Fr Leonard Alfonso, at a thanksgiving Mass to celebrate his 80th birthday, thanked God for his parents, family and friends, education, health, country, faith, bishops, priesthood, the Church and all the future gifts God has reserved for those who try with “childlike faith” to co-operate with His amazing grace in their lives.
“And so, I thank you all most sincerely for joining me this evening, as I unite my voice with that of Jesus in this thanksgiving sacrifice, the Eucharist. Your presence is itself an unqualified blessing,” Fr Alfonso said to those gathered at the St Patrick’s RC Cathedral, July 12.
Fr Alfonso was born in Trinidad and grew up in St Lucia. He taught at St Mary’s College, St Lucia, and Queen College, Barbados, before studying for the priesthood under Fr Henry Charles (dec) at the Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs. He was ordained April 4, 1986.
In brief remarks, Fr Alfonso thanked his sister Hermina, housekeeper Bibi and her family, Michael Hunte, diocesan communications officer Christopher Williams, Lynda Johnson, William Cummins and all those who persuaded him, despite his misgivings, to celebrate his birthday.
He expressed special gratitude to Bishop Emeritus Anthony Dickson of Bridgetown, Fr Michael Barrow, Msgr Bill John-Lewis, Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) General Secretary Fr John Persaud and all brother priests who joined in the concelebration.
Fr Alfonso shared his reluctance to speak about his life and his achievements. “I always hesitate because when I enumerate the many blessings God has showered on me, it sounds to me too much like boasting.” He, however, is “well aware” as St Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:19, that “it is all God’s work” and so the glory is His and His alone.
In his tribute message to Fr Alfonso, Archbishop of Port of Spain and Apostolic Administrator of the Bridgetown diocese, Jason Gordon thanked him for his priestly ministry and gift of service to the Church and the people of God in the diocese. “You responded generously to God’s call to build up the Body of Christ and have touched many lives through your faithful ministry.”
He said Fr Alfonso had a keen mind and a strong sense of social justice, fiercely defending the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. “Fr Leonard and I shared life in the seminary in Trinidad—and the chapel most nights. Over the last seven years in this diocese, we have worked together on many things. I have been struck by his devotion to The Blessed Virgin Mary and commitment to intercessory prayer, and I am grateful for his untiring leadership of the intercessors.”
Also paying tribute were Bishop Emeritus Dickson who ordained Fr Alfonso to the ministerial priesthood, and Fr Persaud. Chancellor, Diocese of Bridgetown, Glenda Medford noted the pivotal role he played in her family life as chief celebrant at her wedding, and in presiding over the baptism of her children, and her parents’ funerals.