HISTORY OF HOLY SPIRIT MISSION
The Mission of Holy Spirit Parish in the southwestern town of Maggotty, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica began in January, 1999, with the arrival of two Polish priests, Father Marek Bzinkowski and Father Andrew Beltowski who arrived at their new post armed only with the blessing of the bishop and their own faith and enthusiasm.
Maggotty, described as a “deep, rural district,” is a poor but beautiful agricultural region situated along a bend of the Black River. It was the scene of eager beginnings of a new parish being built until a terrible accident on December 5, 1999 near Santa Cruz, Jamaica nearly cost Fr. Marek his life.
By the workings of Divine Providence, the Diocese of Mandeville appealed to its sister Diocese in the United States, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, whose bishop moved quickly to bring Father Marek to Altoona, Pennsylvania. After many surgeries, prayers and recuperation with our Sisters, Father Marek returned to his post after a rather miraculous recovery.
OUR SISTERS IN JAMAICA
A few years later, on September 7, 2004 our Congregation opened a convent at Holy Spirit Parish. Who could have imagined that this mission, begun in a goat shed, would have grown only a decade later to include a 14 acre complex that includes a church, rectory, clinic, library, homework center, convent, classrooms and modern computer center (conducted by lay missionary Ms. Marta Socha), male and female dormitories for volunteers, a hot pepper farm and a Polish kielbasa sausage factory, and that our Sisters would one day serve on this beautiful but poor Caribbean island.
Our Sisters work at the clinic, treating the ambulatory and making home visits to those in the surrounding villages who are too sick to come. The Sisters are loved by the people who call these missionary Sisters “our angels.” The new Holy Spirit Clinic – is a beautiful, spacious clinic with two examining rooms, dental office, pharmacy, physical therapy room, storage areas, large waiting area with a roof, public and private restroom facilities, and private quarters for the employees to eat a quick midday snack and get back to work!
Sister Clare Marie Carriger registers the patients and helps with taking information before the patients are seen. Sister Emila Malczak, Sister Rita Kurdziel, and Sr. Scholastyka Hajduk work as nurses. The clinic is regularly visited by doctors and by volunteer medical personnel visiting throughout the year.
WHAT GOD IS DOING THERE
The Holy Mass at this parish is very lively with Caribbean music and singing, much clapping of hands, and is filled each Sunday with over 200 people, mostly children. Father and another driver go to the outlying areas to bring the people to the church each Sunday. The people are very poor, but they always come to church dressed in their “Sunday best” and very clean and neat. There is much hope for the future. The church is simple but beautiful, with the many plants and trees in the sanctuary. All Sisters teach catechetical classes each Sunday and have organized the recitation of the rosary with the children before the Sunday Mass.
The Parish’s hot pepper farm, operated by the parishioners, raises money for the children’s public school tuition, car fare, shoes and school supplies. Without a uniform, shoes, taxi fare, school supplies and lunch money, no child can attend the public school in Jamaica. The Parish of Holy Spirit estimates that it spends about US $400,000 annually to provide for the education of the children. Sponsorship of children is encouraged.
There are different visitors all the time. The parish center which includes dormitories, kitchen, laundry and meeting area is now open to accommodate volunteers.
THE NEEDS ARE GREAT
As to the poverty of this country, the conditions are primitive. For most, there is no running water or electricity, and people can be seen carrying water to their homes. At times the roads became too bad to drive, and there is no way but to walk over rough terrain and steep inclines. The living conditions of most of the people are deplorable. The Jamaican women still cook over an open fire, wash clothes in the river and dry in the grasses and their bathroom and shower facilities are rudimentary outhouses with buckets of water.
The Lord's Heart is moved with compassion for His poor, suffering children, whom He identifies with Himself. He would relieve their desperation, educate them, elevate them to the dignity which is theirs, but, as is has so beautifully been said:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”