Record

RepositoryJesuits in Britain Archives
Ref NoABSI/JAM
TitleJamaica (Cataloguing in progress)
Admin_HistoryOn 10 January 1837, the Vicariate of Jamaica was formed by Pope Gregory XVI. Although not a Jesuit himself, Benito Fernandez was appointed to be the first vicar apostolic to Jamaica, British Honduras and the Bahamas.

English Jesuit Fr William Cotham SJ, was one of the first two Jesuits to be sent to Jamaica. He was appointed Superior to the Jamaica Mission, and arrived in Jamaica on 2 December 1837. Along with Cotham was Fr James E Dupeyron, a French Jesuit. Upon their arrival, the Catholic presence in Jamaica numbered between 4000 and 5000 people. European immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, Germany and Portugal contributed largely to this figure, and many settled in the Jamaican countryside, and remained isolated from the city.

Cotham and Dupeyron realised that many Catholics in Kingston did not attend Mass regularly and had not received Catholic sacraments. Amending this became the responsibility of Cotham. Strengthening Catholic instruction into Jamaica's rural areas still remained an issue. Stationed in Spanish Town from 1838, Dupeyron made visitations to nearby parishes to extend the reach of Catholic influence. However, these early missions were characterised by failure, restricted by the limited availability of men and resources spread that could be mobilised throughout the island. It was not until after the death of the first Vicar Apostolic, Fr Benito Fernandez OFM, that the Jamaica mission was controlled directly by the Society of Jesus. Dupeyron succeeded Fernandez 11 September 1852.

In 1850, St Georges College was founded at 26 North Street, Kingston by a group of Colombian Jesuits. The school had 38 day students and 30 boarding students. Difficulties in language saw the Spanish Jesuits opt to leave Jamaica to teach in Guatemala in 1852, and the school was transferred to the administration of the English Jesuits. Fr Simon was assigned to manage the school until its unforeseen closure in January 1867. In March 1868, Fr James Jones reopened the school as normal. Alongside commitments to the school, Fr Jones established the Jamaica Catholic Association in 1867 to raise funds for the mission. Reports over the next three years show the money raised by the Association went towards the founding of churches, the upkeep of Jesuit colleges and poor relief.

Despite official Jesuit presence in Jamaica for nearly thirty years, the Jamaica census for 1866 reported only 4,110 Catholics living on the island. The majority of Catholics remained centred in Kingston, whilst a number of mission centres were set up around the country.

Into the 1870s, the English Jesuits of the Jamaica Mission continued to face significant setbacks. Due to the poor health of the Head Master Fr Barton and other Scholastics at St George's College, the school did not prosper, and college as a boarding school was ceased by January 1871 and was fully closed by the end of the same year.

The English Mission in Jamaica had been hampered by a lack of Fathers and Brothers since its beginning in 1847. By 1893, the Jamaica Mission was transferred to the Maryland-New York Province, and the first American recruits arrived in Jamaica on 7 April 1894.
AccessConditionsThe papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to archive material in the Jesuits in Britain Archives.

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