into the local newspaper archives to learn a little more about it.
The Dedication Ceremony
Did you know that more than 200 people attended its dedication in the summer of 1963?
That’s quite a significant number considering the small population of the island then.
The ceremony was quite impressive with the arrival of the Catholic dignitaries from Puerto Rico.
His Excellency, Reverend Emmanuel Clarizio came over to bless the new church, assisted by Bishop Edward J. Harper, a much loved and respected priest.
I remember him from my years attending the Sts. Peter and Paul School in St. Thomas.
The ceremony opened with a procession to the main entrance where the blessing of the exterior walls of the Chapel took place and a formal prayer, known as The Litany of the Saints was said.
Bishop Harper gave the sermon and explained the Liturgy and the significance of having a Catholic Church for the Christian people.
“Here, the Sacrament will be administered… Supernatural life will be given to souls in Baptism; Strength to battle the obstacles to salvation in Confirmation; and Food for the soul in Holy Communion”.
“Young people will be joined in Holy Matrimony and the whole Christian people will find consolation and strength in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.”
Contributions from the Callahan Family
Bishop Harper also acknowledged the contributions made by Mr. and Mrs. William Callahan. Without them, its doubtful the Chapel would have been made possible.
It was “through their generosity and zeal for the interests of God” that the funds were raised and the building designed.
The Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was a sixty by forty-foot building when first erected, designed by William Callahan himself.
Taking a peek inside, one can see that the new Church was beautifully decorated.
Every ornament came from a different part of the world!
Nestled in the sanctuary, a polished mahogany alter dominated the room with a striking gold and black tabernacle.
The candlesticks originated from Spain and the large five-foot crucifix of carved wood was from Oberammergau, Germany, a place long famed for its wooden carvings.
The large panel of polished mahogany that covered the wall at the back of the Alter, as well as the pews, were made of Honduras mahogany.
The floor tiles and exterior red, block walls came from Santo Domingo.
If you’re ever in St. John, you’re most welcome to stop by for a visit!