It has taken “audacity” and “courage” for Caribbean theology to develop over 25 years and more of these are needed in moving forward.
“Theology is about us; every one of us…it is to recognise and articulate what has been going on that is the mission…we hope the young theologians are committed the task,” said Msgr Patrick ‘Paba’ Anthony of St Lucia as he delivered the opening lecture Monday, June 24 for Caribbean Theology Today conference at the Assumption Parish Hall, Maraval.
He recalled founding coordinator, the late Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp, kept promoting theology as “for the ordinary people”. Msgr Anthony said, “Michel kept on saying that…theology is not only for some …it is for all. That’s one of the things that define Caribbean theology”.
The conference is being held at St John Vianney and Uganda Martyrs, Mt St Benedict and runs until June 28. The theme for this year’s silver jubilee is Confronting the Waves.
Before the public lecture, Archbishop Jason Gordon was the main celebrant at Mass at the nearby Church of the Assumption. President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference, Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica and Bishop Clyde Harvey of St Georges-in-Grenada, were among the concelebrants.
Discussing the topic ‘The Audacity to Believe—25 years of Doing Theology in the Caribbean Today’, Msgr Anthony showed the history of the conference using photographs with the first participants. The Caribbean Theology Today website states there were 61 participants at the first conference held in St Lucia February 2–4, 1994. Attendees included laity, religious and clergy from eight Caribbean countries and from the US (www.caribbeantheologytoday.net).
Msgr Anthony, a founding coordinator for the conference said, “We decided at the conference that we should have the courage to designate the titles given to others like Father of the Church. Why can’t we declare Father of the Church? In 2007, we designated Fr Michel a Father of the Church in the Caribbean.” He referred to the courage of St Lucian Noble Laurates Poet and Playwright Derek Walcott and vision of Economist Sir Arthur Lewis who did not ask “whether we should do or not do”.
Msgr Anthony said from the “belly” of the conference came leaders of church like Archbishop Gordon, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris, Bishops Harvey and Malzaire and Vicar General Fr Sirju.
“We have a Church that is led by us,” Msgr Anthony said. The involvement “from the beginning” of lay persons, such as Dr Everard and June Johnston, was noted.
“This is the audacity to believe but do we have the audacity to go further and believe more. Do we have the courage?” Msgr Anthony said.
Archbishop Harris, also a founding coordinator, in responding to the presentation said audacity was needed to believe the Caribbean Church had something to offer Caribbean society. “We refuse to see ourselves as one people, one Church; we refuse to recognise small island states are not viable in the modern world…and the Church is meant to be an agent of that harmony which is God’s dream and God’s desire for the world,” he said.