By Lara Pickford- Gordon, firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2018 the Church was called to respond to the needs arising from the influx of migrants particularly from Venezuela, flooding and job losses. Work got underway for an Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan 2019-2023.
It was a hectic year for Archbishop Jason Gordon, the 11th Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain as he settled into shepherding the faithful of the Archdiocese while balancing responsibilities as Apostolic Administrator of Bridgetown, Barbados.
The Catholic News (CN) presents some of the news highlights of 2018.
Archbishop Gordon receives pallium
On August 14 Archbishop Jason Gordon’s pallium—a white wool vestment—was imposed by Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu during a Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It was the first time such a ceremony took place in the diocese as it was traditionally held in Rome. Pope Francis introduced this change because it “will greatly favour participation of the local Church in an important moment in its life and history”. Bishop Francis Alleyne OSB of Georgetown, Guyana and Bishop Karel Choennie of Paramaribo, Suriname whose territories are under the Archdiocese of Port of Spain attended.
The plight of Venezuelan refugees was featured in a CN article ‘Have Mercy—Vicar General on refugee situation’, April 29. Venezuelan Andriena Briceno noted hostility towards Venezuelans and “rough” treatment. Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju called for the situation to be handled with a mixture of common sense, mercy and compassion.
The CN January 21 reported on Archbishop Gordon’s visit to the newly opened UNHCR-Refugees and Asylum Seekers ministry in Port of Spain. The Living Water Community is the implementing agency for the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR).
In his CN column, May 6, Archbishop Gordon called for prayers for migrants, and action through parishes assisting in welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees. He also reiterated this message in the May 10 episode of Ask the Archbishop live chat.
CN reported on the June 24 launch of the Archdiocese’s Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (AMMR), in observance of the international World Refugee Day (WRD), June 20. Archbishop Gordon called on the nation to use the opportunity on WRD to commit to stand in solidarity with migrants and refugees and to promote their human rights.
Natural disasters spur humanity
A 6.9 earthquake August 21 caused damage to several buildings including RC schools, some of which already had weak infrastructure. The Cathedral was not spared as Masses had to be suspended due to cosmetic damage. The Cathedral reopened October 3. The Church of the Nativity, Crystal Stream was also closed for repairs after extensive damage to ceiling panels, frames and lights.
There were delays in the reopening of school buildings for the new academic year in September to ensure that the structural integrity was not compromised.
Extensive flooding took place in several areas after a record 250.2 mm of rain fell October 17–19. Companions of the Transfigured Christ, Living Water Community, the Society of St Vincent de Paul and parishes conducted outreach to assist flood victims.
Archbishop Jason Gordon conducted visits to the badly affected communities including Greenvale, La Horquetta and Sangre Grande. In a statement issued October 21 he expressed sympathy and condolences saying, ‘‘we must witness to sharing and solidarity”.
A Mass of solidarity for Petrotrin employees and their families took place October 27 at St Peter’s RC Church, Pointe-à-Pierre. The state-owned refinery was officially closed November 30. Parish priest Fr Godfrey Stoute said the Mass was to remind them the Church’s doors are open to help, where possible.
The Church and LGBTI+ community, Church sex scandals
In his April 15 and 17 columns ‘Conversations with Archbishop J’, the Archbishop sought to clarify the Church’s position on the April 12 ruling by Justice Davindra Rampersad that Sections 13 and 16 of the Sexual Offences Act were “unconstitutional, illegal, null, void, invalid and are of no effect to the extent these laws criminalise any acts constituting consensual sexual conduct between two adults”.
The Archbishop’s contribution to the discourse on LGBT+ issues was not always well received by the wider community but it allowed the Catholic Church to be heard.
As a follow-up and to clarify comments made in his columns in which he expressed support for the legislative amendments, the first ‘Live Conversations with Archbishop J’ took place June 15 at Our Lady of Fatima RC, Curepe to emphasise the Church’s views on marriage and same-sex unions.
On October 27, ‘Conversations on Sexual Abuse Scandals’ was hosted by Couples for Christ and the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission for persons to discuss their concerns with the recent clergy sexual abuse scandals and share ideas on how the Church community can protect and assist survivors.
Towards a Pastoral Plan
On January 16, Archbishop Gordon met with clergy in the Archdiocese to begin the process of identifying priorities the local Church should be addressing in short and medium terms.
The challenges identified were: clergy and vocations, Catholic education, parish, family life and leadership of Church and society. The five topics emerged from an earlier reflection with a team comprising Archbishop Gordon and others.
The Pastoral Planning process was announced via the CN and the Archdiocese online media platforms on October 28 inviting parishes to participate to arrive at the final Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan 2019–2023. The six priority areas identified were: parish, family life, Catholic education, clergy and vocation, and leadership. Youth was added as another priority.
Although there was a peititon for Fr Elton LeTang CSsR, moderator Barataria/El Socorro Cluster to remain in Trinidad, the CN March 4 reported, “Fr Paul Borowski CSsR, Redemptorist Provincial Superior has maintained that as of April 1, Easter Sunday, the Redmptorists will ‘hand back’ pastoral care of the parish of St Theresa’s RC Church, Barataria to the Archdiocese of Port of Spain.”
New apostolic nuncio
Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu was appointed November 4, 2017 as the Apostolic Nuncio to Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, and apostolic delegate in the Antilles.
He was introduced to the public on March 19 at the 50th anniversary of the episcopal ordination of the late Archbishop Anthony Pantin held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Archbishop Nwachukwu said he came “with the love of God”, and as the voice of the Roman Pontiff would continue “building bridges”.
Seventy-eight-year-old grandfather Kenneth Vieira was ordained to the priesthood August 4 at the Cathedral on the Feast of St John Vianney and Uganda Martyrs. In the report of CN August 12, Archbishop Jason Gordon compared Vieira to the last wine served at the wedding feast at Cana, saying the wine of his life offered to God through the priesthood would be “finer, and more beautiful and tasty”. Fr Vieira, along with Rev Lindsay John were ordained to the diaconate on May 21, at the Abbey Church, Mt St Benedict for the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Seminary.
The Catholic News’ short film The Pursuit of Truth @ 125 celebrating the journalistic, historical and religious value of the CN print premiered at the T&T Film Festival, Movietowne on September 22. The second part of the documentary, culminating the end of the 125th anniversary observance was shown at Archbishop’s House on November 29.
Some of the other anniversaries reported during the year included: The Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena celebrated 150 years of mission on April 29, St Finbar’s RC Church and Dominican Pastoral Centre; Mary Immaculate Queen of the Universe, Bourg Mulatresse celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the parish 35th anniversary of the church building and 20th anniversary of the construction of the parish hall with Masses on August 27 and 28.
Three books were launched within a week telling the stories of the local church. Extracts from the Archives of the Irish Dominicans in Trinidad and Tobago 1895-2018 was launched December 7 at the St Dominic’s Pastoral Centre, Diego Martin.
The third revised edition of Called to Serve by Sr Marie Thérèse Rétout OP was launched at the Holy Name Convent Chapel December 8 as part of Domincian Sisters’ year of celebrations of 150 years of service.
Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris’ autobiography God’s Will was launched at NALIS, Port of Spain December 12.
The Catholic community bid farewell to several individuals. Among them were: Fr Rudolph ‘Rudy’ Mohammed, 83 years, died February 17; Fr Peter Clarke OP, March 27 in Barbados; former broadcast journalist, and secretary to Archbishop Anthony Pantin, June Gonsalves, 91 years, died at her Maraval home August 10; and Bishop Emeritus Sydney Charles passed September 4 at 92 years. His funeral Mass was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception St George’s-in Grenada, September 28 with current Bishop of St George’s Clyde Harvey presiding.