Bishop OP Martin passed away this morning. Bishop Martin was the head of the diocese from 1984 to 2007.
"Bishop O.P. Martin was Belize's first native bishop who shepherded us for over 20 years in humility and love. You will be missed bishop. I thank God for your life and the gift of your vocation. May you rest in God's eternal peace until we one day meet again."
The Catholic Church Loses Bishop Martin
Today the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belmopan and Belize City announced the passing of 86 year old Bishop OP Martin. Osmand Peter Martin was born in 1931, and was ordained into priesthood in April 1959. After serving in parishes throughout the diocese for 33 years, Martin was ordained Auxiliary Bishop and was the first Garifuna and Belizean bishop for the Church. He was appointed Bishop of the Belmopan and Belize City diocese two years later in 1984.
After serving the Catholic Church for 48 years, the then 76 year old bishop retired to his family home in Dangriga where he passed away in his sleep early this morning. Martin's family and other bishops are being consulted about his funeral arrangements. When more details are available, we will let you know.
Belize’s first native Roman Catholic Bishop, The Most Reverend Osmond Peter Martin of Dangriga, is dead. He died, at the age of eighty-seven, sometime after three this morning at home of natural causes. Bishop Martin was ordained a bishop in 1982 after entering the priesthood in 1959, and after a short time as auxiliary bishop, succeeded the man who appointed him, Robert Hodapp, in 1983, serving until 2006. Martin, a Garifuna, tried his best to help unite the young Belize and spread the Catholic influence, whether with a smile, humour, or timely homilies of the word of God. As a result, he gained many converts and was a familiar face to all. Aaron Humes spoke to his family and friends to tell his story.
Aaron Humes, Reporting
The Most Reverend Osmond Peter Martin blazed trails as the first Belizean appointed to lead the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belize City and Belmopan. It was a choice that not only pleased his family, but his nation as well.
Lucy Zuniga, Cousin of Bishop O.P. Martin
“His mother was very happy when he decided to go into the priesthood; she was very, very proud of him, and so is the family. We have not – we didn’t think that we lost a son; but we were able to gain more family, because he made a lot of family in our country.”
Contemporary and Bishop of the Anglican Church in Belize, Right Reverend Philip Wright, said that after decades of expatriate leadership, Bishop Martin’s ordination proved a turning point for the development of the Christian faith in the Jewel.
Bishop Philip Wright, Anglican Church
“I think both for the quality of leadership he offered, and also for some of the things he was able to achieve, I think Bishop Martin will long be remembered for making a significant inroad in the leadership of the Church. I think we also have to bear in mind, as you rightly point out, his place as among the first local, truly local, to take leadership, and to think about the fact that following expatriate leadership, how important that would have been for him to have been a model for all future leaders of the Church, in terms of how he exercised his own episcopal responsibilities.”
And those responsibilities took him across the country, meeting people like Sebastian Cayetano.
Sebastian Cayetano, Catholic Parishioner
“I remember Bishop Martin as a builder: he built the Parish Hall, Holy redeemer Parish Hall; he built the Facundo Castillo Diocesan Center for Belize; he built the co-cathedral in Belmopan – he was responsible for that; he also contributed to our museum here – he contributed furniture to this Luba Garifuna Museum here, and above all he helped us build the church in Barranco – oh yes, he really contributed considerably to the building of that church, and I am happy that he was present for the inauguration of that church [on the] twenty-ninth of April, 2007. Sometimes he would walk in the South, Toledo, he would walk; other times he would ride on horses – and I think there was time when he fell off a horse and injured his back. And in addition to that, Bishop Martin usually gives beautiful sermons, homilies; and among the content of his homilies from the time, would be he fought against racism, bigotry, prejudice, discrimination that was rampant in Belize, of which he was also a victim.”
Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.
The bishops and priests of the Roman Catholic Church were not available today due to a scheduled retreat in the Cayo district. Funeral arrangements are being finalized.
And Bishop Martin was a revered church leader but he was also a standout athlete in his youth.
We found that out in Easter 2009, Jacqueline Godwin visited him at his home in Dangriga where the then 78 year old reflected on 50 years as a man of the cloth:..
Jacqueline Godwin Reporting
On April fourth, 1959 Osmond Peter Martin was ordained a priest. Today fifty years later, at the age of seventy eight he gets around with the help of a walker, due to a severe spinal injury. Now the former Bishop of Belize spends most of his time at his family's home in Dangriga.
The Most Reverend Osmond Peter Martin is the eldest brother of three sisters and the son of Justin and Cleofa Martin. As a young boy he was a member of the Holy Redeemer Scouts Group and noted as an avid athlete, even playing on the SJC soccer team. And this a strapping young man you see here at the age of twenty three was already studying to be a priest. He would later become the first Belizean priest to be ordained a bishop in 1982. But the Most Reverend Martin says it all started in high school when he was just 18 and received his first calling to the priesthood.
Most Rev. Osmond P. Martin, Former Bishop of Belize "It is just through the inspiration of God, that is the reason why they call vocation a calling. It is through God's inspiration that I made that very difficult decision."
A difficult decision, but one he doesn't regret because it produced the highlight of his career.
Most Rev. Osmond P. Martin "I would say it is my involvement with education, my involvement with attracting lay people to their vocation in the church either as teachers, as in their own profession, but it is living the lay life in a way that is service oriented."
The Most Reverend Martin retired at the age of seventy five but it is a severe back injury that has caused the former Bishop to not be as active as he would like to.
Most Rev. Osmond P. Martin "It is my spinal back condition. I have had two major operations on my back and it has really restricted my going around and be active. But still I am thankful that I can do my own driving and move around. The physical problem is standing."
Jacqueline Godwin "Standing for long periods of time?"
Most Rev. Osmond P. Martin "Standing for even short periods of time."
What has also declined in Belize is an interest to religious life and the vocation to priesthood. This elder of the church weighed in on what he thinks is happening.
Most Rev. Osmond P. Martin "To me it is a major change in society. Society is much more materialistic, society is much more taken up with wealth, with money, and what money can buy. It is materialism. That is the major cause of decline in aspiring for the priesthood and religious life."
Yesterday the former Bishop of Belize celebrated his fiftieth anniversary in the priesthood.
Most Rev. Osmond P. Martin "The best advice I can give Belizeans is to stay away from some of the crippling activities I see in our country and it is kind of unavoidable. For example drugs, people are crazy about drugs because there is money in there. That's one. Another thing is that the lack of self control in people's lives."
"Everyday we're burying people, everywhere. In other words they see that there is a finality about life. We see that. We are burying people right left and center. So it isn't that they think they will live forever, they have to face that finality, that life here on earth will come to an end."
While the former bishop says it is unrealistic to speak about his own finality what matters is that the final destiny in life is eternal union with God.
Most Rev. Osmond P. Martin "And we have to pass through the portals of death before we enter into union with God. That will come, that's for sure. As to when, nobody knows that. When and how, nobody knows that. I am satisfied with the way I have responded to the call of God. There is difficulty involved in it because you see all these material things around you and you want to be involved in material things but I feel as though that I am blest in the sense that I have values that are still admired by people and that has guided me in my life."
Jacqueline Godwin reporting for 7News
Again, that story from 2009. Arrangements have not been announced for his funeral.