By Simone Delochan
Imagine yourself a 16-year-old boy, looking at the priest presiding over Mass when a thought suddenly pops into your head: This could be me.
This is what Rev Kenwyn Sylvester identifies as his first call to the priesthood, one which he dismissed as quickly as it came. Any teenager would do so. Active in the Church, he continued in his altar serving and youth ministry but the thought persisted, gaining clarity and strength. It is then he realised that it was “something else outside of myself”.
Rev Sylvester built up courage, after prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, to share his desire with his parish priest at the time Msgr Mike de Verteuil of St Peter’s, Pointe-à-Pierre and this priest journeyed with him until he joined the seminary eight years ago. He was 24.
The southerner—he was born and raised in Claxton Bay—grew up in an environment where extended family, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins were in close proximity. The personable young man credits this early exposure with shaping his love for humanity.
“The diversity of personalities in my family has helped me to appreciate difference and celebrate distinct gifts and talents that each person brings to the table. Each person brought something different and at different moments. I crossed their paths creating memories that shaped and marked me….I am the totality of these moments and experiences.”
Rev Sylvester describes himself as “normal” while in school. He attended Claxton Bay Junior and Senior Anglican Primary, then Gasparillo Secondary School which was formerly Gasparillo Composite School.
He played football, cricket and participated in athletics, and, perhaps unlike most in that age range, enjoyed his schoolwork. The experience of “normal” schoolboy days came into sharp contrast when he joined the seminary in The Dominican Republic (DR).
The language difference proved the first challenge with which he had to contend, and he did so successfully. He is now bilingual. The entire experience Rev Sylvester describes as “worthwhile and beautiful” but not without its share of hard work, and at an aesthetic cost apparently. “I went with a full head of hair, and came back with half!” he laughed.
He had approached the DR years with openness however, noting the many cultural similarities, and unhesitatingly pointed them out to his brothers, Revs Kwesi Alleyne and Stephan Alexander, to the exasperated response, “There goes Kenwyn again!”.
Differences may exist, he said, but there is more that unites—a worldview he takes into his ministry.
What was the biggest challenge he faced during his stint at the seminary? Obedience. He was not, he joked, “one of those good seminarians” and was not “one of those types to bend to authority”. Still, he emerged from seminary life more mature. “It pushed me to grow up.”
He learnt as well that acquiring knowledge, whether about yourself or your environment, is an exciting and never-ending process.
Where he is now, he credits to God’s grace. He is a man on fire for his God and for service. The boy at 16 would never have envisioned what he could do as a man moving into the priesthood.
Things like preaching homilies or speaking to a crowd would have been anathema to the shy teenager but of the evolution, he says, “It was in me but not from me and I want to bring people to God to have the same experience of Him that I did.”
In the week leading up to his ordination, he was both calm and prayerful, and desired that the ordination would be “a moment of grace for all who are involved and participate in it”.
“I am a hardworking young man. I hope to bring all of me to the Church in service of God’s people. I love people; I love service and I hope that these two loves can really allow me to express my love for God.”