Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dutch Dominicans Arrive

Fr. Martín Luycks was named parish priest in Bayamón on September 8, 1905 a post he held until 1908. He was renamed parish priest of Bayamón from 1910 to 1913. Mother Dominga Guzmán remembered Martín as a man who was “tall, strong, with a penetrating gaze. He was very kind. I always say he was my father because I began my Christian training with him. He prepared me for my first communion and later for my confirmation. It was Father Martín who took me to the United States in 1911 when I became a nun in the order of the Holy Cross.”  Father Martín died in 1944. Father Joaquin Selbach came to Puerto Rico on July 17, 1904. After working intensely in Puerto Rico for twenty years, he returned to Holland. In 1905, the priests Jordán Raemakers, Jaime Nielen and León Kramer joined the Dominican community in Yauco. Jordán, as coadjutor for Yauco, was named parish priest for Yauco and director of the Society of the Holy Name of Ponce in 1940. He died October 24, 1959.

“These first Dominicans to arrive in Puerto Rico found a poor and mostly illiterate population that still had deep, popular-based religious feelings. The majority of the residents lived in the countryside. From the Spanish era, Yauco was a very agricultural town and since the 19th century many Corsican families had been growing coffee. As a result of the U.S. invasion, the Puerto Rico economy underwent rapid change. An economy of coffee estates changed to an economy of plantations and much of the land belonging to Puerto Rican rural residents ended up in the hands of huge U.S. enterprises. In the middle of this process of socio-economic change, the apostolic work of the Dominicans in Yauco and in Puerto Rico began.  When they arrived in Yauco, the town had a population of approximately 6,200 residents, about 800 of whom attended mass with some regularity. Given the situation, the Dominicans began to try to evangelize the public. On September 30, 1909, the then Regional Vicar, Friar Gregorio Vuylsteke, was told that Pope Pius X had given the Dominican Sisters of the Holy Cross in Brooklyn permission to send some nuns to Puerto Rico to help the Dominican friars in their work of evangelization and education of the youth.”

“On February 24, 1908, the Very Rev. Luis Theissling, Provincial of the Dominican Fathers in Holland, visited the Motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters, Graham Ave. Brooklyn, NY to ask the Rev. Mother Prioress, M. Catherine Herbert, to send a colony of Sisters to Puerto Rico for the purpose of assisting the Dominican Fathers already established there.  The Mother Prioress true to the Dominican principle of expansion was most willing to accept the proposal, if the consent of the Rt. Rev. Charles E. McDonnell, Bishop of Brooklyn, could be obtained.  The good Bishop evidently believed the Sisters had work enough at home, so the matter was deferred.”