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Canadian Jesuit development worker murdered in Jamaica

Canadian Jesuit priest, Fr Martin Royackers, was murdered on Thursday at Annottto Bay, a small town in north east Jamaica.

The priest, aged 41, was found lying face down in a pool of blood, a bullet in his chest, on the veranda to his office near the St Theresa Catholic church where he was serving. The news was released by the Canadian Jesuits' English-speaking Province.

Fr Martin's distressed assistant, Deacon Fernandpulle, said, "He was very dedicated to the people, as if he did not care about himself. Food was not important for him, nor was his dress. He was always with the people."

The Catholic Archbishop of Kingston, Archbishop Edgerton Roland Clarke, told Radio Jamaica that the Church had lost a valuable priest and he added "It is very frightening. It didn't seem to be robbery, it would seem to be something deliberate or planned".

Last Sunday, Fr Royackers had preached about Jamaica's nagging crime problem. 453 people have been killed in the Caribbean island since the beginning of this year, among them three priests.

"This could also happen to me," he told his congregation. "And if it does, I want to be buried here among my people".

Together with Fr Jim Webb SJ, Jamaica Regional Superior, Fr Martin was deeply involved in a development project which seeks, among other things, to put unused government land to food production. The St Mary rural development project SMRDP is a joint effort of the local people, the Canadian Jesuit, and CIDA, the official Canadian international development agency.

In early June, the SMRDP office received a phone call threatening the two priests with death. The caller linked the threat with the SMRDP application to the government to release 60 acres of land for local agriculture. The Jamaican police, once informed, advised the fathers to take the threat seriously.

Fr Martin was born on November 14, 1959. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1978 and was ordained in 1988, taking his final vows in 1999.

Link: Jamaicans Believe What They Believe by Martin Royackers SJ (Compass May-Jun 1996)