Dominican Republic: 1943-2012
Scarboro Missions began sending priests to the Dominican Republic in 1943. At one time, this was Scarboro’s largest mission. However, with the eventual development of the church in the Dominican Republic and the increase of vocations to the priesthood, Scarboro missioners gradually moved on to other countries.
The principal groups that worked side by side with Scarboro personnel were the Sisters of Charity from Halifax, Nova Scotia; the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception from Pembroke, Ontario; and the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph from Kingston, Ontario. The Sisters of St. Martha from Prince Edward Island also collaborated.
Most of the missioners worked in rural areas among the poorest communities, an experience that profoundly impacted their lives. They spoke out about injustice and lived an option for the poor long before it became part of the Church’s social teaching. A few had to leave the country under threat of death for speaking out about conditions under the dictator Rafael Trujillo. Scarboro missioner Fr. Art MacKinnon was an outspoken advocate for young members of his parish who had been unjustly imprisoned by the Dominican military. He was assassinated on June 21, 1965, after speaking out at the Sunday masses in defence of these young people. He is a martyr for his commitment to justice.
Scarboro priests also tried to help the people by introducing the first credit unions and cooperatives to the Dominican Republic. Leading the way were Frs. Jack McIver and Harvey Steele who were influenced by Fr. Moses Coady and the Antigonish Movement in Nova Scotia.
In rural development, Fr. Joe Curcio, Fr. Lou Quinn, Fr. Robert (Buddy) Smith, and Fr. Joe McGuckin encouraged the people to participate in identifying and solving their own problems. Fr. Lou Quinn was involved in community development for more than 40 years in San José de Ocoa and became known nationally as the “padre of the poor.” Besides being a recipient of the Order of Canada, he was made a Dominican citizen.
Today, the work of helping Canadians become more aware of the reality of people in the global South continues through the work of former Scarboro lay missioner Dean Riley in the town of Consuelo. Dean coordinates one-week exposure trips for teams of Canadian high school students and teachers. Solidarity visits are also organized by ADESJO, the community development organization started by Scarboro missioner Fr. Joe Curcio and continued by Fr. Lou Quinn in the town of San José de Ocoa.
Scarboro closed its mission to the Dominican Republic in 2012. Although retired, Scarboro missioner Fr. Joe McGuckin continues to live among the Dominican people.