15. Walkers Road property is purchased (Continued)
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As an investment, Fr. Sarjeant recalled that he thought the Church paid US$20,000 for the land on Walker’s Road.
And with the money leftover from the sale of the Elizabethan Square after buying the Walker’s Road property, the Church could envision a new church, rectory and school in the not too distant future. Until then, however, mass was still held at the church on Shedden Road.
"The people who really wanted a Catholic school were the protestant ministers," said Fr. Sarjeant. "They wanted that old Catholic School discipline," he said with a laugh.
It was around this time that the Diocese of Kingston was created and Catholic Church in the Cayman Islands ‘officially’ became part of the Kingston diocese, even though Montego Bay was closer. That was done simply because there was air service from Cayman to Kingston, but none to MoBay, said Father.
Father Sarjeant regularly went to Cayman Brac once a month on a DC-3 aircraft. Mass was held in a private home, and there were never more than six or eight people in attendance. This was also the time that many Cuban refugees landed on Cayman shores looking for entrance into the US. The Church dealt with large numbers of them and assisted in their transportation to the US, in the middle of the night by way of a boat that just ‘appeared’ off Seven Mile Beach.
In Father Sarjeant’s time as resident priest, he recalled that by 1965, he had about 20-25 regular Catholics attend mass. "We still weren’t a ‘big thing’ in those days. In fact, he supplemented his meager income by doubling as a math teacher at Cayman Prep during the day.
But over the next few years, as more Catholics moved to the Cayman Islands and Cayman Catholics married and had children, the congregation began to grow steadily.
By 1969, Father Sarjeant estimated he had about 80 regular worshipers, so he started Saturday evening mass. "I felt that the way to create more attendance was to create more masses. It seemed to work," he said jovially.
And by the end of Father Sarjeant’s tenure in 1971, the dream of a prep school had become a reality as the first classes for the school—then called Our Lady of Perpetual Help—opened in September 1971.
"By the time I left in 1971, I was satisfied we had done well for the Church in the Cayman Islands, but I had no idea what was in store for the future. When I went back for the 25th anniversary of the school (1996), I was flabbergasted. Our development was slow but steady and our dreams were very big."
(From Father Sargeant, interview; Monsignor Meaney, Memory Bank)