Written by Patricia Glinton-Meicholas
A native of Mangrove Cay, Andros, Sister Jacinta Neely [formerly Mary Jacinta) was born into a household, which held firmly to the Catholic faith and traditions. In her spiritual life, she was guided by the example of her father, Alpheus Neely. Sr. who was Catechist at St Benedict’s Church in the settlement of her birth and her mother Murilyn (nee Nairn), who had served as sacristan at two New Providence churches—Our Lady of the Holy Souls and St Joseph. From this devout couple. Jacinta and her six siblings learned the values of honesty, compassion and sharing.
Jacinta perceived a vocation fairly early in life. Although her father was a man of faith, he found it difficult to countenance his daughter’s leaving their close knit home. Nevertheless, the young girl was convinced that she had a vocation and persisted in her determination to pursue through a series of interviews and challenges by her pastor, Father Cornelius Osendorf, OSB; Bishop Leonard Hagarty and Sister Marie Agnes Rolle, who was the Superior of Saint Martin Convent that time. Jacinta was finally rewarded and had only to wait for her fifteenth birthday. She entered the community on 8th September, 1960.
In addition to leading a religious life, Sister Jacinta had always wished t become a teacher or a secretary and she prepared herself to do both by achieving a well-rounded education. She began her secondary education at Aquinas College, but was later transferred to Benedict’s High School after her community amalgamated with the Sister of Saint Benedict’s Convent. She next spent two years in studies at Bahama Teachers College followed by teaching practice in local schools. She went on to achieve a Bachelor of Arts degree from Benedict’s College/St John’s University in 1976 and a Master of Education degree from Boston College, Massachusetts in 1984.
Sister Jacinta began her teaching career at St Vincent de Paul School Hunter, Grand Bahama, teaching Grade four and five. After formal teacher education at the College, she was assigned to Holy Name School, Bimini (1970-1974) and later as Principal (1976-1981). Between 1981 and 1984, she served as Principal of St Bede’s and taught English at Her Majesty’s Prison in Nassau. The year 2007 found her teaching Religious Studies and Civics to Grades eight through twelve at Aquinas College, where she had been posted since 1993.
The secretarial skills she had acquired at Aquinas College would serve her at Saint Martin and the regional religious community well. She was secretary to Saint Martin Monastery for twenty-nine years (1978-2007) and performed the same services for the Conference of Major Superiors of the Antilles on a number of occasions on various Caribbean islands.
Sister Jacinta’s other missions have included CCD, RCJA, TEC, Marriage Preparations, Diocesan Catechetical Institutes, the permanent deaconate and services to the Diocesan General Assemblies and the Diocesan Communication Board.