The Corpus Christi Carmelite Sisters will in November celebrate their centenary of arrival in Trinidad. Beginning in this issue, the history of the Order will be presented monthly leading up to the anniversary celebrations.
In 1918, when the war was all but over, the request came from Archbishop John Pius Dowling OP of Port of Spain, Trinidad. “Could a few of the community at Leicester come to work in the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain?”
To the community it seemed a wonderful offer, a wonderful opportunity. It also seemed a bit mad perhaps even to consider, with their small numbers, splitting the group.
Sr Mary Magdalene accepted for her community and promised to send three members the following year. From the day the letter went to the Archbishop the preparation began. Sister Mary Magdalene read up on Trinidad where the new mission was to begin, and shared its history with the other sisters and how and when it became a Christian land.
By the time the three sisters were ready to leave, they were well instructed on the historical, physical and spiritual facts of their future home. Three sisters left Leicester, England and arrived in Trinidad to take care of the elderly at the L’ Hospice.
In October of 1919 the little band of three sailed, Sister Josephine being their head. A launch took them to a steamer riding at anchor some distance out in the river. They had a long trip and a very rough one but they were good sailors and the two-week trip was not too unpleasant.
When the Corpus Christi Sisters left England, the day had been cold and dreary. It was a very different climate which greeted them when from their steamer they saw the lovely bays and rocky entrance of Trinidad, its palm trees and sunshine. They were told that Archbishop Dowling would come to meet them. It was a comfort to them to know that once again they would be guided in their work by a Dominican.
When the launch reached the landing, a crowd was waiting for them, both cleric and lay among them. They were taken to the convent of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny.
Archbishop Dowling had given them a convent which was to be the first Corpus Christi house in the mission field and which they were happy to find, was almost in the shadow of Holy Rosary Church, another link with home for it was in the charge of Dominicans.
The Sisters were given the charge of the Spaccapietra Home for the Aged, which had a chapel and also contained a greatly loved shrine dedicated to St Anthony.
Despite the friendly welcome, it took some weeks for the Sisters to become assimilated to the great change in the way of living and the people.
This was a colourful place to which they had come and a colourful people. Little brown-skinned children came shyly up to them, their big eyes full of curiosity about these white-clad women.
CENTENARY CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Thursday, June 13 – Pound Day
Thursday, June 20 – Corpus Christi Street Procession
Saturday, June 22 – Corpus Christi Celebrations at Belmont Carmel
Tuesday, July 16 – Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel (Carmelite Family)
Saturday, July 20 – Tea Party (tentative)
Thursday, November 7 to Friday 15 – Novena in honour of 100th Anniversary @ 6 p.m. at L’Hospice
Thursday, November 14 – Mass at L’Hospice, actual day of Arrival; Carmelite Sisters and regular devotees at 6 p.m.
Saturday, November 16 – Holy Mass at Cathedral at 10 a.m.