SEVERAL times people have remarked that we need more priests. Some parishes get an ‘occasional’ priest, so naturally Catholics speculate about the future of the Church. From my observation, five of our priests died the last two years, five are no longer in the service of the Church, and 15 of us are now retired.
Suddenly, the reality has dawned upon us. We need more priests and to pray for new ones to fill the ranks. Some of us have health issues so we are not functional as before. I have to take one day at a time and adjust my thinking, like a horse put into a pasture.
I am grateful that when Archbishop Finbar Ryan made the appeal of the boys of St Mary’s College, his passionate pleading struck a chord in me.
I was an altar server together with Fr Rex De Four and Gerry Fernandes. We served at the Girls’ Industrial School chapel in Belmont during the time that Fr Knolly Knox CSSp was the chaplain for the Carmelite Sisters. I used to walk from my home on Henry Street to the chapel in Belmont.
In those days, most of the Mass prayers at the altar were in Latin. How well I remember answering the opening prayer by Fr Knox who prayed the psalm: “Introibo ad altare Dei”, and the altar server answered “Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutum meum.”: “I will go to the altar of God, to God who giveth joy to my youth.” Yes, indeed, God gives joy to our youth.
Many young people today do not have joy in their youth. Endless articles nowadays are written by psychologists like Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor and other educationists commenting on the pressures and expectations on the young people “to pass the exam”. I feel sorry for them, waking up at 5 a.m. to hustle to catch the maxi or taxi or daddy trying to beat the traffic.
Times have changed. Parents still want their children to go to ‘prestige schools’. In our day there were 100 places to qualify to get into a good school. In those days, students paid $16 a term to go to Progressive, Osmond, Ideal, Burke, Wilson School (in San Juan), Aquinas in San Fernando and Pamphilian (in Chaguanas) and several others.
God bless these valiant principals whose desire was to provide good secondary education for students from less-privileged homes.
We had fun after school. There were wonderful football games in the Queen’s Park Savannah. Crowds of people hustled from work to see Malvern, Maple, Shamrock, Casuals, Sporting Club, Colts, Dynamoes and Notre Dame. From way beyond the hospital on Charlotte Street, it was a joy to see civil servants riding their bicycles, and students from all over going to witness the big games in front of the Grand Stand. You could hear the roar when the voices in the crowd bellowed “Goal!”.
Who could fail to be thrilled by ‘Putty’ Lewis, Raffie Knowles, Pepperwine Lovelace, Nip Charles, Len Munroe, Big Fort Bates, Chalkie Hamel Smith, and Len Laggard making magic with their footwork? We had endless superb entertainment free of charge every day. We bought ‘press’ from Conrad and ‘the goose’ changed the results on the scoreboard.
Those were the days: hardly any crime, plenty of mango trees in the neighbours’ yards, the ever-present ‘pallet’ man, peewah, channa and chataigne all over the place. Vending was part of the joys of our local culture.
Most Catholics went to the 5 a.m. Mass; then we went to George Street market; we lined up for confession on Saturday evenings; and Benediction on Sunday evenings. There were no Saturday or Sunday evening Masses.
Next on our calendar was our Confirmation day, and Intercol, and the famous supremacy games with St Mary’s and QRC. Losing to QRC made us feel depressed for weeks. Ask Vaughan Amow and Sedley Joseph. We didn’t feel we could enjoy kurma and pholourie anymore, not because we had no ‘whole-day’ holiday but we felt that the Church had suffered defeat.
The Church meant a lot to us in our formation. We attended Corpus Christi at the Cathedral and we walked solemnly around the Promenade. We liked the smell of incense. Church was important in our early years.
My father took flowers to Our Lady’s altar at the Rosary Church. My mother sent me with ‘sweetbread’ to give to the poor people in the L’Hospice; we had to have penny pieces in our pockets to give to the poor folks standing in line near Woodford Square on a Saturday morning.
We grew up with respect for our teachers and elders, we said the Angelus wherever we were and we made the Sign of the Cross when we passed in front of the church.
We were members of the Legion of Mary and the Sacred Heart Society at the College and we liked to see the cadets with their rifles and uniforms under the command of Joe Goddard, Joe Theodore and others like Ken Barnes. Most of the cadets became army leaders in the local regiment.
My fond memories of our school days made me realise that we saw God in everything and it led me to serve the Church. Full well, I remember ‘I will go unto the altar of God, to God who giveth joy to my youth’.
Writer/Copy Editor Simone Delochan interviewed Fr Makhan on his life before and during his priesthood.