The Jesuits in Guyana
Georgetown and the East Coast

A quarter of the Guyanese population (200,000) live in the capital city of Georgetown. The city is located on the shoulder of land between the Caribbean coast and the east bank of the Demerara river and (at two feet below sea-level) it has an uneasy relationship with the sea. Yet, despite the ever-present threat of flooding, it is the thriving, noisy and slightly chaotic centre of political, economic and social activities in the country.

The Catholic Diocese of Georgetown had around nine distinct parishes in the city, but in the last few years the administration & planning for the urban churches has been centralised and the parishes have combined to a single ‘Pastoral Area’ which has developed an integrated sacramental and formation programme across the city. Three Diocesan priests care for this area and the Jesuits resident in the city assist their work in different ways – Masses, preaching, adult education & catechesis etc… The Jesuits in Georgetown are also responsible for a 30-minute weekly TV programme (“The Catholic Magazine”) and have written extensively for “The Catholic Standard” (the national weekly Catholic newspaper) over many years.

The Jesuits have an interest in wider education and so we are involved in various ways with some schools in the city:

St Stanislaus College
St Stanislaus College was founded by the Jesuits in 1908 and (since its nationalisation in the mid-70’s) is has been a government-run and aided school. At the request of the recently-established Board of Governors, the Jesuits have one priest and one scholastic teaching & assisting in the cultivation of the ethos of this multi-ethnic, non-denominational school.

Marian Academy
The Marian Academy is a private Catholic school which was established in 1998 and which has already become one of the best schools in Guyana. Along with an Ursuline Head-teacher and various other Religious and Catholic lay-people, the Jesuits have two scholastics presently engaged in full-time teaching.

St. Joseph Mercy Wings Vocational School Mercy Wings
The Sisters of Mercy began a project called “Mercy Wings” which has taken-on the delicate task of training young men and women who have fallen through the care of state education system. As well as doing basic English and Maths, Mercy Wings attempts to train these young adults in masonry, child care, carpentry, cooking and computer literacy. This project – although still in it early years - has been a huge success in helping many to develop a more positive self-esteem, obtain jobs, and gain other life-skills to assist them on their way. Two Jesuit scholastics work there part-time and one Jesuit priest is on the board of directors.

In Georgetown itself there are two Jesuit residences: the first is the Jesuit Presbytery which sits opposite the Roman Catholic Cathedral on Brickdam. (Brickdam is a street which marks the first paved-road built by the Dutch when they occupied Stabroek; it runs east-to-west between, and parallel to, the first two canals in the city. As the road acted as a dam between the two big canals and was made of bricks, it became known as… Brickdam!) The Presbytery is home for a community of seven men and also holds the office of the Regional Superior. The second community is to be found just to the south of city centre, at St Pius X Church in La Penitence. The Jesuits had a third Georgetown community situated on Main Street, but this was destroyed when flames consumed the Church of the Sacred Heart (which shared the same site) on Christmas Day 2004.

Travel east from Georgetown and after a few miles you begin to encounter the villages which mark the sites of old colonial sugar plantations. These were designed as long, narrow strips of North-South land, each of which had access to the Caribbean. The village names – such as Buxton, Champagne and Beterverwagting - indicate their complex English, French & Dutch lineage. Most of the sugar estates are now gone, but many of the communities that were established around them still flourish and two Jesuits are based at the church in the village of Plaisance and they look after the pastoral needs of the parish communities on a 15 mile stretch of the East Coast.