Jesuits join Guyana's republic celebrations

Mashramani in Guyana 2007, Public Domain/Guyanese Tavern
Mashramani in Guyana 2007, Public Domain/Guyanese Tavern

The people of Guyana, including the Jesuits working in the country, celebrated Guyanese Republic Day - Mashramani –– yesterday. Mashramani, often abbreviated to "Mash", is an annual festival that celebrates Guyana becoming a Republic in 1970 and includes a parade, music and games. 

The word "Mashramani" comes from an Amerindian language and literally means "the celebration after hard work". It is one of the most colourful of Guyana’s festivals, with spectacular costume competitions, float parades, masquerade bands, and dancing in the streets to the accompaniment of steel band music and especially calypsos, which culminate in the coronation of a King or Queen for the year.

The Jesuits first came to Guyana in 1857, and have served the Catholic Church in the country and its people ever since. Over the past two years, parishes in the Diocese of Georgetown in Guyana have undergone a major transformation in order to adapt to the changing needs of its people and to serve them better. Several Jesuits have been assigned parishes – from central Georgetown (the capital) to a vast new housing development has sprung up along the East Bank of the Demerara River in what was once swamp and cane fields. Read more about parish developments in Guyana in the Spring 2016 edition of Jesuits and Friends, available from Jesuit Missions and from Jesuit parishes in Britain from 29 February.Fr Paul Dominic SJ in Guyana

Cherishing a natural paradise

A visitor to Guyana over recent months has been Indian Jesuit Fr Paul Dominic SJ (right), who described his visit to the country as “a dream come true”. Writing on the We Said Go Travel blog, he says that Guyana had been an inspiration for him ever since he came to know about it in 1959 as a teenager, when it was called British Guiana. “Missionaries were zealous travellers,” he says. “It was a Scottish Jesuit missionary, Bishop Richard Lester Guilly, who spoke to us in our College in Kodaikanal, India, about the adventurous life of British missionaries in Guyana. It took me 50 long years to find my way to my dreamland of Guyana. That long wait itself was reason enough for me to enjoy my time there wisely enough.”

Guyana is a Region of the British Province and is supported by Jesuit Missions. Its population is made up of Africans, Amerindians, Chinese, East Indians and Europeans and Fr Dominic says the adventure of visiting Guyana comes not only from the natural beauty of its landscape and the welcome of its people but also from the way it enables a visitor to discover him or herself. “A dream of mine for the native Amerindians is to help them: 1) enjoy their natural resources that often go wasted, 2) prevent their environment from the encroaching dangers of the sick, modern society’s use of non-biodegradable plastic goods, and 3) cherish their natural paradise, shunning all foreign incursion that diminishes their pristine glory.”

The first Mashramani was held on 23 February 1970 and drew people drawn from all over Guyana to celebrate the country's status as a republic with three days of colourful dancing, music, food and festivities. This year’s celebration has continued that tradition and the Jesuits in Guyana wish every Guyanese a very happy Mashramani, saying: "May our nation be always united, as our President said in his message to the nation."