In July 1885, Lady Georgiana and her husband, Surgeon-Major F. G. Ayde-Curran, visited Archbishop Michael A. Corrigan of New York. The reason for their visit was to beg him to send a priest to reside in Nassau, The Bahamas, to evangelize the 60-80 Catholics residing there. Fr. Charles G. O'Keefe of the Archdiocese of New York, accompanied the Ayde-Curran's back to Nassau and in August 1888 the first Catholic Parish in The Bahamas was established by Father O'Keefe.
The world famous missionary, St. Francis Xavier, was selected as its patron. Father O'Keefe appointed a building committee, and within a few days, construction of a church to seat about 100 persons was stated. One of the building committee members, Samuel Theus Smith, was the maternal grandfather of Peter Bowe, father of Mrs. Ruth Bowe-Darville, currently a member of this Cathedral Parish.
Lady Georgiana Ayde-Curran who strove incessantly for a resident priest and an established Catholic church in Nassau, laid the cornerstone for St. Francis Xavier Church on a small lot on West St. hilltop, which overlooks the Western entrance to Nassau Harbour.
On November 7th,1886 the first Mass for the parish, in the newly completed little church, was offered by Father A.J. Ryan of the Archdiocese of New York.
On February 13th, 1887, Most Rev. Michael A. Corrigan, Archbishop of New York, dedicated little St. Francis Xavier Church. April 10, 1893 - The Archdiocese of New York bought the property, approximately 1.2 acres south of the Church, that was being rented by the Sisters of Charity for the Parish School. This purchase extended the church property to Delancy Street.
In the late summer 1893, Fr. Chrysostom moved into Dunmare House which he re-named The Priory. This former Colonial Governor's residence and later, military hospital for the British West Indies Regiment in Nassau, was on land adjoining the northern boundary of the hill-top lot on which St. Francis Church was built. The Priory became the headquarters for all Benedictine Monks working in The Bahamas and also St. Francis Church Rectory.
By the 1980's, the Priory had not been occupied for years. The building was in an advanced state of disrepair so it was demolished. Father Chrysostom doubled the seating capacity of St. Francis Church by adding the transepts, one on each side of the sanctuary. The transept on the west is currently the sacristy and the one on the east side is now the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
Dec. 5, 1910 - Father Chrysostom completed Bungalow Dunmore, the first concrete building in Nassau. He located it just west of the Priory. Currently, it is the Cathedral Parish Rectory.
1932 to 1960 - This period during and after Fr. Othmar Hohmann's pastorate in the life of St. Francis Parish was one of continued, tremendous growth and development, even as it was for the entire Bahamas Mission. The young Benedictine Missionaries who arrived, almost like a steady flowing down from Minnesota, did not only stand tall on the proverbial shoulders of their zealous predecessors. True to their motto, 'Ora et Labora (prayer and work)', they, too lived to the fullest, the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Each one shared his peculiar gifts and talents with the local people.
It was Fr. Frederic Frey who was responsible for the construction of the basketball court while he was pastor at St. Francis Church (1940 - 1945). For many years afterward, this was one of only a few basketball courts on this Island. The Church graciously permitted the Government High School (then on Nassau Court downtown) to use it for several hours, two afternoons a week during the school year for many years. It was a popular recreational place. The electric lights enabled numerous Priory Basketball Series to be played and enjoyed by many thousands of young people after nightfall, from then until now.
By 1960, when the oldest Catholic Mission Church in The Bahamas was formally established as St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, at least ten young parishioners were priests or religious. In various capacities, most of them ministered devotedly for periods from five to twenty years. The total number of Catholics in The Bahamas was 20,000, approximately 19% of the entire population in the Colony.