By Lara Pickford- Gordon
The Trinidad students’ rally for the first Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) Mission Congress at the Centre of Excellence, Tunapuna was so well attended that there were not enough seats for the multitude. The energy was high as the programme got underway after 9 a.m. with the theme Baptized and Sent.
Through dance, drumming, song, spoken word, and other displays, the children of RC schools gave a rousing start to the programme. The bishops of the AEC and the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu were well entertained.
Atherly Nicholas of GRACE Music Ministry took the tempo up when he went through a medley of popular songs starting with ‘We are the army of the Lord…What you think about Jesus…’
AEC President Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica, Vice-President Archbishop Jason Gordon and Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston, Jamaica moved forward to join children dancing to the front of the stage.
The welcome was given by host Archbishop Gordon who said the rally was in keeping with Pope Francis’ call for the Church to celebrate mission in an extraordinary way.
The congress being hosted in Trinidad and Tobago was heeding the Holy Father’s call for the Catholic Church to be a church of mission. He said through spoken word, songs, enactment, displayed what the mission meant.
“At the end of this day we wil have a deeper sense of what it is to be a people of mission. We were baptised and now we are sent to be a people of Christ and to bring God’s love, joy, peace, goodness…we are bringing that to the whole people of the Caribbean”.
Fr Tadeusz Nowak, general secretary, Pontifical Mission Society (PMS) for the Propagation of the Faith explained the PMS helps Pope Francis take care of the churches in mission countries and helps foster a missionary spirit in the hearts of all Catholics to the ends of the earth.
He shared two observations from his first visit to Trinidad. “You have a great zest for life, an excitement to live, a joy to live. Second, you have a natural desire and instinct for God and I hope you never lose both and … build on those gifts that you have received”, Fr Nowak said.
He told the gathering of youth before Jesus was taken up to Heaven He said ‘Go and make disciples of all nations in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit’ and to teach everything He taught and He would be with them until the end.
“I can see you are doing that now with your presentations and witness of your life”, Fr Nowak said.
In brief remarks, Fr Esteban Kross of the Diocese of Paramaribo, Suriname, the regional director of Pontifical Mission Societies in the Antilles, explained the colours used for the Congress logo. He said, “God needs you and Church needs your life and enthusiasm”. He invited the children to sing a verse from the Song of the Young Prophet.
There were more performances by school children when the formal opening was done. Presentations on the theme were given by Bishop Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne, French Guiana to primary school pupils and Bishop Robert Llanos of St John’s-Basseterre, Antigua & Barbuda to secondary students.