10/28/11  By the time this issue of THE VINCENTIAN hits the street, the St. Martin’s Secondary School would have staged its 50th Anniversary Dinner, Ball and Recognition Ceremony, at the Aquatic Club.

Outstanding alumni of the School would have been recognized and rewarded for their contribution to their alma mater and to St. Vincent and the Grenadines in general.

That the Aquatic Club was the venue for such an historic occasion is, in itself, something of significance, since, it can be argued that, given the ‘status’, or is it the exclusivity of the Aquatic Club fifty years ago when the portals of the St. Martin’s Boys Secondary School (note the inclusion of Boys) swung open at what is now the Charles Verbeke Centre, the majority of students enrolled then, and their parents/guardians, would not have ever seen even the door of that Club.

It is against this background that the contribution of what we grew to know as of the St. Martin’s Secondary School must be first assessed.

Understand from the outset that, while the School may have been Roman Catholic driven in its foundation, it could never truly adhere to a role of ‘catholicizing’ the young men of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, given that that Church has always been a minority influence in this country.

In fact, the records of enrollment at this outstanding institution will clearly indicate that never in one school year, did the School’s register show a majority of Roman Catholic boys.

The intention, therefore, from the outset in 1961, was to cater to the young male population across religious denominational lines; those young men who would not have found places in the already, but only, four secondary schools operating in St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the time. (This is not to say that some Roman Catholic boys might not have enjoyed some ease of entry, albeit a minority.)

Many of those who enrolled in St. Martin’s in 1961, and a greater number through the fifty years since, may never have had an opportunity to pursue a secondary education if the status quo of 1961 had prevailed. In its own humble, unassuming manner, St. Martin’s contributed to a change in that status quo. To say that it contributed to its dismantling might be going too far, but it was right up there with other, maybe more visibly pronounced, forces that also contributed to that change.

That the Roman Catholic Church had already had a place among those extending education services in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1961 is a well established fact. What was sadly lacking was attention to the males, in a direct way, a service that had already been established successfully by the Church in the other three islands of the Windwards sub-grouping.

It would have been folly, therefore, if the intention was to cater in a universal manner to the needs of adolescent males, that the school administrators would make any effort to enforce rules or doctrines peculiar to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

What the school administrators and policy makers of the formative years did adhere to was the basic call of Christian evangelism, to go into the byways and sideways and seek those in need of ‘saving’, to read opportunity.

St. Martin’s established its place in Vincentian education services as one of reaching out to those who otherwise would have fallen by the wayside. The records will attest to many an outstanding St. Martin’s alumnus whose household could never have afforded the requisites of a secondary education in capital Kingstown.

And so it was that the School fulfilled, in a concrete way, the ideals of its patron saint, St. Martin de Porres, whose work among the poor in Peru is well documented both in Church and secular records. By way of observation, it was not by chance that the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, also known as the De La Salle Brothers from the Toronto, Canada diocese, was requested to assume management of the School in 1965.

This order of brothers was founded by Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle (1651 – 1719), a priest who dedicated much of his life for the education of poor children in France. He was a reformer and founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

The Roman Catholic Bishopric of the day, committed to the mission of service to the poor and otherwise disadvantaged, wanted to ensure that the founding principles and spirit of the School would be enhanced.

And so it was that the Christian Brothers ‘laboured in the vineyard of the Lord’, to ensure that St. Martin’s Secondary School not only produced qualified men, leaders for the future, but that it did not wane in its obligation to serve those in most need.

Examine closely the wide and varied alumni of the St. Martin’s Secondary School; that view speaks clearly to a bias towards the poor and marginalized.

And so, when today, in 2011, the alumni of St. Martin’s Secondary School recognize their alma mater and the contribution that it has made, the hope is that those alumni will re-commit to continuing the legacy of service and leadership to young men in need of help and direction.