Hundreds from across the Archdiocese gathered at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando to pay their last respects to a priest remembered for his fun and talents.
Fr Benedict Sydney Hilaire, fondly known as Fr Bunty, died on Saturday, September 21.
His Funeral Mass began at 2 p.m. in the presence of his brother priests, among them Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon; Vicar General, Fr Martin Sirju; and OLPH parish priest, Fr David Khan.
Relatives of Fr Bunty were also among the mourners, well-wishers such as the Mayor of San Fernando, Junia Regrello and parishioners he to whom he would have ministered during his 44 years as a priest. He was ordained in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain on November 25, 1975.
Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris, CSSp delivered the homily, describing Fr Bunty as a “true human being” and someone who was always “good to be around”.
He gave an anecdote of their younger years when he and Fr Hilaire would play football together, “Bunty used to play forward and I was goalie. With him on the field, the pain of losing a game never affected us because the game was played with such joy that Bunty always communicated to others.”
Archbishop Emeritus Harris explained despite Fr Bunty’s trials of suffering with diabetes and often being misunderstood, he never became a bitter individual.
“One of the things that always struck me is God’s Kingdom is built with a great dose of suffering and Fr Bunty bore that cross through illness and misunderstanding. He accepted the illness, pain and suffering…all the while maintaining that happy nature with which he was blessed by God.”
His love for young people whom he had an open-door policy with was something Archbishop Harris admired and believed has helped many of them build a stronger relationship with Christ.
In the latter years as Fr Bunty became riddled with incomprehension and loneliness, Archbishop Harris believed it was a step towards “God purifying him”.
“I think this was so he could enter directly into the presence of Almighty God so that pain became a blessing in disguise.”
He commented, “Fr Bunty’s death reminds us the Lord will call us, perhaps when we least expect it. If we are a people of faith, we will live like people of faith as if the Lord is calling us within the next hour, within the next day.”
Fr Martin Sirju administered the final commendation —when the deceased is incensed before burial as bid of final farewell. Sharing brief remarks, Fr Sirju explained the Funeral Mass was held at OLPH as it was his dying wish to have his send off at the place he was “churched” and so he can also be buried next to the plot of his mother at Paradise Cemetery, San Fernando.