Above: Taiesa Williams, a 17-year-old senior who just had her graduation photo taken, stands in a destroyed classroom at St. Joseph High School in Frederiksted, St. Croix.
The Diocese of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is the second smallest U.S. diocese by territory and one of the poorest. Last year it was hit hard by two Category Five hurricanes. First Irma struck St. Thomas and St. John, and then Maria devastated St. Croix.
Bishop Herbert Bevard told Catholic Extension that after the storms many areas of the islands looked like they had been bombed out and that essentially “every church and every school” in his diocese were impacted.
In the wake of the hurricanes, your dedicated support made it possible for Catholic Extension to quickly provide an emergency grant of $25,000 to the diocese. That grant was used to support critical diocesan activities amid the sudden economic collapse, a main focus of which was sustaining schools.
Bishop Herbert Bevard greets kindergarteners at St. Patrick School in Frederiksted, St. Croix.
Even though they suffered significant damage, with your help, Catholic schools were back in operation shortly after the hurricanes — much quicker than local public schools.
Bishop Bevard asked his pastors to open Catholic schools to any displaced public school students, regardless of whether they could pay tuition. Scores of families took up this offer and have remained enrolled. According to the bishop, it was Catholic Extension’s quick disbursement of funds that made this happen.
Through the tireless outreach efforts of Virgin Islander Catholics, the Catholic Church was able to give profound witness to what being a community of faith is all about.
Catholic Extension has a long history of financially supporting the Diocese of St. Thomas and has committed to helping its hurricane-impacted communities to rebuild and to continue to reach out and serve the poor and suffering.