Be the Church.
St. Martin's History
The story of St. Martin de Porres Parish begins in 1966 because of a need to care for Catholics living on the western edge of Belize City. At that time, the area where the parish is now located was a swamp known as Prisoners’ Creek, thusly named for the fact that prisoners were used to clear the mangrove swamp to make room for the city’s expansion westward. Up to then, Catholics in that part of town attended school and Church at St. Ignatius parish, but dirt roads would quickly turn to deep mud during the rainy season, making walking difficult if not impossible.
In 1966 Fr. Frank Stobie, S.J. decided to rent the lower flat of Mr. Angel Vellos’ residence situated at the corner of Mopan and Ebony Streets to open a school for the children. It became a sister school to St. Ignatius Primary School during the week (and was called “Loyola School”) and a mission parish of St. Ignatius Parish on Sundays.
In 1967, construction began for a more permanent facility. The parents and students of Loyola School went to the new location and chopped and cleared it. Trash was used as infill to make the ground more stable. In 1968 the first school building was completed, which again did double duty as the church on Sundays. By 1969, the rectory and church building (now the parish office) had been completed.
That same year, St. Martin de Porres was officially founded as an independent parish and school with Fr. Thomas Thro, S.J. as the first pastor and Br. Karl Swift, S.J. assisting with pastoral care. The parish was named for St. Martin de Porres, the patron saint of social justice.
Over the next thirty years, two more school buildings were added to accommodate the tremendous population growth of the area. A new church building was constructed in 1994-1995 by Cisco Construction to accommodate the increasing size of the congregation, and the space that had been used as the church became new parish offices.
The parish has grown steadily since its humble beginnings and remains an anchor in the neighbourhood that has grown up around it. No longer called Prisoners’ Creek, the area was officially named Lake Independence, but most of Belize City simply refers to the area as “Martin’s.” Even as the parish draws from all over Belize City and beyond, the connection of the parish to the neighbourhood remains as strong as ever.