Fr Paul Bousignac was ordained to the priesthood on Republic Day, September 24 by Archbishop Jason Gordon at the St Joseph RC Church, St Joseph. He shares his journey as the Archdiocese celebrates Vocations Awareness Week.
I was born in the village of Biche, south-east Trinidad, 15 miles south off Sangre Grande. My family consisted of my father, mother, five boys and four girls.
I grew up relatively happy. We had a mixed cultivation estate and other vegetable lands, on which we mainly depended for our livelihood. Therefore, from an early age I learnt gardening with my father and the male siblings.
We knew what it was to live harmoniously. We loved all our fellow villagers. There was never the ‘n word’ or the ‘c word’. When my parents went to work all neighbours were left to ‘throw an eye’ on us.
I attended Biche Presbyterian school up to age 13 then Biche RC up to age 15 after which I went to St Andrew’s High School, Sangre Grande from 1958 and graduated in 1963.
School days were happy, happy days—bathing in the river, stealing fruits, rolling rubber rollers and bicycle rims, flying kites with zwills (razor blades in the tails) spinning home-made wooden tops, pitching marbles and other home-made games.
We went to church whenever the priest came to our village and we attended all church activities.
Outstanding for me in my childhood was Confirmation day, June 1954. Archbishop Count Finbar Ryan anointed me with chrism and the choir sang ‘Holy Ghost, come down upon thy children.’ I did not know much about the Spirit then, but I knew that day the Spirit did come upon my sister and myself and all the other candidates.
I believe the first stirrings of the priesthood came when my godfather took me to Mt St Benedict at age 16.
While I attended St Andrew’s, a Form Five student, Attlee Clarke challenged me to serve as an altar server at St Francis RC. I took up the challenge and began to feel the stirrings a little more. I became involved in the Legion of Mary in my hometown and went on to begin lay ministry in 1967.
In 1964 I secured a teaching position at the Biche RC School where I would stay for four years and would then go to the Seminary at age 25. After completing philosophy in 1970, I left of my own volition.
I would ‘drift’ from 1970 to 1973 until I was introduced to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. I would immerse myself into this new aspect in the Church and while some were baulking at this, I became fully involved.
I had the privilege to travel to Ireland in 1978 as part of a delegation of three, Cuthbert Mejias (deceased), Harold Bertrand and myself to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the International Conference in Dublin.
It was while I began moving around in Charismatic circles I met this southern belle, Patricia Woods in 1974 who would become my wife in 1976. The family was very much in favour of CCR therefore my life was made much easier.
Life was easy at first, but as time went on, we both had to face our changed roles; we were now married and looking forward to having a family.
We had three children: Christa Dawnn, Christian and Pierre. When Christa was born, Pat stayed home from then until the last child was in school. It was only then she returned to a full-time job.
Pat and I got the children involved in CCR and church from young. As a family we prayed together and would organise our own outings to different parts of the country. We also went to the rallies and conferences together. A major highlight was Pat and I visiting the Holy Land of Israeli n 2011.
Pat and I did not always see eye to eye, and we sought counselling when we thought it was necessary. We also did ‘Healing of the Family Tree’ Mass at home.
We moved homes a bit and finally settled in Santa Rosa Heights, Arima. Here I would be involved again in church. Pat too became involved. She was a counsellor/intercessor in the Precious Blood prayer group and wrote her testimony in Daughters of the Beloved, a book produced by the ladies of the group.
In 2006 I was asked to become a permanent deacon for the Santa Rosa Parish. Studies began in January 2007 and we graduated in February 2010.
Archbishop Edward Gilbert had told us that we should not stop studying. So, in September of 2011, I registered for the BA in Theology and graduated in 2015. Somewhere between 2009 and 2010, Malabar was made a separate parish. I fell within the boundaries of this new parish. In 2014, I began assisting in Malabar parish office and would do so up until February 2019.
Pat began experiencing problems in walking and had to resign from her job in 2003. In 2007 we found out Pat had diabetes. We managed it well until late 2018 it was discovered she had developed renal failure, level 4.
Sadly, Pat went to be with the Lord on March 8, 2019. Her funeral was Saturday, March 16.
With the passing of Pat and the children all grown up, my daughter urged me to get out of the house and go somewhere to seek God’s direction. I spent six days on the Mount with my cellphone turned off. I answered no one. Later in the year it was recommended that I should leave the country. I went to a relative in Barbados.
It would take me one year after Pat’s death to ask to be considered a candidate for the diocesan priesthood. I would spend six months in St Joseph Presbytery and was ordained September 24.
Thanks to all who prayed for me over the years, all who believed in me when sometimes I kept asking God if He was sure He wanted me.
Moving from being a permanent deacon to a priest, I look forward to celebrating the Eucharist and hearing confessions. I look forward to working in solidarity with other priests as together we bring people to experience God’s extravagant love and mercy to all who call upon Him.
Any elderly person who may be contemplating religious life, consult with your priest and family, seek good counsel, go alone and have a one-on-one conversation with God and see where He leads.
I am happy and look forward to doing whatever the future may hold because I know this: I am quite certain that the one who began this good work in me will see that it is finished when the day of Christ Jesus comes (Phil 1:6).