By Simone Delochan
A dream of laying prostrate on the ground, face down in a church is not a typical one to have, especially when there was no previous calling. Jeffrey Supersad, 55, recalls, in an emailed interview with the Catholic News, that as a teenager he was not a regular churchgoer. “The bare minimum of Christmas and Easter, and perhaps other significant occasions were the times I attended Mass.”
He was born in Newalloville, San Juan to Reynold and Ramona Supersad but grew up in St Joseph. His first ambition was to be a chef, but that was short-lived and he pursued business studies instead at St Joseph College.
Soon after secondary school, he joined the family business which provides products and services for the “automotive after-sales market and the industrial sector”. That commitment to the family’s enterprise appeared to mark his path forward, until the dream.
That dream and his mother’s interpretation of it was the pivotal point in his life, “life-changing” is how he describes it. Against his father’s wishes, he applied to the Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs and entered in August 1989. That year, he said, saw one of the largest groups: “Thirteen of us entered the seminary that year…eight Trinidadians, one person from Curacao, and four from Suriname.”
Two years into his study, in 1991, he had come to a crossroad: family and sibling commitment required more of his time and attention, and meant he would have had to leave, but his desire to become a priest was equally strong.
He wavered, but a random piece of advice from then Fr Jason Gordon cleared his way forward. “It is a piece of advice that I have treasured until today. He said to me, ‘Jeffrey, it is better to make a bad decision than to make no decision’. These words of wisdom assisted in my decision to leave formation after spending two years at the seminary…”
In June 2006, he began actively making plans to re-enter the seminary but mere days after this, his mother passed away leaving him shattered. Re-entry was cast aside as he felt he had to be present for and take care of his ageing father, and there was still of course, his commitment to the family business.
That year was significant for another reason: during the 2006 Archdiocesan Synod, the resolution to re-introduce the Permanent Diaconate was passed. He became a Permanent Deacon on February 6, 2010 and of the group of 20 who were ordained that day by then Archbishop Edward Gilbert, he was the only unmarried man.
“I enjoyed ministry as a permanent deacon having had the privilege of serving at all ten parishes that make up the Suburban Vicariate. As a group we have been well accepted and integrated into the life of our Diocese.”
On his father’s death in January 2018, the next “logical step” was priesthood. He had in the interim already completed a Bachelor’s in Theology in 2016 as an external student of the seminary. He applied to the Archbishop as a candidate, and was subsequently assigned to the pre-seminary house at St Joseph, Aspirancy House but the transition was made easier by Fr Matthew d’Hereaux, Episcopal Vicar for Vocations and Priestly Vocations and parish priest of St Joseph.
Fr Supersad’s journey to priesthood was a long one, approximately 30 years, yet when the date of ordination was announced by Archbishop Jason Gordon, uncertainty, understandably, flooded: “Am I ready for such a life-changing step? Am I sufficiently prepared to undertake this office? And obviously my unworthiness for such a holy profession.”
He had some concerns as well with regard to the future of the family business in which he has been involved since its inception: “Separating myself from the business and the financial support it provided was difficult but not impossible because, by the grace of God, over the years I have learnt how to live and enjoy the basics.”
Immediately leading up to the ordination, despite the natural fear and doubts, Fr Supersad channelled his energy into preparing for the ordination liturgy, and his first Mass.
It was many years of preparation but a journey successfully taken.