Caribbean Challenge: a New Diocese in Jamaica, West Indies

Bishop Paul Boyle, C.P.On Saturday, December 20, 1997, Pope John Paul established the new diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica, West Indies, to be headed by Bishop Paul Michael Boyle, Passionist. In 1991, the territory, where over 50 Passionists from North America have labored since 1955, was created an Apostolic Vicariate. Now it is raised to the status of a diocese. Right: Bishop Paul Boyle, C.P.

The diocese consists of the three south-central "parishes" of Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth and has a total population of just over a half million people. The diocese is about 1,300 square miles or 29% of the total land of Jamaica.

The elevation to the rank of diocese by the Holy Father certainly is a recognition of the tremendous growth that has taken place in the vicariate in its six short years under the leadership of Bishop Boyle.

When it began in 1991, there were three Passionist priests, one deacon, one brother and twelve sisters. Today, there are 29 priests, 10 deacons, 40 religious sisters, 11 brothers, four seminarians, three consecrated laity and 13 lay missionaries. The number of parishes, mission stations, schools (college, high, primary and basic) and orphanages has increased. Church attendance has more than doubled in some areas.

On February 15, 1998 the Holy Father's representative to the Antilles, the Apostolic Nuncio, Most Rev. Eugenio Sbarbaro, came from Trinidad for the liturgical ceremony of establishing the new diocese and installing Bishop Boyle as the Ordinary. Passionists from North America, Jamaica and all over the world proudly celebrated the occasion, wishing the new diocese God's blessings.

Talking with Bishop Paul M. Boyle, C.P., first Bishop of Mandeville

Q: Bishop, the Vicariate of Mandeville experienced wonderful growth in the last six years. What are some reasons for it?

Bishop Boyle: "The reasons for the growth of the diocese are multiple. By creating this separate church territory the Holy Father made it possible for a bishop to have more direct contact with the faithful. Secondly, we have experienced an enormous increase in missionaries. With this missionary presence, programs of instruction, service and worship became possible. A group of Jamaican permanent deacons is another important reason for the increase. These men perform a variety of services throughout the diocese."

Q: Bishop, what are some of things you hope to accomplish now that the diocese has been established?

Bishop Boyle: "The most important consideration for the future, as I see it, is to work toward helping our Catholics deepen their faith and increase their knowledge of the faith. Already we have an active group of informed and dedicated faithful. As their number increases they will inevitably be sharing it more with others.

"There are, of course, many other hopes. A priority is to provide a good Christian education for every Jamaican child, enabling him or her to earn a decent living, enjoy the good things God has provided for us, and make a contribution to Jamaican society.

"I would love to be able to provide two more high schools. Our Catholic College of Mandeville needs to be strengthened and expanded, to serve many more of our young adults. In the near future, the college hopes to open a school of technology, preparing young people for productive work.

"Jamaican vocations to the religious life and priesthood are a necessity if the church is to take firm root in Jamaican society. I long for the day when, in addition to our permanent deacons, we have Jamaican priests, brothers and sisters serving in the diocese."

See also: Passionist Spirituality and Leadership, an article by Bishop Boyle in the Winter, 2006 Newsletter of the Passionist Historical Archives

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