Many people will tell you to not bother visiting Cat Island in the Bahamas, because it does not have much to offer the cruiser. I personally feel that a visit to Father Jerome’s Hermitage is worth the trip to Cat Island by itself. In fact, it was one of the top three things I wanted to see my first time in the Bahamas.
Father Jerome, who was born John Hawes, left an architecture career in England in order to be an Anglican missionary in the Bahamas for over 10 years. He then converted to Catholicism and was sent to Australia as a missionary for around 20 years. Throughout his ministry he continued to use his architecture knowledge by building simple yet beautiful churches wherever he was sent. His two most famous churches in the Bahamas are the Anglican and Catholic churches in Clarence Town on Long Island, which sit a block away from each other. These churches were obviously for different denominations but were also built 20 years apart. It is interesting to see the similarities and yet also the differences from the different periods in his career.
At the end of his life Father Jerome moved back to the Bahamas and built the Hermitage just outside the town of New Bight on Cat Island. He chose to build his retirement home on the tallest hill in the country, at 206 feet, so he could be alone and commune with God. The Hermitage is a beautiful stone structure consisting of a personal chapel, kitchen, bedchamber, study, and bell tower. Even though the Hermitage looks rather large in photos, you must realize everything in the Hermitage was built for him alone and it is smaller than most people expect. Walking through the Hermitage you realize Father Jerome was a rather short man, so I had to watch my head. Haha.
As wonderful as The Hermitage is the thing that enhanced my visit was the fact Father Jerome carved the 14 Stations of the Cross along the path up the hill. Each of these small alters captured the events of Jesus’ last days and Father Jerome meant for people to stop at each station and reflect on the significance of each event Jesus had to endure for our salvation. The 14 Stations of the Cross are:
Station 1: Jesus is condemned to death
Station 2: Jesus carries the cross
Station 3: Jesus falls for the first time
Station 4: Jesus sees his mother
Station 5: Man helps carry the cross
Station 6: Woman wipes Jesus’s face
Station 7: Jesus falls for the second time
Station 8: Jesus speaks to the daughters of Jerusalem
Station 9: Jesus falls for the third time
Station 10: Jesus is stripped of his clothes
Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the cross
Station 12: Jesus dies on the cross
Station 13: Jesus is taken down from the cross
Station 14: Jesus is placed in the tomb where he is resurrected
When you are ready to leave the Hermitage, you should also check out the Church of the Holy Redeemer down in the town of New Bight. This was the last church designed by Father Jerome before he passed away in 1956. Also in town is the Armbrister’s Great House, which is nice ruins to see but had nothing to do with Father Jerome.
Visit www.svGuidingLight.com to read more from Captain Shane about the Bahamas, Caribbean, life aboard, world traveling, and more. You might also want to check out his travel video series.