Patricia Worrell, former principal of Siparia Boys’ RC Primary died January 12. Fr Alan Hall was the main celebrant at the funeral Mass on January 17 at La Divina Pastora RC Church, Siparia. He wished he could clone thousands more like ‘Ma’ Worrell. The following is an edited version of the eulogy.
Eulogy from her five daughters and two sons
Patricia Worrell was born in Longdenville, Chaguanas, on September 5, 1929. She was one of 11 children born to Laura Nelson and Ayew Joseph Nelson.
My mother was baptised at the Chaguanas RC Church. She attended Todd’s Road RC Primary, Chaguanas because there was no primary school in Morne Diable where her family lived. When she got to secondary school age, her mother brought her back to Morne Diable to prepare her for entry into St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando.
She entered the teaching service and taught at Morne Diable RC 1951–1952, then entered the Catholic Women’s Training College where she performed with distinction in Religion and Handicraft.
After college, she returned to Morne Diable RC where she taught for three years. She then joined the staff of Siparia Boys’ RC in 1965, where she taught mainly at the infant level for five years before being appointed vice-principal in 1970.
Infant teaching was a vocation for her. She was appointed acting principal in 1976 and served as principal 1983–1989 when she retired. Mom goes down in history as only the second female principal of a boys’ Catholic school in Trinidad and Tobago.
She was passionate about education and at the age of 19 organised and led a census in Morne Diable and Penal Rock Road, walking the streets accompanied by her siblings, to make a case to the authorities for the building of a primary school in Morne Diable. The petition was successful and her parents donated the land upon which the Morne Diable RC School now stands.
Sentiments expressed since her passing have come from persons of all walks of life. She took care of the boys entrusted to her, often buying food for those who had none out of her own salary or taking a sandwich to school for a needy child.
After retiring, my mother converted the garage at her home to a pre-school which she ran for 20 years. She therefore truly retired from teaching at the ‘youthful’ age of 80 years.
Mom got married to my father at the age of 26 at this very church. Daddy told us that when he met my mother she was dancing the cocoa in Morne Diable. My mother said that was not true. I do know that my mother’s parents owned a cocoa house in Morne Diable, so who knows? But Daddy was just pulling our legs.
Together with my father, Mom cared for all seven of us, ensuring that we all got a sound education both academic and religious. I remember as a child when, having attended with my siblings a Best Village show my father had put on in Port of Spain. We returned home at 3 a.m. I felt certain that she would not send us to school. Guess who had to get up about two hours later to get dressed to go to school?
Mom had many interests and talents. She was particularly gifted in handicraft, loved plants and tended them with love.
Ma Worrell loved her children but her love was not limited to us only. She often extended her home to nephews and nieces and treated them no differently from her own children. Often, mothers-in-law are portrayed as ‘monsters-in-law’ but mom was a mother-in-law to dream for.
She had the gift of counsel. Persons felt comfortable enough to share their problems with her. She, in turn, would give them advice as she saw fit.
Prayer played a major part in my mother’s life and she loved God whom she would say was her rock. She was a member of the Charismatic Renewal group in this church for years until failing health prevented her from attending meetings.
She prayed the Rosary daily and when she could no longer attend church, she looked forward to the celebration of Mass on Trinity TV.
She would often advise her children to pray about any situation and she told me that God answers all her prayers. Recently, I felt much admiration for her that even in her suffering during the last weeks of her life, when told by a visitor that God is good, her immediate reply was: “All the time”.
Many speak of her pleasant, calm and peaceful nature, as well as her gentle smile but her life was not easy for she did experience suffering at various times in her life.
Mom was practical, organised and always punctual, whether it be at work or for any other occasion. She committed her life to her children. At one time, she even gave up a possible promotion to principal because the school offered was too distant from home and she didn’t want us to be affected. Although she had a pleasant disposition, she was a disciplinarian.
Ma Worrell loved her children but her grandchildren held an extra-special place in her heart. Even while ill, she smiled whenever anyone of them entered her room. Family life was very important to my mother and she often told us that after she was gone, she wanted us to remain as we were when she was with us, gathering together often and enjoying one another’s company. In her own words, she wants us to remain as “sticks in a bundle”.
Before I experienced the death of a parent, I thought that losing an aged parent would not be so difficult since they would have lived a long life. I was absolutely wrong. It matters not your age or the age of your parent. It hurts just as badly when they are gone. But we are grateful to God to have had her spend both Christmas and New Year’s Day with us. Knowing my mother as I do, she probably held on for us in her selfless desire for us to enjoy the season we all cherish.
Thank you to everyone who helped us to care for my mother. Paula was her constant companion and caregiver for seven years. Marsha Voisin and Colette St Bernard, Liz Nelson, Flora Lai Fan all cared for her and Dr Curtis Sonny visited her at home in her last months. Thanks to all the prayer groups and individuals who prayed for my mother and all of you gathered here today to celebrate her life.
We also thank Fr Alan Hall for visiting our mother at home during her illness and for anointing her on the actual day of her passing. This has been a source of tremendous comfort to us.
Above all, we give thanks and praise to God for the privilege of having had her with us for so long, for the wonderful person that she was and for being our rock and strength. Rest in peace, dearest Mammy.