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Vicariate apostolic ; includes the islands of the Dutch West Indies: Curaçao, Bonaire, and Aruba; Saba, St. Eustatius, and the Dutch part of St. Martin (Leeward Islands). These islands are situated in the Caribbean Sea, the former off the Venezuelan coast, 12° N. Lat. and 69° W. long., the latter about 621 miles north-east of the former, in 18° N. lat. and 63° W. long. The former were discovered by Alonzo de Ojeda in 1499. The first missionaries were Spanish Hieronymites (Order of St. Jerome ) from Santo Domingo, whose names have been forgotten. Until 1634 Curaçao remained subject to Spain, and Spanish priests attended the mission. Two churches, one at Santa Barbara the other at Groot-Kwartier, bore witness to their zeal.
In 1634 Curaçao came into the possession of the Dutch West-Indian Company, which forbade, under severe penalties, the practice of the Catholic religion. A few Jesuits, among them Father Michael Alexius Schnabel, continued to work with success from 1701 to 1742. In 1772 Curaçao received its first prefect Apostolic, Arnold de Bruin, a secular priest. In 1776 Fathers Pirovani and Schenck, Dutch Franciscans, took up the work, but were obliged to leave it on account of the small number of priests in Holland. The last of these priests died in 1821. In 1824 M. J. Nieuwindt (d. 1860), in every respect a great man, was appointed prefect Apostolic. In 1842 Curaçao was made a vicariate Apostolic , the first vicar Apostolic being Monsignor Nieuwindt. In the same year a Catholic sisterhood came to the mission. In 1868 the vicariate was confided to the care of the Dutch Dominicans. Nine-tenths of the people, especially the lower classes, are Catholics, principally because in the past the slaves were not allowed to have the same religion as their masters (Dutch Protestants ); as they had to profess some religion, they were allowed to become Catholics. The relations between Catholics and Protestants are most peaceful. Monsignor Nieuwindt ( consecrated 1843) was succeeded as vicar Apostolic by J. F. A. Kistemaker (1860); P. H. J. A. van Ewyk (1869); C. H. J. Reynen (1886); H. A. M. Joosten (1887), and J. J. A. van Baars (1897). The Catholic population of the vicariate is about 45,000; the Protestants number 7000 and the Jews 850. There are in the vicariate 35 priests, 3 seculars and 32 regulars, principally Dominicans ; 27 brothers; 191 sisters. The parochial schools number 29, with 2626 boys and 2625 girls. There are 17 churches and 11 chapels.
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The institutions under religious direction are: a college for young ladies with 70 pupils; a hospital for the insane, 114 patients; a leper hospital, 19 patients; 2 orphan asylums, 87 orphans ; a hospital, 166 patients. The theological seminary for Venezuela (Merida) is at present closed. There are 2 Catholic newspapers, the "Amigoe di Curaçao", a Dutch weekly, founded in 1883, and "La Cruz", a weekly in the Papiamento dialect of the island, founded in 1900.
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