“The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (Gaudium et Spes).
This, taken from the preface of the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World, in many ways summarises our journey as permanent deacons in this Archdiocese over the last ten years. Your joys were our joys; your pain was our pain.
On February 6, 2010, 20 men from throughout the Archdiocese were ordained at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception by Archbishop Edward J Gilbert CSsR, thus becoming the first permanent deacons of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain. This marked the end of three years of formation and the beginning of a lifetime of service.
This day, however, was tinged with some sadness as one of our brothers suffered a stroke shortly before ordination and he could only look on as we took this step of service. It was with great joy, however, that three years later we could celebrate his ordination on January 6, 2013. As Archbishop Joseph E Harris, CSSp mentioned at the ordination, “God deigned that his formation was three years longer than the others.”
Over the years, we have taken up our role in the fabric of service to the Archdiocese. In addition to our numerous parochial responsibilities, we also serve in the following ways:
One of us even went on to read for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology in his 70s! It was also with joy that in 2019, we celebrated the priestly ordination of Fr Jeffrey Supersad who was ordained with us in 2010.
Over the years, we also had to live through the grief of losing Rev Dennis Bryan in August 2015, as well as the loss of the wives of Revs Boodlal, Rostant, Bibby and Bousignac. We continue to offer prayerful support to these and our other brothers who are not enjoying good health.
It is with joy that we note that 17 more men have chosen to explore their vocation to the permanent diaconate and are currently in formation. We look forward to these men, their wives and families joining us as we live the joys and hopes, grief and anguish of the people of God in our Archdiocese.
Rev Malcom Joab
Near the end of 2006, I received a letter from my then parish priest Fr Henri Brenon FMI inviting me to consider a vocation to the permanent diaconate. I was taken aback yet intrigued as I knew little of this vocation. I had more questions than answers and when I met with him afterwards, I asked: How would this affect my profession? Where would I be assigned? What would be my role in the parish? All reasonable questions I thought.
To each of these Fr Henri answered: “I don’t know”. But then he responded with words which still resonate: “I don’t know how the Archbishop will arrange the diaconate, but what I do know is that you will be blessed.” I could live with that!
Fourteen years after that fateful meeting, ten years after ordination, it has simply been that—a blessing. Ordination was a few days after my 39th birthday, and a few months after our 11th wedding anniversary. We had two girls, nine and five years old and I am a professional geotechnical engineer. This would certainly qualify as, ‘walking by faith and not by sight’. We would need abundant blessings.
Someone asked me once, “How do you do it?”. I said, “Very carefully, very prayerfully.” Over the years, my wife and I have had to negotiate the throes of a young marriage, raising young girls, juggling professional careers and yet being present to serve the people of God. Looking back, it was by no means simple, but it was all made possible, in no small measure, by God’s incredible, superabundant blessings.
So, despite sometimes being considered a mini-priest on the one hand and a maxi-lay minister on the other, I think, however, that deacons have managed, over the years, to increasingly define who we are.
Rev Lennox Toussaint
Ten years and three Archbishops later, many lessons have been learnt, along with some interesting experiences.
One decade has slipped by and while many things are much clearer now, some are more challenging. We’ve lost one colleague and three wives along the way and that was a wake-up call for us all. However, on the plus side, our annual weekend retreats have been quite inspiring and very beneficial.
I have experienced some baptisms where parents did not get the starting time right, many weddings where only the grooms were punctual, and almost all funerals where the deceased was first to arrive!
I’ve enjoyed the varied experiences and I am learning so much more about people—and myself—with each encounter. I am still adjusting to the different styles of the celebrants and the variance, appreciation and participation of the congregations. I am extremely grateful to the Lay/Eucharistic Ministers, the Altar Servers and Sacristans for their kind support.
Much thanks to you Heavenly Father, thanks also to Archbishop Gilbert and Fr Godfrey Stoute, who cleared the path for me to be on the team today.
Rev Michael Smith
In my diaconate ministry, I am happy to glorify God by serving the people of God in this Archdiocese. God has given me many blessings and graces and I use them to do His work. I have learnt to be more charitable and understanding to even the most difficult people. This experience is very fulfilling spiritually. I believe that being in a relationship with God and doing His work is truly a gateway to eternal life. I thank God for calling me into this ministry.
Rev Kenneth Phillips
I am very grateful to God for the call to the diaconate; the call to serve Him and the people of God. The advice of Archbishop Edward Gilbert to us during our formation: to be generous in our self-donation to the work, and to be open to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, continues to bear fruit in my life.
I am grateful for the many ways in which I have grown in the discharge of my duties, and for the many new relationships which I enjoy. In particular, I am grateful for the privilege of serving the sick and the persons who cannot attend the Liturgies.
It is difficult to describe the joy I have experienced in studying the material which I have read and sharing my love of it with those who are patient enough to dialogue with me. Finally, Bernadette and I have, by the grace of God, successfully engaged the challenges of integrating the vocation to marriage, with that to the clerical life. If we do not lose sight of Jesus, we will do well.
Rev Patrick Lawrence
What have been my experiences as a permanent deacon serving in the Lord’s vineyard over the last ten years? Through my ordination into the diaconate I became a member of a unique group of men who have chosen to serve the Lord in becoming themselves servants to His people spiritually, pastorally and sacramentally by way of the various ministries of the Church.
I have had the good fortune to work with four of the most recent parish priests of St Patrick’s who have extended to me the opportunity to become deeply involved in the workings of our parish and its administration.
It is through the various ministries of the Church, in which I have been privileged to serve, that I have gained insight and understanding into the need for a permanent diaconate and the role it plays in the life of the Church in providing a pastoral service conduit between the bishop, priests and administrators and the faithful of the Archdiocese.
In fulfilling my assigned duties, I have recognised the need for continuing education in the spiritual and pastoral aspects of the Church. In this regard, I have taken advantage of the opportunities presented to me and which have, I think, enabled me to lead a healthier spiritual life and so develop into a more faithful servant in the service of the Lord.
Rev Harold Woodroffe
I was initially assigned to the parish of St Peter’s, Pointe-à-Pierre where I was able to exercise my diaconate ministry with the support of the parish priest and parishioners. I gained valuable experience in conducting Word and Communion Services, baptisms and funerals.
I read or chanted the gospel at Masses in the parish, at the Cathedral, and elsewhere, and from time to time gave Lenten and other retreats in the Archdiocese.
After receiving a marriage licence, I was privileged to officiate at weddings at Pointe-à-Pierre, in the Southern Vicariate, and elsewhere in the Archdiocese as required.
I continued my involvement in the Family Life Ministries and officiated at Word and Communion Services to close weekends for the New Beginnings and CHOICE movements from time to time.
I was responsible for working with and guiding the Lay Ministers in our parish. With the advent of Parish Clusters, I was reassigned to the Cluster of La Romaine, Mon Repos, Pointe-à-Pierre and San Fernando and had fixed office hours where I conducted pre-nuptial enquiries and other counselling as required. This fitted in well with the involvement of my wife and I in the Vicariate Marriage Preparation Programme, where I continued to minister to couples. For many of these couples, I would later officiate at their weddings.
Early in my diaconate, I was appointed the RC Chaplain of the Trinidad and Tobago Cadet Force, and along with the other chaplains, planned and conducted Services, provided counselling as required, and made recommendations for interventions to deal with the spiritual development of the members. I recently completed a three-year term as Chairman of the Service Team for the Permanent Diaconate Body. My appointment as a Procurator for the Archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal has been another opportunity to share my gifts and talents. It continues to be a joy and privilege to serve.
Rev Paul Bousignac
Some highlights of my diaconate journey are: Called upon to conduct services on weekends in the Malabar parish as well as being given the opportunity to take up my role as deacon at weekend Masses.
I have been given the responsibility to interview couples for weddings in both the Malabar and Santa Rosa parishes and to perform about 95 per cent of those weddings. Baptism ceremonies I conduct for both parishes are another highlight.
As the coordinator of the parish a number of management issues come to my attention, but with the great help of my Moderator, Fr Steve Duncan and the other priests in the cluster, Fr Kizito Ameloko and Fr Andrew Emenike, as a team, we get the job done not forgetting the support from parishioners. Another was when I was called upon to conduct Lenten mission in the Coryal parish joined by the other deacons. All thanks to God who had allowed me this awesome privilege.
Rev Simon Rostant
Thanking God on the 10th anniversary of the ordination of the permanent diaconate in Trinidad and Tobago. The years have gone quite quickly, and they have been challenging. But with the help of God, and the prayerful support of our brothers and sisters, may our witnessing continue to bring our people closer to the Lord.
Rev Sheldon Narine
It has been a great pleasure serving in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain as a deacon for the last ten years. Thanks be to God for the opportunity to share His word, offer hope, administer and bring joy to His people. Gratitude to my family, friends, co-workers, actors, clergy and parishioners who have all offered words of support and encouragement along the way. The diaconate reveals how unworthy we are and yet God uses us. These ten years have been challenging yet rewarding and all praise to the Holy Trinity for blessings received and mercy.
Rev Murchison Sylvester
I enjoyed the many administrative and sacramental tasks that I was able to share with my priests, ordinary ministers of the Eucharist, witnessing marriages, and solemnly baptising very many children.
I always like to remember my public service assignments, my commitment to the Church, the people of God, and being a steward of the Word. I also love to help the poor and all in need of charity. Called to a life of prayer and service, I recognise the need to live a sanctified life and be an encouragement to others to do so.