Fr KL Devenish CSSp is remembered as a kind of hero by parishioners of the 1950s. It was this spirited Spiritan who, in responding to the need to expand the parish chapel to better accommodate the growing number of parishioners attending Mass, decided to bless three Miraculous Medals and place them on the land he was interested in purchasing, to counter the resistance he was experiencing from the old land-occupier’s relatives.
Fr Devenish promised the Blessed Virgin that Miraculous Medal devotions would be said regularly if he got the land. A small document entitled ‘A Brief History of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Curepe’ compiled by Dorothy Dolly and others in 1997, tells the story that “He did get the land. It was purchased on May 17, 1954 at a cost of $7,000. Fr Devenish kept his promise and up to the present time the Miraculous Medal novena is being said every Monday morning after Mass.” That practice continues.
A Catholic News’ article in mid-1968 described Fr Devenish as “the indefatigable parish priest”. That story described the details of the imminent consecration of the church on October 7, 1968 by His Grace, Most Reverend Anthony Pantin.
Invitations were issued far and wide, as devotion to Our Lady was highly promoted by former Archbishop Count Finbar Ryan OP who on Friday June 22, 1962, at the laying of the foundation stone for the church’s construction, described that event as “happy augury” that the blessing should occur “at such a historic point of our country”.
He “believed that she (Our Lady) will do for us what she promised to do for the people of Portugal—if she is honoured and her requests fulfilled, the pressure of enemies both by land and sea, will be repelled and by her protection no warlike power will come to us.”
Well, that faith knowledge within the heart has borne fruit several times over for Fatima Curepe parishioners and the people of Trinidad and Tobago. The Vicar General, the Very Reverend RB Barry OP, solemnly blessed the church on December 2, 1962, upon completion of the church’s construction.
A large congregation of clergy and laity attended, including His Excellency, the Governor General Sir Solomon Hochoy and Lady Hochoy. Faith met proof as the $100,000 debt was quickly repaid by July 1965, largely due to fundraising and parishioners’ generosity.
Curepe became a separate parish out of the St Joseph cluster on October 15, 1965; a presbytery was completed in February 1966 and the church’s consecration in 1968 was a “very inspiring ceremony” giving the building its “special dignity… as the House of God for all time.”
The Catholic News’ story described in fine detail the consecration of the altar as the focal point in every church—representing “the Presence of Christ among His people at prayer…from here the prayers of the people ascend to God”.
Parishioners were encouraged to fast in preparation for the ancient rite. The relics were brought to the parish and placed at first in a suitable place outside the church for veneration—no one was allowed inside the church on the day of consecration until the archbishop arrived with his assistants.
“They go to the shrine where the relics are, say a short prayer, sprinkle the outside of the church with ‘Gregorian water’.” This special water contains blessed salt, wine and ashes signifying life-giving properties, remission of sins and the bestowal of heavenly blessings, respectively.
The archbishop then knocked on the door of the church as the Litany of Saints was sung. The interior walls were sprinkled with Gregorian water and the archbishop walked around the altar also sprinkling it with Gregorian water and made five crosses with the water on the table of the altar.
The relics of the holy martyrs of Uganda: Charles Lwanga and Matthias Kalemba Mulumba, were then brought from the shrine, placed in the openings of the altar called ‘sepulchres’ and cemented into place. The dedication was completed at that point.
According to the Catholic News’ article, the essential part of the consecration ceremony, which “only a bishop may perform” is the anointing with Chrism of 12 crosses set in the walls and the door posts.
The rite continues, “the candles which are lit under the crosses will be burnt every year upon this day as long as the church remains. The Archbishop (will go) around and anoint each cross in turn…the cross will be incensed and the candle beneath lit for the first time. After the ceremony of consecration, the concelebrated Mass is offered.” At the time in 1968, only nine other churches in Trinidad and Tobago were consecrated.
In a review on The Holy Ghost Fathers and Parish Work in the Archdiocese by Fr K Knox CSSp extracted from a Centenary Record of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Trinidad and of St Mary’s College 1863–1963, the new church was described as “a dream come true” for providing ample accommodation for the parishioners of St Augustine, Curepe and Valsayn Park.
Since then persons from as far as Chaguanas, Tacarigua, Cunupia, Maracas and Barataria come regularly to our worship centre.
Several of these ‘parishioners’ come because of sacramental memory—they were either baptised, confirmed, married, consecrated or their relatives received the last rites from this pastoral centre. From womb to tomb, pastoral experience is nurtured for the 1,500 persons counted in the last parish census of 2012.
The building, measuring 120 feet by 60 feet, seats 800 persons. Since 1968, the hinted construction of a new school on the site south of the church has given way to the Pastoral Centre used by many from across the archdiocese and the country.
The church is windowless and with an internal clear view of the altar from all angles due to the absence of columns. However, there are plans for refurbishment—altar enhancement, stained-glass windows, air conditioning and much needed ceiling replacement and attention to moisture incursion in the main sacristy/sanctuary wall.
The recent earthquake has given cause for pause with plans for that wall work. A new wave of fundraising has begun to cover the projected $5 million cost of these works.
The Pastoral Centres, large and small, have already received attention with refurbishment of bathroom facilities for persons with disability and child-friendly provisions, kitchen cupboards, storage space, multimedia installations and public address systems, some portable.
The community celebrates 50 years of faith, liturgy, pastoral work, challenge and trust. Even so, the young ones are bemused by the activity and are now learning about the significance of the work done by their forebears and the heritage of Faith.
Just like our patroness, Mother and Queen, we too must take note and model our lived faith through the power of God and the possibility of our created humanity.