“The sun rises early over the hills…” These are the opening lyrics of Singing Sandra’s epic ‘Voices from the Ghetto’, and it also signalled the start of the dynamic presentation by Fr Matthew Ragbir as he shared with the participants of the Antilles Canon Law Society (ACLS) on the second day of their annual convention, held at the St Joseph’s Convent Retreat and Holistic Development Centre, Tobago.
The convention this year took place from Monday, May 14 to Thursday 17, and was attended by 30 members who are engaged in work with the marriage tribunals of several territories of the AEC. The participants came from Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The major work of this body is to assist those who are seeking to have their marriages declared null.
The main presentations, six in number, were given by Prof Dr Michael Nobel, a canon lawyer invited from the Canadian Law Society. This canon lawyer is no stranger to these parts as he has willingly assisted in the past, not just the ACLS at their conventions but by giving very informative talks. His presentations consisted of not only talks but also workshops.
The conference began on Tuesday with a presentation by canon lawyer, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris CSSp, whose topic was ‘Canon 1055—Consortium Vitae, forming a partnership’. With his expansive knowledge of Canon Law, he was able not just to keep his audience in full attention but he prepared the way for the ensuing talks.
The keynote address, later that day, was given by the Archbishop Jason Gordon, who instilled in his listeners the necessity for Canon Law. He acknowledged the unfortunate fact that there are Catholics in irregular unions and that some people are ignorant of the Church and its laws.
He reminded the attendees paradoxically that ‘ignorance of the law is bad for the good of the people’. He stressed that Pope Francis insists that we have to be the face of mercy to people who have been hurt.
Fr Ragbir, and Tricia Syms of the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission, presented on Wednesday. Fr Ragbir enthused his audience with a talk on ‘Violence in our Caribbean Culture and Marriage’, exposing to all present the role of culture in violence. Syms gave a well-prepared and informative talk on ‘God’s plan for a joy-filled marriage’, making her audience aware of the different programmes now existing in the archdiocese.
The conference closed on Thursday with a tour of the major beaches of Tobago and a soak in Parlatuvier Bay followed by dinner at Sandy Point Villas. It was a fitting end to a very inspiring and fulfilling week. – Felix Edinborough