By Kaelanne Jordan,
Parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, El Socorro and St Theresa’s RC Church, Barataria have launched two petitions appealing to the Provincial Superior of the Redemptorists Baltimore province to reconsider the decision to return the pastoral care of the parish back to the Archdiocese of Port of Spain.
The appeals first began Friday, January 12, and continued online January 22.
As of last Wednesday, the online petition drew 242 signatures. The aim was to reach 500.
The Redemptorists, who have been serving the Catholic community in Trinidad and Tobago for a number of years will be leaving the archdiocese from as early as April 2018.
Last February, the Region of the English-speaking Redemptorists of the Caribbean was officially suppressed as the men serving in the Caribbean are now members of the Baltimore province. A letter sent to Archbishop Joseph Harris on October 2 from Fr Paul Borowski CSsR, Provincial Superior indicated the decision to do so was as a result of dwindling manpower in the Caribbean and the realisation that there was no longer a need for a separate leadership team in the Caribbean.
The letter mentioned that the number of Redemptorists serving in the Caribbean, at present, is 11 “and we thought it best to have those men merge back with the Mother Province,” Fr Borowski said.
He said that the province is struggling to faithfully serve its commitments in the US as well as in Dominica, St Lucia and Trinidad. “In consultation with the Provincial Council, and in a discussion with the Pastor of St Theresa’s Church, Fr Elton Letang, CSsR we have made the decision that we do not have the necessary personnel to staff St Theresa’s Church.”
The correspondence, said that the decision was made prior to Hurricane Maria, but after that event, its decision seemed “the correct”.
“Both Fr Letang and the Associate Pastor, Fr Franklyn Cuffy are originally from the island of Dominica. We have roughly seven Redemptorist staffing several parishes and a retreat house on Dominica. Our hope is to enable Frs Letang and Cuffy to help relieve some of the burden our men are experiencing in helping to rebuild the Church of Dominica.”
With the exit of Frs Letang and Cuffy, parishioners at St Theresa’s and Our Lady of Perpetual Help “will be left without a priest as there are not enough priests for the archdiocese,” the online petition said.
In it, the petition said that this will not only have an effect on the two parishes but all the parishes in the archdiocese of Port of Spain served by the Redemptorists.
“With Fr Elton’s departure there will be no Redemptorists Ministry in the Catholic community of Trinidad and Tobago as he is the only Redemptorist priest left in Trinidad. Over the years he has become an integral part of not just the St Theresa’s parish, but in parishes throughout the nation as a Redemptorist. We are therefore appealing to the Redemptorists’ leadership to reconsider their decision and [let them] remain in Trinidad and Tobago.”
In an interview with Catholic News last Tuesday, Fr Letang said that he commended the effort of the parish which he said, displayed their support for the Redemptorists to continue in the archdiocese. “And I think they have all the reasons why they should push the petition,” he said via WhatsApp.
Fr Letang also highlighted his parish’s grave concern upon his departure.
“They mentioned something about all the parishes and people not having a regular priest on a weekend and they themselves are afraid to be in that situation so I commend them for that.”
The Dominica-born priest told Catholic News that he hopes to submit the results from the petitions at a Redemptorist meeting in St Lucia this week.