By Kaelanne Jordan
“Little brothers and sisters” of Scarborough RC and Delaford RC were reminded that it is their responsibility to make Tobago a beautiful place and a Christian community.This, according to the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC)
President Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica. The Bishop was speaking at the 1st AEC Mission Congress which commenced Tuesday, September 17 with a students’ rally at the St Joseph’s RC Church, Scarborough, Tobago.
There was a sea of brown and white uniforms of Scarborough RC, and the maroon and white of the windward Delaford RC. The church was filled with excitement, noise, chatter, active engagement and at times restlessness from pupils throughout the day’s programme which began at 8.45 a.m.
The Mission Congress has as its theme Baptized and Sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world.
Bishop Malzaire, in his address told students they were “privileged” to be part of the celebration of Extraordinary Mission Month, which Pope Francis has marked for October.
Malzaire, however, told them that they would be even more privileged if they considered taking up the challenge both as an individual and collectively to the demands and suggestions given by Pope Benedict’s XV’s Encyclical Letter Maximum Illud which calls for a revitalisation of the missionary role for the region.
Of the 100-year-old encyclical, Bishop Malzaire asserted, “You don’t have to remember those big words,” as he explained the precept of the letter, which he invited all to study, is to recognise that every baptised person, whom he identified by a show of hands, is called to be on mission.
“Every baptised person has a role to play in building the Kingdom of God, which is what God wants us to do. This means that the renewal of the world, the change of the world belongs to each one of us,” he said.
At the start of his talk, ‘Understanding your Baptism’, Archbishop Jason Gordon pointed to the baptismal font, asking “What is this?…What does it mean when babies get baptised?”.
Responses from students included: “They put water on your head and they put oil on you”; “They put the sign of the cross on your head”.
“What else happens in baptism?”, the Archbishop prodded. After listening to their responses, he quipped, “This little thing here does all that mighty work…you hear how many things happen here?”
The Archbishop explained that through baptism, all are brought into the family of God with a Daddy in Heaven who is “most wonderful, amazing, incredible” and loves all.
Archbishop Gordon posed another question: “What does water do?”
“To drink; water makes you pee; quench your thirst…”
To be more specific, he asked of the usage of water when one is dirty.
“…Did everybody bathe today?” he asked.
To this end, he said that water washes away one’s dirt and sometimes there is a dirt, caused when wrong is done, that natural water cannot wash away.
“And that dirt, only the water of baptism can wash away,” he asserted.
Delving deeper, the Archbishop gave the students an exercise to attempt separating their fingers from their hand. With the obvious inability to do so, he explained that at baptism, all are joined into the family of God: “And baptism attaches us, grafts us, connects us to Christ in the same way your finger is connected to your hand…you cannot just come away from Christ,” he affirmed.
The day’s programme continued with Bishop Robert Llanos of St John’s-Basseterre giving a 20-minute talk on ‘We are sent on Mission’ followed by cultural performances by Scarborough RC students: steelpan, drumology, choir, a speech band, dance and the recitation of the missionary rosary.
Trinidad’s students’ rally for all Catholic primary, secondary and tertiary students was on Thursday.