Father Jerome

Looking up towards the Hermitage from the foot of the hill.

If you were a child on Cat Island in the early 1950’s, you loved seeing Father Jerome, the aging hermit who always had pockets full of candy for the kids.

John Cyril Hawes, Father Jerome, was a British architect who became an Anglican priest in 1903. His first home in the Bahamas was on Long Island, where he was sent to repair churches damaged by a hurricane in 1908. He left the Bahamas to wander in the US and Canada, doing some horse breeding and working as a teamster.

In 1911 he traveled to Rome to become a Catholic priest. Then, after serving for a while as a bush priest in Australia, he came back to the Bahamas. Living here on Cat Island, he built more churches.

At age 63 he received permission to retire as a hermit. He chose to live atop Mount Alvernia, the highest point in the Bahamas. Here he built the Hermitage by hand using native materials. He was able to enjoy this place for 16 years before he died. At his request he was buried in a cave beneath the chapel.

Gateway to the path up Mount Alvernia, the highest point in the Bahamas at a whopping 206 feet above sea level.

An odd shaped metal ‘gong’ hangs from a tree on the left. Bang it to signal your approach.

The steep path is lined with the stations of the cross.

Front of the Hermitage.

Inside the chapel at the Hermitage.

View of the waters west of Cat Island from inside the Hermitage.

There is a drain hole in this nook. It was probably used as a shower.

Father Jerome’s Bed.

Inside the bell tower.

Back view of the Hermitage. On the left is a sun dial. The stone slope to the left drains down into a cistern. The structure consists of a bell tower, chapel, living area, shower and a hallway running to the bedroom. All of this was handmade by Father Jerome.

St Francis of Assisi churches built by Father Jerome in Old Bight on Cat Island. Small original chapel built in 1944 is on the left. Newer church built in 1950’s is on the right. There are plans to restore it.

Inside the newer St. Francis church.

Entrance to the original church.

Window on the original St. Francis church.

Inside the original St Francis church built by Father Jerome. The building is locked up, but Duwan was able to reach the camera through a window to get a picture.

One thought on “Father Jerome

  1. craig said:

    Greg –
    As a catholic, I found it very interesting and fitting in an Easter kind of way. Thanks for sharing this. Again, I may not comment on every story, but I read them and enjoy them very much. Hope you and Duwan are doing well.
    Thanks,
    – Craig

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