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True shepherd – Archbishop-elect fits the bill

Leela Ramdeen (left) greets Archbishop-elect Jason Gordon after the October 19 press conference to announce his appointment. Looking on is Catholic News journalist Lara Pickford-Gordon. Photo: Raymond Syms

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair

CCSJ (http://rcsocialjusticett.org) & Director, CREDI

On behalf of members of CCSJ, I extend sincere congratulations to Archbishop-elect Jason Gordon. Since my return to T&T from London, I have been blessed to have worked with Archbishop Edward Gilbert and Archbishop Joseph Harris and, like the other members of CCSJ, I am so looking forward to working with the Archbishop-elect who, in fact, played a major role in the establishment of CCSJ after the first sitting of Synod in 2003.

Indeed, he was a member of CCSJ and I still recall attending some of the meetings he held in the parish hall at St Martin de Porres RC, Gonzales, where he was parish priest, and where he initiated/implemented the Pride in Gonzales and CITY projects. His ability to bring together key stakeholders and community members to seek to transform that community is legendary. The model he used is still valid today.

In July 2013, Pope Francis advised apostolic nuncios on the criteria for selecting candidates for the episcopacy. As the National Catholic Reporter stated, “he wants them to put forward pastors who are ‘close to the people, fathers and brothers’. They should be ‘gentle, patient and merciful; animated by inner poverty, the freedom of the Lord and also by outward simplicity and austerity of life.’ They should ‘not have the psychology of ‘Princes.’ He wants bishops who are ‘vigilant of the dangers that threaten’ the flock; bishops who can ‘imbue hope’ and ‘have sun and light in their hearts, to lovingly and patiently support the plans which God brings about in His people; bishops who with simplicity and joy can reinvigorate the church with a positive, compassionate message and witness.”

Archbishop-elect Gordon fits the bill well. His entire life is about serving as a ‘true, true’ shepherd, and he has the spiritual and pastoral profile necessary for a bishop today. We note that earlier this year Archbishop-elect Gordon was elected Vice President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference.

CCSJ thanks Archbishop Joseph Harris not only for the way in which he continues to sanctify/guide/teach his flock, but also for the way in which he continues to speak out on social and other issues e.g. education, the death penalty, and child marriage.

He and his brother bishops of the AEC, have made it clear that “the prophetic voice of the Church must be heard especially in times of moral and social crisis”. They know that regardless of the potential unpopularity of the Gospel message on particular issues, they must continue to speak TRUTH to power. Read his excellent pastoral letter, Hospitality.

All Saints, All Souls

And as we observe the solemnity of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on Wednesday and Thursday this week, let us pray for the souls of all those departed, that, through the mercy of God, they may rest in peace. My father’s death in December last year was a reminder to me that while we are alive we must do our best to be “salt and light”. As St Catherine of Sienna said: “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.”

Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that the saints “show us how to be truly human”. Today’s Gospel (Mt 22:34–40) reminds us that missionary discipleship requires us to follow Jesus’ commandment to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Our vocation is love – a virtue which our world so desperately needs. At this time of crisis in our country and our world, let us demonstrate that we are a Eucharistic people by ensuring that Christ is evident in our thoughts, words and action. Let us show the world whose side we are leaning on.

In 2015, Pope Francis reminded us that the beatitudes make up “the path of holiness, and it is the same path of happiness. It is the path Jesus has taken; indeed, Jesus Himself is this path. Those who walk with Him and through Him enter life, eternal life”.

It is not an easy path, but the Holy Spirit will inspire us as we strive to be counter-cultural; to swim against the tide of the culture of death that threatens us; to demonstrate that we are a people of life and for life – in all circumstances and at all stages. “May the intercession of the saints help us walk in the way of Jesus, and obtain eternal happiness for our deceased brothers and sisters” (Pope Francis).