That’s the title of a new book authored by ‘a woman before and beyond her time’. Simone Delochan reports.
The launch of Called to Serve, held at the Holy Name Convent Chapel on Saturday, December 8 became a tribute to its remarkable author, Sr Marie Thérèse Rétout OP.
In the small crowd of supporters were Msgr Julien Kaboré, Deputy Head of Mission, Apostolic Nunciature; Fr Gregory Augustine CSSp, Provincial Superior; Fr Ferdinand Warner OP; Alice and Gerard Besson of Paria Publishing Co Ltd; Lorraine Rostant; Dominican Sisters; and invited guests.
This book is the third revised edition, and the launch is part of the Dominican Sisters’ year-long celebration of 150 years of unbroken service Held at the Holy Name Convent Chapel, in Trinidad.
Mistress of Ceremonies, Sr Renée Hall OP gave both the welcome and introduction to the book and author. She described Sr Marie “as indefatigable, formidable, invincible and fierce…gifted with a sharp mind [and] a tremendous capacity to record events…” Sr Renée summed up Sr Marie as a “woman before and beyond her time, a prayer warrior”.
The common thread that ran through the brief remarks by all speakers was Sr Marie’s indomitable spirit despite the limitations ageing may bring. Sr Marie is 96.
Sr Angilla Corraspé OP saluted this spirit during her greetings on behalf of the Dominican Sisters: “I know the limitations of ageing was a challenge, but, nevertheless, you conquered that. I know that sometimes getting information was a task, but you conquered that. I know that there were other challenges and at times it seemed the tasks would never be done, and you faced disappointment and frustration, bu you conquered it.”
She thanked Sr Marie for her undertaking the task of updating the local community’s history, and affirmed the book “was her legacy to the congregation”.
Journey of faith
This edition includes added substantial revisions according to Alice Besson, who worked closely alongside Sr Marie. The content is arranged in a chronological order and divided by topic; new content has been added; there is a detailed index; and “a sister by sister” description of milestones.
“It is an amazing array of research work that any academic would be proud of,” Besson noted, reminding listeners that Sr Marie was not computer literate—there was no Google involved but time-consuming “footwork”.
Particularly noteworthy was the weaving of the stories of the sisters within contexts both local and international, as well as the roots of the Dominican Sisters in France. She also commended the “wonderful collaboration” with Rostant, and Debbie Boos who did the cover design.
The high point of the morning was Sr Marie’s response in which she narrated the key points of her own journey of faith.
She began with the meeting of her parents, her birth and life during World War II in Nazi-occupied France, and the many twists and unexpected turns her life took when she answered her call to serve, and which led to her living in Trinidad.
With warmth and humour, she wove her tale for an engrossed audience. She appeared to have greeted each point in ever-expanding experience with bewilderment, humility and ultimately submission to God’s will.
The book is available at Holy Name Convent Port of Spain and Paper Based Bookshop in Normandie Hotel for $250. Proceeds from Called to Serve go towards the Holy Name Convent Building Fund.