Tuesday, December 10, 2013

No Conveniences

In the early years before the convenience of air travel, air mail and telephones, life in Puerto Rico was primitive. “The first convents were simple wooden houses with little or no electricity or refrigeration. Bathroom facilities were primitive and usually out-of-doors. The tropical heat made life uncomfortable much of the year for the Sisters, covered as they were from head to toe in the Dominican habit. The Sisters persevered and studied diligently to master the language and to teach English to children who knew only Spanish. They worked as teachers on all levels of education. They also served as catechists and pastoral workers, as ministers to the poor, elderly, the youth and as family counselors.”

Catholic schools were being built in many sections of Puerto Rico just as the number of churches and parishes grew.  “Santísimo Rosario School was founded on September 23, 1912 at 11 San Rafael Street. In 1917 Puerto Ricans were given U.S. citizenship. The majority of Puerto Ricans today self-identify as white and Spanish-speaking, 95 percent spoke a language other than English at home. Of those speaking a language other than English at home, 100 percent spoke Spanish and less than 0.5 percent spoke some other language; 85 percent reported that they did not speak English “very well.”(Census.) Contrary to popular belief that the Amerindian population in Puerto Rico is nearly extinct, a recent study indicated that between 52.6% and 84% of the population possess some degree of Amerindian DNA in their maternal ancestry, usually in a combination with other ancestries. In addition, these DNA studies show Amerindian ancestry in addition to the Taíno.

By 1925 Santísimo Rosario had both an elementary and high school. On November 7, 1926 they laid the cornerstone for the construction of a new building for the school.  While the Holy Cross sisters were in charge of education, the Dominican friars focused mainly on meeting the spiritual needs in the Yauco countryside. On April 8, 1934, Parish Priest Alberto Putters inaugurated Nuestra Señora del Rosario Church.  “The Dominicans established seven new chapels in Puerto Rico between 1914 and 1939. In 1914, the Sagrado Corazón Church was built in the Collores sector of town.  In 1920 the original carved image of Our Lady of Providence was the carving that remains in the cathedral in San Juan today.  This image depicts Mary leaning over Jesus, who in an attitude of complete trust sleeps peacefully on her lap. The Virgin's hands are folded in prayer while she gently supports her Son's left hand.  Devotion to Our Lady of Providence grew and the church in Puerto Rico grew stronger with it.