On Wednesday, December 27, Charles Jason Gordon was installed as the 11th Archbishop of Port of Spain, and only our third local archbishop. He begins his ministry in difficult circumstances.
The country is not in good shape, with industrial relations conflict, declining business activity and more layoffs, as the economic slowdown continues. There is real poverty in both urban and rural areas.
The class and ethnic divisions in our society are growing wider, and the political discourse, both inside and outside Parliament, has become coarser and less constructive. News of corruption and crime, and violence on women and even on innocent babies, assault us daily.
Prisoners languish for years on remand while the Judiciary, the last and most important bulwark in the preservation of democracy and human rights, is mired in controversy. The harmony longed for by his predecessor, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris, remains elusive.
There are challenges within the local Church. The presbyterate is ageing and declining in numbers and despite a welcome increase in the number of deacons and notwithstanding the institution of clusters, effective parish ministry is more difficult. The 21st Century priest must find ways to relate to and evangelise Generation X and the Millennials who are born into an increasingly secularised world, weaned on social media, and wary of traditional authority.
The national education system is in crisis. It promoted universal access, but the majority of students are not realising their God-given potential. With the exception of a few schools, Catholic education is also in crisis. Far too many of our schools are Catholic in name only, doing too little to form students in the tenets of their faith, in good citizenship, and in the enduring values of respect, generosity, tolerance and forgiveness.
The troubles in our schools reflect the crisis in family life. School bullying and violence emanate from a culture of domestic violence. Teenaged mothers and all-too-often absent fathers do not normally provide the home environment where proper values are instilled and good character is formed.
But perhaps the greatest challenge facing Trinidad and Tobago is the lack of ‘servant leadership’. Our leaders want high status but embrace low standards; they demand obeisance but avoid accountability.
Servant leadership turns all that on its head. Exemplified by Jesus’s washing the feet of his disciples, servant leadership emphasises teamwork, builds consensus, and cares for and serves people rather than exercises power.
Bishops are expected to be servant leaders, to be shepherds caring for their people. As servant leader, one aspect of Archbishop Gordon’s ministry must be to reach out to secular leaders in politics, business and civil society and, by his own example, encourage their conversion to servant leadership.
These are some of the challenges to which Archbishop Jason Gordon must now rise. He is, arguably, well-equipped to do so. A product of Fatima College and the Living Water Community, he has grown up among us, and has worked both in parish life and Church administration. Hopefully his sojourn in Barbados and St Vincent has helped him view Church and society here more clearly and objectively.
Age 58, he has perhaps 16 years ahead of him as our prelate, so he can make long-term plans and see them bear fruit. Affable, articulate, hardworking, and intelligent, he has demonstrated that he is able to win friends and influence people.
In addition, having worked in business, he brings managerial skills to his pastoral work as shepherd and servant leader of the local Church.
We pray that as he returns to his own town of Port of Spain and takes up his cross, he will be strong, filled with wisdom, and that the favour of God will be upon him.