July 27, 2017
The founders
July 28, 2017

The first School of Liturgy

The first ever School of Liturgy or Antilles School of Liturgy, as it was then called, took place August 8–19, 1977 at the then Regional Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs, Tunapuna, Trinidad. The theme was The Eucharist. Participants came from all over the Caribbean: Grenada – 15; St Vincent – 12; St Lucia – 1; Guyana – 1; and Trinidad and Tobago – 101. The laity was in the majority with 20 religious sisters and 6 priests. There was a good mix of ages over 18 years.

Structure of the school

The school was organised to ensure that there was a balance between theory and practice – serious study and work. Since then, the organisers have structured the school following the format of lectures in the morning and workshops in the afternoon.

During the first week, Lecture 1 was entitled ‘The Eucharist as Memorial’ delivered by Fr Michel and the second lecture on ‘The History of the Mass from the Last Supper to Today’ was delivered by Fr Austin Milner (deceased) who was fondly referred to as ‘Big Bird’ because of his height.

The lectures during the second week were ‘The NT Texts of the Last Supper’ by Sr Diane Jagdeo OP (deceased) with Fr Hildebrand Greene OSB (deceased) presenting on ‘The Eucharistic Prayers’.  The lectures were taped, on cassettes, and sold to participants for reference and deeper reflection. This practice has continued today on CDs.

The following were the creative workshops that were delivered:

The Bible – Vernacular – Fr Michel de Verteuil (deceased); Fr Ronald Tagallie (former priest) and Deacon Allan Ventour (now Rector of the Seminary of St John Vianney)

Music in the Liturgy – Singing/Composition – Fr Garfield Rochard and Br Paschal Jordan

Creativity: Dance and Movement – Sr Paula Andrews SJC and Joyce Kirton

The Homily: Scripture in the Liturgy

The Theology of Celebrations/Liturgical Celebrations – Fr Cyril Ross (deceased) and Fr Carlos Roberts (former RC priest)

The use of Visual Aids in the Liturgy – Fr Andrew Allen OP

Still Arts – Banners, Stoles, Vestments – Cuthbert Alexander (former Vicar for Communications)

Psalms in the Liturgy

Themes for the first 11 years (1977– 1987)

Each year the School of Liturgy has a theme related to an aspect of liturgy. All lectures are related to or based on providing the theological foundations for the theme as well as the implications for how we organise our liturgy i.e. how it informs our practice.

1977    The Eucharist

1978    Advent and Christmas

1979    The Liturgy of Holy Week

1980    Preparing for the Season of Lent

1981    Celebration of the Lord’s Day

1982    Celebrating the Word

1983    Reconciliation

1984    The Church – A Celebrating Community

1985    Prayer and Liturgy

1986    Christian Initiation

1987    Apocalypse



The Antilles School of Liturgy, in the early years, attracted participants from many Caribbean islands. Grenada and St Vincent sent the most participants numbering as many as 22 and 15 in one year respectively.  This allowed for sharing of how the Church in different countries of the Caribbean celebrated the liturgy incorporating their local culture in the Mass and other forms of worship.

This bringing together of the Caribbean Church annually was a feat in itself and many witnessed to the camaraderie among the participants which caused Archbishop Pantin to humourously comment at a concelebrated evening Mass at the school, “Isn’t it amazing to see how West Indian people can get along together; it seems that it is only politicians who keep us apart,” to a spontaneously loud round of applause. One participant remarked, “It was a most uplifting experience – this friendship we created between people of different parts of the Caribbean, it developed a real spirit of togetherness.”

By 1982, the number of Caribbean participants began to decline. Some of the larger countries started their own liturgy school. At the same time, we witnessed an increase in the T&T participants. As word spread the ‘in thing’ in Church was to attend the two-week Antilles School of Liturgy annually on the Mount. Going up the mountain was an experience of Church to be had by those involved in parish work.


The aim of the workshops at liturgy School is to “help people discover their own creativity”. According to Fr Michel, “we start with the conviction that most people have far more potential than they think, similarly, a good liturgical leader must be convinced that his/her community has the resources to have good liturgy and must foster those resources.” This is the Jesus model of empowerment – the belief that people have within themselves the creativity and solutions for their own liberation and development.

The organisers were very clear that the workshops should not be opportunities for other lecture sessions but a place where participants worked on solutions to problems in their parishes, where they learned skills by doing, where they used their innate creativity, and the knowledge gained from lectures, to improve their local liturgies.

In the initial years 1977–1981 each of the two weeks had different workshops. It is noteworthy that from inception there was a workshop on use of visual aids/audio visuals in liturgy conducted by Fr Andrew Allen. The organisers understood the role of communication technology in enhancing the liturgy. Very few churches use modern audio-visual technology in their liturgies. Today this has morphed into a separate annual school, the Caribbean School for Catholic Communications.

In 1982, the organisers, in response to the experience and recommendations, decided to have each workshop run for two weeks so that there would be more in-depth learning. This helped, especially, the music workshops which focused on playing instruments and compositions. On the Thursday of the second week each workshop would present their workshop results.

There were eight workshops in 1977. Each year of the early years of the school, the number of workshops increased to include creative aspects of liturgy and local culture. In 1982, for the first time, a Pan Workshop was introduced and was led by Maureen Clement, an accomplished pan player and soloist at the 1980 Pan Festival and Choir Director in Arouca Parish. It was also the first time that a Story Telling Workshop was held with then Fr Ronald Tagallie building on the workshop Vernacular Translation that was introduced in 1979.

Peter Telfer amazed participants with his drumming in 1980 School of Liturgy. According to the Catholic News, “This young man seems endowed with the gift of making music with anything he can put his hands on.” Peter in his own defense is quoted as saying “All this must lead to the inner experience of being able to feel and return thanks and praise to the Creator who gave us these talents….” In the following years Peter was invited to conduct a drumming workshop. – Gary Tagallie