St. Peter Claver Parish – Pastoral Associate
Punta Gorda, Belize
Year Founded: 1862
JVC partner for: 23 years
Population Served: Catholics in the town of Punta Gorda and the 30 Maya missions in the surrounding Toledo district, particularly children and school teachers.
Organization Description: St. Peter Claver parish serves the southern town of Punta Gorda of 5,000 people. Residents of P.G. are Garifuna and Kriol, while inhabitants of the surrounding villages are Q’eqchi’ Maya. St. Peter Claver parish was built by a Belgian Jesuit in the mid-19th century and over the years was the center for other ministries including a credit union, a secondary school, and schools in each of the mission villages.
Jesuits from the Missouri Province have accompanied the people of Belize since 1895 (British and Belgian Jesuits had arrived several decades earlier), and have parishes in Punta Gorda (in a rural southern, underdeveloped region of country) and in Belize City. Along with the parish there is a primary school by the same name, and in Belize City the Jesuits direct St. John’s College. Belize was the first community of JVC, formerly Jesuit International Volunteers (JIV), which opened in 1984. JVs were placed primarily in the northern districts of Belize and eventually started communities in Belize City and Punta Gorda.
JV’s Role: The JV supports the work of the parish, and has a close connection with the Jesuits. The work includes planning and facilitating the Children’s Liturgy of the Word, the Altar Server Program, and the Religious Education Teacher Training Program for Catholic School teachers in the Toledo District. S/he also supports the liturgical committee and the youth coordinator in all things youth ministry. The JV helps with Confirmation retreats for students in 7th Grade and teacher retreats (for all Catholic School teachers in the Toledo district). The JV works out of the St. Peter Claver Parish Office when they are not traveling out into the villages to lead retreats.
How JVs Make an Impact: “We love having JVs work with us. They bring youth, enthusiasm, energy, fresh ideas and smile easily. They help with programs we wouldn’t otherwise have, like altar servers and training for our religion teachers.”