The Society of Jesus in Belize
We are a community of the U.S. Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). We have been in Belize for over 170 years, during which time, Belize has changed, and so have we.
We do our best to serve, with humility, creativity, and fidelity, all our sisters and brothers of the "jewel of the Caribbean."
How We Got Here
Belize, formerly the colony British Honduras, was settled by Mayans after 1,000 BC. They built major cities, many of which have been excavated and are open for visits. The Maya fiercely resisted the Spanish and expelled them in 1638. However, disease and hunger took their toll and the cities were abandoned. In the 18th century, Caribbean pirates (known as the Baymen) used Belize as a base to launch raids upon Spanish ships and as a source of logwood (used for dyes). Spain and Britain concluded a series of treaties, which recognized British rights in Belize. Europeans migrated to Belize, bringing a large number of slaves with them for the harvesting of logwood and mahogany. The Battle of St George’s Caye (10 September 1798) ended Spanish efforts to control Belize. It is now celebrated as a national holiday. In 1802 large numbers of Garifuna (Black Caribs) migrated to Belize from Honduras. Their ancestors had been expelled from St Vincent after repeated revolts. Thus Belize, a country of only 300,000 people, contains an improbable ethnic diversity of Mayan, Mestizo, Creole and Garifuna peoples. English is the official language, but many people speak Spanish as well and, in the south, Maya languages (Mopan and Q’eqchi) are common. After World War II, Belizeans began organizing for independence, which was a long time coming. In 1964 British Honduras became an internal self-governing colony and full independence was achieved on 21 September 1981, now a national holiday.
The first Jesuits arrived in Belize from Jamaica in 1851. They were later joined by a mixed group, which included Sicilian Salvatore Di Pietro, S.J. who became the first bishop. The bishops were all Jesuits until 1983. In 1887 the Society opened St. John Berchmans College in Belize City. Jesuits began parishes in every major town from which they also served the district villages. The mission was transferred from the British Province to the Missouri Province in 1893. A hurricane (unnamed) on 10 September 1931 destroyed the College and killed 14 students, 2 servants and 11 Jesuits. Presently the Society is responsible for St. John’s College (Junior College and High School with more than 2,400 students) and the parish of St. Martin de Porres in Belize City as well as the parish of St. Peter Claver in Punta Gorda in the southern district of Toledo. This parish serves more than 30 Maya villages in the area. In addition, Belize City Jesuits serve the parishes on Caye Caulker and in Burrell Boom as well as the Hattieville Prison.
Read a brief history of the Jesuits in Belize and St. John's College
Who Are We Now
We are currently thirteen Jesuits in-country. We range in ages from 31 to 88. We are from Belize, the United States, and Guatemala.
We live in three houses: Melhado Hall, adjacent to the campus of St. John's College in Belize City; Jesuit House at St. Martin de Porres Parish in Belize City; and St. Peter Claver Parish in Punta Gorda, Toledo District.
Click on the video below to learn about our works: