The bishop of St George’s, Grenada reminded mourners that they gather not as a grieving community, but as a grateful assembly to give thanks for a wonderful human being, a son of parents who must be well-pleased, a man of God, a priest and bishop of Christ’s Church and a citizen of two soils in one Caribbean Sea— Bishop Sydney Anicetus Charles.
“…I have been told by many people, ‘Bishop accept my sympathy’. The word sympathy means literally ‘to feel with’. If you say accept my sympathy that means that you feel some pain and grief that you think I am feeling. I can make bold to say keep your sympathy because it is yours, not mine,” Bishop Clyde Harvey declared, in his homily for the Mass of Christian Burial for the third bishop of the diocese Friday, September 28 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Bishop Harvey said that every moment of dying is a process of “searing” truth. Those that have walked with people in the valley of the shadows know that the gift of that moment is to see yourself as God sees you. He observed though eulogies sometimes focus on the “strangest of things”, when we die, the only thing that matters is our truth before God.
“Today, we come to place before God the truth of Sydney Charles as we have seen only a glimpse of it in his life and ministry…. But this is not only about Bishop Sydney, it is about all of us…. So the question that each of us has to ask from the Governor General to the sacristan is ‘What is your truth?’; ‘What is the truth that I bring before my God?’. We have to face that question if we are truly Christian…. Bishop Sydney was confronted by that truth….” Bishop Harvey said.
Bishop Harvey, in reflecting on the day’s readings (Ecc 3:1–11) said that the passage gave a context for insight. The poem in the Book of Ecclesiastes mentions that life is paradoxical with its highs and lows: A time to be born…A time to die…A time for tears…A time for laughter…A time for mourning…A time for dancing…A time for keeping….A time for throwing away…A time for tearing….A time for sewing….A time for keeping silent…A time for speaking….
He added that these are not “single moments” as these moments come many times in one’s lives. “If we think that our lives are meant to be a journey up some ladder of success and joy, we are sadly mistaken.” He then asked those gathered to ask themselves: “Are there any areas in life that I am holding on to that is causing me trouble? Is there any unfinished business?”
At the beginning of his homily, Bishop Harvey recognised in a special way all those who cared for Bishop Charles during his failing health.
The Mass of Christian Burial was concelebrated by priests of the diocese and bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC), notably AEC President Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica; Bishop Gerard County of Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Bishop Emeritus Malcom Galt; Vicar General Fr Carl Haynes; AEC General Secretary Fr John Persaud; Fr Harold Imamshah; and nephew of Bishop Charles, Fr Benedict ‘Bunty’ Hilaire.
Also in attendance were Governor General Dame Cécile La Grenade, PM Keith Mitchell, religious, members of Parliament, diplomatic corps, students at New Life Organization (NEWLO), members of senate and family and friends.
For the placing of symbols, Deacon Anthony Joseph placed the Book of Gospels, Fr Carl Haynes, the chalice and Fr Bunty the crucifix on the mahogany-coloured coffin.
The prayer of commendation led by Bishop Malzaire was followed by the procession to the place of committal. All remained in the church as the main celebrants and family members took the body of Bishop Charles to its final resting place—the crypt beneath the Cathedral.
The blessing of the crypt was done by Bishop Harvey. The procession returned to the church after Bishop Charles’ body was entombed below his predecessor Bishop Justin Field OP and above his successor Bishop Vincent Darius OP.
The crypt was left open till 6 p.m. to the general public.