Governor Drs. Eugène Holiday with Bishop Secco, Prime Minister William Marlin and a second church dignitary. Photo contributed
St. Maarten News – Prime Minister William Marlin addressed the congregation of the Catholic Church yesterday on the occasion of its 175th anniversary celebration. Below is the unabridged text of Marlin’s address.
“Twenty-two years before the Proclamation of Emancipation on St. Maarten, the Catholic Church was established on this half of the island with Fr. Arnold ten Brink as the first parish priest. He laid the cornerstone for the present St. Martin of Tours Parish Church on Front Street and with that began what would turn out to be a profound transformation of the island.
For the last 175 years, the Catholic Church has had a very significant impact on our lives, not only in the spiritual realm, but also in the educational and social fields. No wonder the church grew by leaps and bounds. The parish took its ministry directly to where the people lived, in the districts of Cole Bay (where after 35 years, the church was gutted by fire in 1872 and never rebuilt again), Simpson Bay, and Reward. On May 30, 1952 the church on Front Street was built, costing 132,659 Dutch guilders. Imagine what that amount would represent in today’s currency! I understand that the aim now is to build a church in Belvedere, a goal I am confident the parish would accomplish by the grace of God.
But wherever the church was established, a school soon followed. Who, among my generation, does not remember the nuns? Six of them were sent to St. Maarten from Holland, arriving here at 8 a.m. on May 30, 1890 via St. Kitts. By Monday June 2, 1890, the St. Joseph School opened its doors as the first Catholic school on the island. That was only three days after the arrival of the nuns. Sister Regina was its first principal.