A procession commemorating the golden jubilee of the Pallottine Sisters in Belize and the inauguration of Mount Carmel Primary School in Benque Viejo, 1963
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January 11, 2023

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A procession commemorating the golden jubilee of the Pallottine Sisters in Belize and the inauguration of Mount Carmel Primary School in Benque Viejo, 1963

In this Picture of the procession the Honorable George Price was accompanied by the Mayors of Benque Viejo, Mr. Antonio Kuylen and Mayor of San Ignacio Mr Hector Silva in Benque Viejo.

Jubilee Year 1913-1963: In 1963, the Pallottines celebrated 50 years of service to Belize. This set of photos alludes to an important event as such. If we are right, these pictures, provided through the courtesy of Elvirita Puga, daughter of the late Santiago Puga, consular agent of Guatemala in Belize back in the 1960's - and taken by the same Santiago Puga, marks the inauguration of the primary school building and the renaming of St. Joseph School as Our lady of Mount Carmel School. It all indicates that these pictures depict the same event. I am guided by the lady with a white cap to the very back who appears in most of these pictures I have seen around. Upon inspection, the lady seems to be Nurse Armandina Castellanos Simmons, the first Benque girl who studied nursing and served her hometown. The pictures also show Fr. Anthony Quenzel, George Cadle Price, don Hector Silva, and mayor Antonio Kuylen - the first mayor elected through adult suffrage. Indeed, an event worthy of documentation.

Thank you Pallotine Sisters!

Hernan Ochaeta: It was on June 2, 1921 that the first four Pallotines arrived in San Ignacio, known then as El Cayo. These four German nationals were Sisters Dominica, Radigundis, Sebastiana and Veronica. They had left their families, homes and country to serve us, mainly as teachers in our primary schools of San Ignacio and Santa Elena. Over the years, these four pioneers were joined and succeeded by others, including our own Belizean Pallottines.

Hundreds of us – our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our cousins and friends, our own parents and grandparents – were touched by the positive influence of these committed followers of Vincent Pallotti.

And they knew so much!

They taught the traditional classroom subjects. They taught vegetable gardening behind the convent. The girls learned sewing and other related skills. The boys learned woodwork and the making of statues and figurines. They encouraged the arts – dancing, drawing, painting, singing, acting and public speaking.

And for the majority of students in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, the formal academic training received from the Pallotines may have been the only one in their lifetime. But it was exceptional!

In the pre-Hawkesworth Bridge and pontoon days, in spite of the flooded Macal River during the rainy season, those assigned to the Santa Elena School braved the risen waters in wooden dories to comply with their teaching duties.

And with their wise, professional guidance and strong commitment to education, their equally dedicated classroom aides emerged – Juanita Saldivar, Ruth Ochaeta, Rosalia Awe, Dalila and Hilda Bejos, Marcelina Castillo, Julia Requena, Laures Llinas, Teresita Harrison, Julia Rodriguez, etc.

They and their aides taught in the days and years when teaching was a vocation – not an occupation. Sisters Juliana and Rosella taught in San Ignacio as well as Sr Therese. Sr. Benedict did as well. Sr Roselle was my Std 2 teacher.

Words are too pale and too poor to thank the Pallottine Sisters adequately for all their work and their sacrifices in the western vineyard of San Ignacio and Santa Elena, as well as our entire Belize.

The Pallotine Centennial Memorial Committee was instituted in 2013 to erect the memorial for the Pallottines in Belize, to mark the jubilee. The memorial will be installed in Benque Viejo, the first home of the Pallottines, and will depict Sister Dominica Senn instructing a child. Sister Dominica was the first superior.

Alice Smith: Soooo proud to have been under their tutelage—-a product of the Pallotines. They helped to form me into the person I am today. Sis. Juliana at St. Joseph’s School, Sisters Erentrudis, Henrietta, Rosella, Roslyn, Katarina, Jude, Lydia, Leonardis, Benedict and Terese—-sat in all of their classes.

Marlen Contre: May God reward the Pallotine Nuns for all the personal sacrifices they made. Three generations of my family including myself benefitted from the Pallotine Nuns & for that I’m eternally grateful.

Lourdes Espat Hales: On top of it all they wore those heavy garments and head coverings and bravely and quietly faced those temperatures of 100 degrees, they could be heard at 5 am and 6pm doing vespers, praying in song, that left an imprint in our hearts forever. We were innocent children, no TV, no phones, no electricity but they prepared us for the challenges of life and many of us were able to study and excel abroad. God bless them and those who are today, still, our educators and role models.

Rose Ken: My Aunt Rosita Swasey Was one of those wonderful Pallotine Nuns who served God for about 70 years, I think. she was 93 when she died. She was my dear aunt and a very good friend. I will never forget her.

Mirta Aguilar-Ragbir: My aunt, Sr Jude Aguilar as well as my maternal great aunts, Sr Agnatis and Sr Verna Castillo were all Sisters in the Pallotine Order. Sr Jude and Sr Josephina although SCA schooled became Pallotine Sisters.

Kalim Wood: Sister Benedict, my beloved first cousin. Juanita Saldivar, my beloved Grand Aunt.

Photographa courtesy Hector Silva and David Ruiz Puga

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