The History of Holy Family Church

The Holy Family church in Saint Thomas is built on two acres of land on Cassi Hill given by Bishop Harper. The church was dedicated by Bishop Harper on October 19, 1975. The present church, rectory, the Shrine of Our Lady of Cassi Hill, and the newly-built Columban Hall are a living testimony of the vitality and the faith of the people of the Holy Family Parish working hand in hand with their priests and deacons.

In 1969, The Columban Fathers responded to the invitation of the Most Reverend Bishop Edward J. Harper and sent two priests to begin missionary work in the eastern part of the Island of Saint Thomas. The two missionaries were Father Thomas Normanly and Father George Nolan. On August 20, 1969, Father Thomas Normanly celebrated the Holy Mass at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Laurence Bryan, and in that solemn act, the group of Catholics which would become Holy Family Catholic Church was formed. Mass was offered in the Bryan’s property until June of 1970 when the first chapel was built at the present site of our newly-built Columban Hall.

In 1971, the two First Holy Family Church missionaries were joined by other Columban Fathers: Father Thomas Walsh and Father Robert Connolly. Father Thomas Normanly and Father George Nolan served until 1975. Father Maurice Quinn arrived in 1975. He, in turn, was replaced by Father Charles Roddy in 1977, and Father Raymond Karier became pastor in 1978. Father Patrick Cashman was the last Columban pastor, serving from 1981 to 1986. The Columban Fathers ministered to the Holy Family Church’s congregation until 1986.

Father Elliott G. Thomas (later Bishop) was the first diocesan priest to shepherd the members of the Holy Family Church. He served from 1986 to 1989. Following his assignment to Saint Ann’s Church in Barrenspot, Saint Croix, and Father Thomas was replaced by Monsignor Thomas Burke whose health did not allow him to stay long. He returned to his home diocese, Charlotte, North Carolina. Father Jose Herrera, who has been parochial vicar, became acting pastor and served until January 1990. In February, Holy Family Church received her eighth pastor, Father Brian R. Kiely of the Archdiocese of Boston, and working with him were Father Simon Obeng, the parochial vicar, ordained a priest by the Most Reverend Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., in December 1989. This pastoral team was assisted by Deacon William Kenny.

Father George Franklin, a native of St. Croix, was appointed Pastor of Holy Family Parish from 1995 to 1997. He was assisted by Father Neil Scantlebury the parochial vicar. When Father George Franklin took his sabbatical and went to further his studies, for two years Holy Family was left without a resident pastor. In 1999, Father Simon Peter Opira, a native of Uganda, Africa, was appointed Pastor of Holy Family Parish by the Most Rev. George V. Murry. Assisted by Father John Mark Kennedy, Father Simon Opira ministered to the “friendliest church” of Saint Thomas until 2004. The Rev. Father George Franklin was then appointed to replace Father Opira. Father George Franklin was assisted by a parochial vicar: Father Jean Marie DeGraff, a native of Haiti, but a priest of the Diocese of Saint Thomas. Both served up to 2005. Father George Franklin left to become Principal/President of Sts. Peter & Paul School.

The Reverend Monsignor Jerome Feudjio was appointed Pastor of Holy Family Parish on July 24, 2005. He is a native of Cameroon, Africa. He was ordained by the Most Rev. Sean O’Malley for the Diocese of Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands on September 29, 1990. He is presently Bishop of the Diocese of Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

From 2008 to 2020, Father Scantlebury was Pastor of Holy Family Parish. In January of 2014, Father Kerly François was appointed Associate Pastor. Most Reverend Scantlebury is presently Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgetown, Barbados.

In August of 2021, Father Boniface-Blanchard Twaibu was appointed pastor of Holy Family Church.

In March of 2022, Father Robert Kenfack Ngnintedem was appointed pastor of Holy Family Church, assisted by Parochial Vicar Father Modeste Digwou.

In September of 2023, Father Modeste Digwou was appointed as Parish Administrator. He is currently assisted by Associate Pastor Isaac Isaac Agbenohevi. This pastoral team and the whole parish is blessed with various church organizations whose mission is to serve the people of God at Holy Family Church and bring them closer to God.

The faith, the dedication and the generosity of the people of Holy Family Church along with the vital participation of our visitors and tourists are outspoken witnesses to the world of the saving power of Jesus Christ manifested and celebrated at Holy Family Catholic Church. With grateful hearts and lively hope, we pray that by the grace of God, the next forty-five years see more of the same blessings on our church and in the life of all those who worship at Holy Family Church. Come, join us in our liturgies and capture the spirit that makes Holy Family Church in Saint Thomas a place of lively and blessed encounter with the Lord.