Bishop Osmond Martin Dead at 87
Belize’s first native Roman Catholic Bishop, The Most Reverend Osmond Peter Martin of Dangriga, is dead. He died, at the age of eighty-seven, sometime after three this morning at home of natural causes. Bishop Martin was ordained a bishop in 1982 after entering the priesthood in 1959, and after a short time as auxiliary bishop, succeeded the man who appointed him, Robert Hodapp, in 1983, serving until 2006. Martin, a Garifuna, tried his best to help unite the young Belize and spread the Catholic influence, whether with a smile, humour, or timely homilies of the word of God. As a result, he gained many converts and was a familiar face to all. Aaron Humes spoke to his family and friends to tell his story.
The Most Reverend Osmond Peter Martin blazed trails as the first Belizean appointed to lead the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belize City and Belmopan. It was a choice that not only pleased his family, but his nation as well.
Lucy Zuniga, Cousin of Bishop O.P. Martin
“His mother was very happy when he decided to go into the priesthood; she was very, very proud of him, and so is the family. We have not – we didn’t think that we lost a son; but we were able to gain more family, because he made a lot of family in our country.”
Contemporary and Bishop of the Anglican Church in Belize, Right Reverend Philip Wright, said that after decades of expatriate leadership, Bishop Martin’s ordination proved a turning point for the development of the Christian faith in the Jewel.
Bishop Philip Wright, Anglican Church
“I think both for the quality of leadership he offered, and also for some of the things he was able to achieve, I think Bishop Martin will long be remembered for making a significant inroad in the leadership of the Church. I think we also have to bear in mind, as you rightly point out, his place as among the first local, truly local, to take leadership, and to think about the fact that following expatriate leadership, how important that would have been for him to have been a model for all future leaders of the Church, in terms of how he exercised his own episcopal responsibilities.”
And those responsibilities took him across the country, meeting people like Sebastian Cayetano.
Sebastian Cayetano, Catholic Parishioner
“I remember Bishop Martin as a builder: he built the Parish Hall, Holy redeemer Parish Hall; he built the Facundo Castillo Diocesan Center for Belize; he built the co-cathedral in Belmopan – he was responsible for that; he also contributed to our museum here – he contributed furniture to this Luba Garifuna Museum here, and above all he helped us build the church in Barranco – oh yes, he really contributed considerably to the building of that church, and I am happy that he was present for the inauguration of that church [on the] twenty-ninth of April, 2007. Sometimes he would walk in the South, Toledo, he would walk; other times he would ride on horses – and I think there was time when he fell off a horse and injured his back. And in addition to that, Bishop Martin usually gives beautiful sermons, homilies; and among the content of his homilies from the time, would be he fought against racism, bigotry, prejudice, discrimination that was rampant in Belize, of which he was also a victim.”
Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.
The bishops and priests of the Roman Catholic Church were not available today due to a scheduled retreat in the Cayo district. Funeral arrangements are being finalized.