Monday, December 9, 2013

Rapid Expansion amid Hardships

Many churches were built between the 1920’s and 1930’s. In 1921 the San Antonio Church was founded in the Naraño sector and Nuestra Señora del Carmen Church was built in the Duey sector. In 1930, the Santa Teresita del Niño Jesús Church was blessed in the Vegas sector and in 1932, La Milagrosa Chapel was built in "La Trocha." Also that year, a chapel was established in the Collores sector.  In 1939, the Santiago Apóstol chapel was built in the Barinas sector.”

In his chapter on the Puerto Rican Mission in The Daughters of Dominic on Long Island published in 1937, Rev. Eugene J. Crawford, diocesan chaplain to the Motherhouse, described the “successful accomplishment by the Sisters of the work in one of the most difficult mission fields in the entire world.  They have had to labor against an almost universal decadence of the Faith; to make contact with and win the affections of a proud and sensitive race; … they have had to overcome difficulties of administration and increase of personnel despite heavy demands at home; they have had to become acclimated to physical conditions that are enervating, to food and water that were at times insufficient and unwholesome; they have had patiently to build after seeing on more than one occasion their material work, into which they had poured money and toil, totally destroyed by horrible tropical hurricanes, especially by the one of September 1928.” 

The Dutch fathers who took charge of the parish in Bayamón that had fallen into disarray in the period leading up to the Spanish-American war described the situation as just the kind of romantic challenge as has drawn the hearts of missionaries through the centuries.  Crawford summarized, “Puerto Rico is an enchanted island of superb floral beauty springing from a soil of marvelous fertility, the people were in abject poverty, exploited by powerful corporations and victimized by periodic hurricanes.”
The two greatest hardships overcome in the early years were the premature move to recall the Sisters back to New York and the destructive hurricane of 1928.  Bishop McDonnell had need of the Sisters in New York, and only gave permission for them to go “temporarily” after the Dutch Dominicans involved the Vatican.  In ten years’ time he urged their return when post-war expansion of the diocese in Brooklyn demanded the service of every Sister he could muster.  This caused great consternation, particularly for Mother Hilaria, who had been recalled to the Motherhouse because of illness.  She wrote passionate letters to her superiors expressing distress that the work she had given so much of her strength and vigor to would fall apart if the sisters were recalled so soon.   

On April 25, 1921 word went forth that the missions at Yauco and Isabella would have to be turned over that summer.  “Suddenly the unhappy situation cleared.  Bishop McDonnell died in August 1921 and before his death lessened his opposition; new candidates appeared at the Novitiate; and Mother Augustine became less worried about affairs at home.”