By Neila Todd
Servant of God, Mother Mary Ellerker of the Blessed Sacrament, O Carm made her transition from this life on January 11, 1949 at the Mother House of the Corpus Christi Carmelites on Belmont Circular Road, Belmont. Her spiritual daughters who were privileged to have been present at her bedside had witnessed a most extraordinary experience.
Their grief at the passing of their foundress was suffused with the joy of knowing that her mortal pains had ended. But equally inexplicable was her appearance after death. The unanimous report was the physical phenomenon in her appearance, the odour of sanctity.
Her features demonstrated a profound change from being sallow and frail to hues that are associated with a living body—rosiness and dewiness. One of the sisters would remark that she appeared as if she had been “touched up”. Her hands looked particularly young and appealing. This would be the compelling image of this Servant of God.
Her mortal remains would be later interred at the Corpus Christi Congregation section of the hillside cemetery adjoining the Abbey of Our Lady in Exile at Mount St Benedict, Tunapuna.
The 69th anniversary of her death Thursday last provides an opportunity for her Congregation to reflect and review the life and times of this extraordinary woman. The narrative of her entry into Catholicism describes a chance sentence from a dialogue about the Eucharist, a belief system only to be found in the Roman Catholic Church.
Clara Perrins, a preteen at the time, christened in the Anglican Church, in England, her birthplace, was being called to her destiny. She immediately desired to become a member of the Catholic Church as she felt compelled to espouse the iconic qualities of being One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
Her journey would lead her to exploit every situation and opportunity which would guarantee her becoming Catholic and when this happy occasion took place, she was determined to seek, to uphold and to evangelise what this Church offers for the upliftment of every soul.
The power and working of the Holy Spirit in her, and by extension in all those who would accompany her, provided the opportunity for her to harness and distill the distinct Corpus Christi charism by which her Congregation would be known.
Her spirituality would be culled from richly diverse Catholic sources. It is little wonder therefore that she would choose in time, Trinidad to proclaim and demonstrate contemplation in action which she believed was the raison d’etre of Religious life.
It is truly by divine intervention that Trinidad would be the place where such newness would emanate through her foundations and her apostolates. Intellectually, her knowledge and talents found fertile ground here, a plural society, which has benefitted historically from its colonial antecedents, beginning with the Spanish Capuchins of the Strict Observance, followed by the French, the English and the Irish.
Trinidad has also always looked outwards to the rest of the world, joining with or accommodating what is being offered. Mother Mary Ellerker of the Blessed Sacrament therefore truly represents our Trinidadian ethos, those cultural attitudes which continue to be so complex and so baffling.
The thought and action of Mother Mary Ellerker of the Blessed Sacrament provides an alternative lifestyle from the frenzied world that we now inhabit to one that offers peace, joy and love. Her spiritual children benefit from her work on this earth and are comforted by her holy example.
Her expansive arms reached out not only to the religious, but to other people, regardless of their station in life which is particularly appealing to the layperson. She recognised the latent holiness and spiritual acumen of this group so that Corpus Christi Lay Carmelites have flourished in this country for many years.
Like our Foundress, we would wish that others too can benefit from this spiritual bounty. If you believe that you are desirous of joining us on this journey please contact us through any member of the Carmelite family, namely our friars, our religious Sisters, our Tertiaries, or our Handmaids of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Please continue to pray for her beatification. Please also report to us any favours, graces or miracles that can be attributed to her intercession.
Neila Todd is a Tertiary of Carmel.