The Corpus Christi Carmelite Sisters will celebrate their centenary of arrival in Trinidad in November. This is Part Five of the history of the Order. Part One appeared in the June 9 issue; Part Two – July 14; Part Three – August 11; Part Four – September 8.
The sisters went to the hospital once a week on the day when the priests came to give Communion to the patients.
Once when Sr Josephine was going on her rounds, an old white-haired Indian called to her feebly. He had been baptised when he was a little boy, he told her, but ever since he had lived deep in the hills. Now he had been brought to the city and he knew he was going to die. “You think God would like me as this?” he asked anxiously, and she assured him He would. A week later he made his First Communion and afterward, lay with his eyes closed, his hands still folded, a look of peace on his tired old face. That night he died.
One innovation carried out by the Sisters was with young girls who sometimes came to them, penniless, out of work, shelter-less and frightened.
Upstairs in the convent were four unused rooms and these were turned into dormitories. The Sisters begged furniture from friends and kept the girls with them until they found work, and even then, encouraged them to come back to tell them how they were getting along.
The years after they came to Trinidad the Archbishop asked them if they would visit the Carrera prison once a week and instruct any man who might wish this. This was a request which at first alarmed them, but they found the men so grateful for any attention that the weekly visit became a real joy.
The Sisters developed a regular programme at Carrera. First, they all sang a hymn, preferably one with a fine marching rhythm and which the men could learn quickly. Then came an exposition of doctrine and after that the men were given the opportunity to ask any questions they wished. They had many to ask and it was always late in the afternoon before the Sisters could leave.
Boarding the steamer was not easy. The pier was lower than the launch and the long habit and the scapular impeded them, “also the dear voluminous mantle plus an umbrella, plus sheets of music and catechism manuals,” said Sr Josephine.
Perhaps only the hospital work was as rewarding as this work among the prisoners. To see men return to the sacraments after 20 years and more away was enough to take away weariness and occasional discouragement.
The Sisters said that if the patients and the prisoners gained a great deal, so did they who came among them. They felt a deepening sense of the mercy and the love of God, an increase in faith, a greater realisation of the need and the efficacy of prayer.
Excerpts taken from With God and Two Ducats (1958) by Katherine Burton, and A Great Adventure (1944), Corpus Christi Carmelites.
– NOVEMBER 10
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Thursday, November 7 to Friday 15 – Novena in honour of 100th Anniversary @ 6 p.m. at L’Hospice
Thursday, November 14 – Mass at L’Hospice, actual day of arrival; Carmelite Sisters and regular devotees at 6 p.m.
Saturday, November 16 – Holy Mass at Cathedral at 10 a.m.