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Make new college chapel an ‘oasis’ to rebuild lives

By Renée Smith,

The Our Lady of the Presentation chapel at the former Presentation Brothers’ residence at Presentation College, San Fernando is open once again. Archbishop Jason Gordon was the chief celebrant at the chapel’s reconsecration June 11. Episcopal Vicar for the Southern Vicariate and San Fernando parish priest, Fr David Khan; Fr Wilfred John, a former student and Fr Garfield Rochard, College Chaplain 1975–1979, concelebrated the Mass.

The chapel was constructed for the Brothers’ use only, but Archbishop Gordon called on students to use the chapel as an “oasis” for rebuilding their lives and identity.

In his homily he said, “It is from this chapel where the Word would be heard and where Mass will be celebrated, and where you would start the rebuilding of your lives and your identity.”

Referencing the First Reading (Nehemiah 8:2–4, 8–10), Archbishop Jason said the people did not know who they were and thus could not work together to rebuild their land. “Every 28 days, Nehemiah had to read the Word of God to them, day and night, to remind them of their identity. What we can learn from this is: from the source [God] of knowing who you are, everything else flows… Without identity, there is no rebuilding.”

Commenting that we live in a time where sacredness has been cast aside and “everything in the world is important except for God”, Archbishop Gordon urged the students present, representing the larger student body, to use their “sanctuary for God” as God alone is the most important part of the school’s Catholic identity.

The chapel he said is set aside for special use and occasions as it represents two things: an oasis amidst all the activities going on at the school, and a sign of God’s love that comes through the Eucharist. “When you come to this oasis you will find something that is present and someone who would be here to remind you who you are as God’s child—the living stone set aside by God for great work,” said Archbishop Gordon.

College staff and students actively participated in the liturgy with the Pres Choir leading the music ministry. Among those present at the celebration was former Presentation Brother, Gerald Donaghy,

Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) Chief Executive Officer Sharon Mangroo, and persons who assisted in the chapel’s remodelling which cost close to $300,000.

Delivering the Vote of Thanks, Principal Dexter Mitchell acknowledged several persons who contributed to the chapel’s reopening. They received custom-engraved glass trophies with the Presentation College insignia and images of the new chapel.

Mitchell explained to those gathered that the college used the chapel above the school library while the former Brothers’ residence was occupied by TTPost Delivery Services. Both he and then San Fernando parish priest Msgr Christian Pereira decided that once TTPost moved out they would begin the process of remodelling.

This year, Presentation College celebrates its 70th anniversary with the chapel as one aspect of the celebration. Mitchell hoped to accomplish more by “sowing the seeds of service”.

“We want to go a step further with our missionary work at the college by reaching many of the rural parishes who do not have parish priests. As a lay minister, I would like to go with our music ministry and provide a service to these parishes.”

He added that a Thanksgiving Mass will be held later in the year at the chapel for those who were unable to attend.