In 1986, Columban missionaries undertook new missions in Belize and in the diocese of Montego Bay, Jamaica. There was a critical shortage of priests in these dioceses, and the poverty of the majority of people in these countries provided another opportunity to serve the poor in accordance with the vision of our founders.
The history of these countries tells of people struggling to free themselves from slavery, economic exploitation and dependency. Both countries were seen as very much mission areas, and they had a further benefit for Columbans themselves.
Because English is the common language in Belize and Jamaica, these countries were seen as providing pastoral opportunities for a special group of Columbans. These were older priests who had served in administrative roles at home and were still anxious to work in a mission situation and would not have to learn a new language.
A number of Columbans volunteered and in 1986 five Columbans were accepted to work in Belize and five in Montego Bay.
For the next ten years, Columbans concentrated their efforts on building and strengthening basic Christian communities through special apostolates to children and families and the catechetics and training of lay leaders. Working among the poor has led to special efforts to provide and improve health care, housing for the destitute and education for poor children and youths.
These efforts were in line with the aim of the local bishops to develop a strong local Catholic Church capable of providing for its own needs. After 10 years missionary work, the Columbans withdrew from Belize in 1996 and from Jamaica in 1999.