The Corpus Christi Carmelite Sisters will celebrate their centenary of arrival in Trinidad in November. This is Part Three of the history of the Order. Part One appeared in the June 9 issue; Part Two in the July 14 issue.
One thing the cloisters lacked, the sisters decided, was plants and flowers. They secured those and then put the old people in charge of caring for them. This worked like a charm; soon there was a spirited rivalry as to who could grow the best plants and the largest flowers.
They had found the old women dressed in sombre dark clothes and by this time they knew that Trinidadians loved white and bright colours. They asked the stores for old pieces of cloth and were sent quantities of brightly coloured prints. A group of ladies known as the Trinidadian Society came to the convent once a week and sat in the community room cutting and sewing the long dresses with trains which the creole women loved.
It was a really exciting morning when, with the clothing all ready to wear, the old women came into the chapel for prayers, each in her starched new dress, carrying the train gracefully over one arm, the fine embroidered petticoats showing under the skirts.
The sisters had set up a little clinic. They had brought with them boxes of simple remedies and for several hours on certain mornings of the week people came crowding into the room, some with terrible sores which needed careful cleaning and dressing. Over each, the sisters said a Hail Mary, regardless of the sufferer’s faith.
Before long, they found themselves called on to answer all sorts of demands. One Hindu came to ask ‘Can you christen me and marry me to my mister?’—a matter which they put in the hands of the nearby Dominican Fathers.
Another old Hindu woman came shaking her head and moaning, “plenty sick”. She was given a dose of medicine and told to drink it, which she did obediently. Then, after thanking them, she explained further—“not me plenty sick. The Papa is.”
One day a shaky old Mohammedan priest came in and explained that his daughter was being badly treated by her husband. Mohammed was being of no help at all in the matter and so he had come to ask for the prayers of the sisters. “You can get nearer to God than I can,” he explained.
The Archbishop wanted the sisters, in addition to their care of the old people, to open classes for fallen away Catholics as well as for those interested in the faith. He wanted them to train his acolytes and hoped later they would undertake for him a census of children in the public schools and also of those not yet baptised.
Excerpts taken from With God and Two Ducats (1958) by Katherine Burton, and A Great Adventure (1944), Corpus Christi Carmelites.