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  • Writer's pictureSt. Joseph Parish

Father Roach and the Gravediggers in Jamaica (1/30)

Friday evening Dear Family and friends,

I hope this email finds all of you well and happy. Things are going well here with the MOP in Jamaica.

On Wednesday, I was sent to Bethlehem Center and was given the ministry of washing the young boys. I got one of the boys ready and he immediately relieved himself by urinating on my leg and foot before I realized what he was doing. I was soon standing in water almost up to my ankles bathing these precious young boys as best as I could after removing their diapers. It is difficult to judge their ages anywhere from, 6 to 12, or 13 I would imagine. Then I would send them back to get dried and clothed. The ones who could not walk the Brothers were very accommodating in carrying them back; I don’t think my back would have held out.

Thursday morning I spent much of the morning washing sheets and towels left behind by the departing visitors and after lunch went to the Bethlehem Chapel to celebrate a funeral for two people, a man in his early seventies and a young man of twenty-two. The man was from the Good Shepherd Center and the boy of 22 was from the Beatitudes on Mt Tabor. The man had one family mourner, his daughter and no one from the young man’s family showed up until I was starting the recessional. They insisted on looking through the little “trap door” so that they could gaze on the face of Maurice.

The brothers loaded the coffins on to their big truck vehicle and some of the mourners from the Good Shepherd Center got into the truck with the bodies. They were going to two different cemeteries. I persuaded the mourners of Maurice to let us stop at Calvary Cemetery first for the burial of Ovra, the elderly gentleman and they were very accomadating. They invited me to ride with them. Maurice’s sister, 22years of age, sat behind me and constantly for about 10 minutes kept running her had through my hair saying all the while, I do like that hair, dat hair very nice. “Caribu Jamaica” (a little Swahili, “Welcome to Jamaica”. After Calvary Cemetery, deplorable condition we went to May Pen which was even worse. The grave was only two feet deep with a tremendous size root at the bottom, which we could not dig out. The cemetery personnel insisted it would be fine. After the prayers we lowered the casket into the grave and began shoveling dirt to fill up the grave (which we had done at Calvary) all the while singing great spirituals, the brothers are very good at this. On the way to the grave Maurice’ sister a tall pretty slender woman with loads of magenta make up and eye shadow was having trouble reaching the grave because of all the weeds and rubble took my arm and we proceeded to the grave. The problem was made worse because she had shoes with at least six-inch spikes so it was quite a chore. She insisted on wanting to see the face of Maurice again so she could take a photo of the face so they had to get into the grave to open the trap-viewing door. I thought sure she would fall in the grave as she walked on these piles of dirt to get the best vantage point for a photo. Others proceeded to follow her example. It was quite an experience. On the way back in another car, one of the friends of the MOP said. Tat der grave goin to be dug up before nightfall. I asked if there were grave robbers. No man, dem funeral directors goin to come and dig up dat coffin to be used again, you can bet on it. Who knows? One thing we do know is dat Dem Kelleher’s goin to do no such thing. Dem Kelleher’s dem good people dat Tim and his mama Pameee, dey good people, dem not goin to dig up any grave.

Peace. love, joy, to everyone and prayers for everyone.

Love to all,

Fr. John

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