Archbishop Joseph Harris CSSp was among the 2017 inductees into St Mary’s College Hall of Fame. In his pen portrait he was described, among many other accolades, as “fearless and strong”, a “defender of the faith”, “a no-nonsense man” and “with all his fearlessness and strength, he blends those attributes with a spirit of compassion that he brings to bear on his dealings with people.”
Inducted posthumously were: former teacher and first female member of the St Mary’s College staff Carmen Acham-Chen, labour leader Quintin O’Connor, former NJAC leader Makandal Daaga and for the first time, a Presbyterian Minister Rev Everson Sieunarine. Rev Sieunarine’s two sons, who are also clergy in the Presbyterian Church, collected the award, and family members of the other inductees also received on their behalf.
In his response, Archbishop Harris humorously noted that he was the “only living one” among the inductees. He thanked St Mary’s College not only for his selection to the Hall of Fame but also the values taught to him as a student that have remained with him throughout his life, including selfless love, counter-culturalism and the ability to be at peace “in our own skins”.
At the school, he learnt the value of doing things not because of personal benefit but because of “what it does for others”, observing that each of the 2017 inductees could have been successful in business and other spheres but they chose instead to work for the improvement of others, taking up a counter-cultural position. He said culture needs to be evangelised and “not everything in the culture is good”.
“The inductees lived counter-cultural lives…it was done not for profit except the profit of eternal life…it was done for the good of others,” he stated. He expressed the hope these values would continue to be taught so young people can live selfless love and Trinidad and Tobago can become a better place.
In the feature address, businessman and former politician Ken Gordon also thanked St Mary’s College staff for the indelible standards which were set when he attended in the 1960s and which influence his life today. He urged the many past students in attendance to “keep in mind the tradition of excellence for which we have been moulded in St Mary’s,” adding that the whole society can improve when individuals do the right thing.
Gordon lamented, “We have developed a way of life that must be altered…Wanting to do something must be second to what we need to do.” He called for a fundamental shift in values throughout the country especially in times of falling revenue when families need to adjust their lifestyle and spending. Gordon said this shift has to “be propelled from the top” and politicians must be willing to work together in a bi-partisan approach for long-range plans to succeed.
The move to induct a Presbyterian Minister and a member of the labour movement into the Hall of Fame was commended by Gordon as “taking the Hall of Fame to a new level” and “taking an integrated nation one step further”.
Gordon paid tribute to the Pantin family – the only family to have produced three inductees over the years, namely, former Archbishop Anthony Pantin, Fr Gerard Pantin, and Clive Pantin, who died September 30. “We are grateful to Almighty God for the outstanding example of their lives,” he said. – EH