By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Reverend Mikkel Trestrail is the first founding member of an ecclesial community in Trinidad and Tobago to be ordained. Fr Trestrail, along with Brs Kyle Dardaine and Shad Seaton established the Companions of the Transfigured Christ (CTC) August 6, 2000, the Feast of the Transfiguration.
“I really do hope to help the Church understand the lay ecclesial community even more; some of the priests have already,” he said via WhatsApp, September 5 of the gifts he hopes to bring to the “face” of the priesthood.
He explained, “I bring the charism of our Community: companionship, transfiguration and mission, our three watchwords… A journey of walking with people…helping people become their better selves—transfiguration—and a journey of pouring out myself to others—mission”.
Rev Trestrail was born June 30, 1983 to Valerie and Michael Trestrail at the Seventh Day Community Hospital. He is the second of three siblings, with older sister Michelle and younger brother Marc.
It was at Diamond Vale Government Primary he became blind. “I lost sight at age 11. I was a premature baby and given too much oxygen at birth damaged my left retina, and my right retina detached at age 11,” he said.
When surgery on the right eye did not work, his primary education was interrupted for a year while he went to the School for the Blind to learn braille. Rev Trestrail recalled as a teen he was “not really that interested” in Mass but went to a prayer meeting held weekly in his neighourhood.
“That helped nourish my faith a little bit, and then at Diego Martin Secondary a lot of Pentecostals, Jehovah Witnesses and so were always asking questions about the Catholic faith and it caused me to seek answers for myself,” he said. The quest for answers made him believe in what the Church was teaching.
A conversion took place during Lent when a Religious Instruction teacher asked students to “do something” instead of “giving up” something for Lent.
Rev Trestrail prayed the rosary daily reflecting on the Mysteries and asked Mary’s intercession for God to find a way into his life “…and that started to take me down [a] different road around age 16–17. Then I did Confirmation and started to work as a catechist. It began a journey of service to the Church.”
At St Anthony’s, he did a COR (Christ Our Redeemer) retreat in 2000 which he said played a part in his “genuine conversion to community life”. It was here he met Dardaine and Seaton.
Sharing two major struggles, he said one time he had to confront weaknesses in becoming a better person for his brothers and sisters in community. He continued, “Just relating as a whole, I found that was too hard and wanted to give up and take a year off.” However, CTC members dissuaded him. “I look forward today with gratitude that I did not walk away and stuck it through,” he said.
When the Community was deciding to send him to begin studies for the priesthood in 2009, he was experiencing the pull of falling in love and the idea of marriage. Rev Trestrail said, “That was a big struggle I had to face. I thought I did already but it came back up again…I had to really journey, ‘Is God calling me to married life?’ and through my honest dialogue in community and spiritual direction I was able to really say no, He intended for me to be a single man, to be a brother and make the journey as a priest.”
Rev Trestrail said his “first formation” began as a brother with CTC and continued in his preparation for the priesthood. Technology helped with his studies and research.
“I still needed help from people, the librarian at the seminary to find the books and chapters I needed,” he said. The passages were scanned and read for him.
“Now, in my ministry I use different apps on my phone. Some are general like Universalis; others are special apps for the blind that will help me in my ministry as a priest with the Mass and administration of all of the other sacraments.”
An earpiece relays the prayers and readings which he repeats. He said, “Some of it I will be committing to memory; some of it is old school.”
He remains a member of the CTC, a priest within the community also serving the Archdiocese. He was appointed Spiritual Director of the Archdiocesan Youth Commission in February after he was ordained a deacon.
Fr Mikkel Trestrail is assigned to the Cathedral parish and presided at a Thanksgiving Mass for CTC at Green Meadows, Santa Cruz, September 15.