At 5 a.m. on Saturday, March 3, parishioners of St Dominic’s Parish, Penal gathered excitedly awaiting their missionary experience. Breakfast and hot drinks prepared by the hospitality team, who had been at work since 3 a.m., awaited everyone.
The day began with morning prayer and an explanation of the theme for the day, Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me. Close to 400 parishioners reflected on the theme as the confirmation students portrayed the people we were going out to serve.
A fleet of maxis left Penal destined for Port of Spain with parish priest Fr Robert Christo leading the way. The first stop was at the Centre for the Socially Displaced at Riverside Plaza. This encounter brought many to tears while others held their hearts as their insides churned to see brothers and sisters in this state. A few took prepared boxes of food and distributed. Among the 400 were about 200 children and teenagers who were seeing this reality for the first time.
The group then attended Holy Mass at the Living Water Community chapel on Frederick Street. Main celebrant and homilist Fr John Persaud helped us to reflect on how both brothers and sisters were choosing to do their own ‘thing’ and move far away from God. Our observation of Lent and the day’s activities were supposed to help us return home.
After Mass, we visited Marian House on Henry Street and spent some time with the residents. We learned another stunning reality about the plight of these young men, yet how well they have been doing with the help of LWC. Many pledged to continue a relationship with the residents and befriend them in whatever way they can.
Our hearts continued to be torn as the reality of those dying at the hospice and the children being cared for. This brought to life a world some of us did not know existed. Sharing the suffering experience of the dying and the children caused many to hear a voice deep inside calling out to us.
Next we journeyed to the abbey church at Mt St Benedict where we had lunch, walked to the fire tower and after returning to the church, listened to a talk by Abbot John Pereira OSB.
In his talk he focused on the importance of prayer and reliance on God. He encouraged us to use the psalms as a form of prayer, noting that Jesus used the psalms to pray and meditate, and we can do the same. The day ended with a visit to Trincity Mall.
Entries into the journals that everyone was given to record their experience and commitment, proved that the day’s experience was life-changing for many of us. We have decided that this day will not end; we will continue to find ways to reach out to those we visited.
Many of the young people said they had decided to embark on studies or careers to help those on the fringes. This was a truly blessed, missionary experience. – A parishioner