The Truly Epic History of the Catholic Church In Belize
The Years Of Grace Book Launch
The word "epic" gets used way too much in popular parlance, I mean, everything from a wild night out on the town to a red sunrise is called "epic." Simply put, the word has lost its "epic-ness."
But today the authors of a new book used the "E-word" freely and you might say with good cause. That's because they were talking about the Catholic Church's 491 year history in Belize - which by scale alone is truly epic.
It's one of the few remaining meta-narratives of Belizean history, right up there with nationalism and logwood - but this story has never been fully told - not until now at least.
The project was first taken on by Charles Woods Sr. in 1986 but when he passed on in 2007 - he had only completed three chapters and the bookoutline. That's where distinguished educator J. Alexander Bennett and Woods's daughters Silvaana and Valerie came in. They finished the 398 page book with major input from others and launched it today. Jules Vasquez was there:..
Years of Grace: The History of Roman Catholic Evangelization in Belize is the brainchild of the late Charles Wood Senior. The Belizean historian spent countless hours documenting the arrival of Spanish conquistadores and the subsequent conversion to Christianity of the inhabitants they encountered in this part of the world. Following his passing several years ago, Woods’ daughter, Sylvaana, along with co-author J. Alexander Bennett and a dedicated team of editors, proceeded with compiling his research. That publication was launched today at the Holy Redeemer Parish Hall before an audience primarily comprised of members of the clergy.
Sylvaana Udz, Co-author, Years of Grace
“Daddy had an idea in 1986, he’d always been a historian, he worked with the cooperative movement, was a registrar at one time and always a strong parishioner of the church and as he was doing his historical studies and through the years it struck him that, “There are so many things that I never realized”, he said and he wanted to document it. He had done pieces before for what was the website when it went up and other publications but he wanted this. He wanted to make known the story of evangelization because it is the story of Belize, modern Belize and Bishop O.P. Martin supported him. He spoke to Father Buehler who had already compiled a ninety-six page piece, his history, the history but was primarily of the Jesuits and they all got together. He got together, he spoke to David Prendergast at the time. He spoke to so many people, so many people who encouraged him and once the fever hit daddy to continue he couldn’t stop. It literally consumed his life. He died unfortunately but having researched much of the book and put it together it’s his book and we have co-authored it, Mr. J. Alexander Bennett who graciously agreed to join us five years ago and of course our wonderful editorial committee.”
A Look at Evangelization
The book is an in-depth look at evangelization dating back to 1524 and was funded by the German Bishops Foundation, Holy Redeemer Credit Union, as well as the Institute for Social and Cultural Research Research, among others.
Sylvaana Udz, Co-author, Years of Grace
“Years of Grace begins as a story in 1524 when Ferdinand and Isabella were sending out the explorers, always with a priest. But that didn’t last, the priests were itinerant and the Maya were very smart, they kept telling the priests, “Oh no, we don’t have gold here, you have to go up to Peten”. Alright, and so we had these Franciscan and Dominican friars next, but it was in 1832, after the Anglicans, Wesleyans and Baptists had been here that in fact the permanent presence of Catholicism began with the Jesuits. And it really was a group of about two hundred and fifty Catholics in Belize City, merchants who were just fed with some of the, shall we say, excess and outlandishness of some of the Yucatecan priests who had come over during the Caste War. Not all now, just a few and they got Father du Perron to send down a group and Father Avaro and the rest established the first permanent presence of Roman Catholicism. The Catholics went out into the bush, they went, nothing stopped them from spreading the word of the Lord. And what has transpired is the word of the Lord is not just this think in a book, it‘s in you Isani. This is what I get out of it. It’s in me, it’s in everybody. If I can find God in somebody I have found God. And that is how this book has changed my life and I feel privileged to have been a part of the research. Of course it goes through the credit union movement, you heard the speakers today. It’s a history of the geopolitics of Belize, the labor riot influenced by a whole part of the rarum navarum and the social justice movement and the call to social justice that the adult education classes of Father O’Donnell and some of the other earlier missionaries held.”
Years of Grace retails for forty dollars and all proceeds from sales go to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belize City & Belmopan.