by Dr Everard Johnston
The Antilles School of Liturgy began in August 1977 as a training programme sponsored jointly by the Abbey of Mount St Benedict and what was then the Regional Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs. Appropriately, therefore, the founders were associated with those two institutions: Dom Ildefons Schroots, and Br Paschal Jordan, both monks of the Abbey, and Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp, then Rector of the Regional Seminary.
Inspired by the declaration of the Constitution on the Liturgy of Vatican II, viz that “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy”, a major focus of the school was, and remains, promoting the development of liturgical forms and expressions that best express the character and nature of people of the Caribbean. Below are brief portraits of the founders.
Dom Ildefons Schroots, OSB
Dom Ildefons Schroots, better known simply as Fr Ildefons, originally from the Netherlands, was a senior monk at the Abbey in the 1950s, a time when the Abbey was in the forefront of liturgical renewal in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain. In the Abbey Church, for example, since 1960, Mass was celebrated with the presiding priest facing the congregation, several years before the practice was instituted in parishes in the Archdiocese.
In addition, Benedictine monks have traditionally had a special care for the worthy celebration of the Church’s liturgy, so it should come as no surprise that it was Fr Ildefons who had the idea of a School of Liturgy that would aim at leading all members of the Church of the region, clergy, religious and laity, to deeper appreciation and love for the liturgy and for its faithful and meaningful celebration.
In his later years, Fr Ildefons became very involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement and, knowing his passion for the Bible and his concern for sharing the Word – his watch phrase was a quotation from the great Biblical scholar, St Jerome: “ignorance of the Bible is ignorance of Christ” – it is not again surprising that it was he who had the initial inspiration which led to the establishment of the Caroni Bible Institute. He died in September 1999.
Fr Michel de Verteuil, CSSp
Fr Michel de Verteuil was Rector of the then Regional Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs. He had succeeded Fr Ildefons as Rector in 1970, the year in which the seminary had become a formally regional (Caribbean) institution, under the auspices not only, as from the time of its foundation in1943, of the Archbishop of Port of Spain, but of all the (arch)bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC).
Fr Michel’s leadership of this regional institution accounts in part for the regional, Antillean thrust, especially during the early years of the school. Hence the original name, Antilles School of Liturgy. In addition, Fr Michel had been involved, in the years immediately prior to 1977, in a training programme called the Antilles Pastoral Institute which had brought together clergy, religious and laity from the various dioceses of the AEC. He experienced the great advantages and richness of bringing together persons from all over the Caribbean to reflect on the role of the Church in the region and on how to live out our vocation to be Church in the region.
As time passed, other (arch)dioceses in the region that had been sending participants to the school took the decision to establish their own liturgy schools, so that more of their own people could participate than the few who could travel to Trinidad. Although the word ‘Antilles’ has been removed from the official title of liturgy school, however, it remains open to welcoming participants from other dioceses. Fr Michel died in January 2014.
Br Paschal Jordan, OSB
Br Paschal was born in Guyana and lived there until coming to T&T to enter the Abbey of Mt St Benedict in 1964. His musical talent was nurtured from his early years by his mother who was a music teacher of piano and music theory. With this background, Br Paschal was sent, after his final profession as a monk, to study liturgy and liturgical music at the Institut Catholique in Paris.
On his return to the Abbey after graduating from his programme, Br Paschal was charged with the monumental task of composing music for celebrating the monastic liturgy using texts that had recently been translated from Latin – a task which still occupies him. The then Archbishop of Port of Spain, Anthony Pantin, invited him to join the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission, entrusting him with setting up a Music Sub-Committee, with the specific task of encouraging composition of local liturgical music.
As a member of one of the founding institutions of liturgy school, then, Br Paschal was destined to become the mainstay of the Liturgical Music Department of the school, preparing and animating the celebration of worship services at the school as well as conducting workshops on music composition to assist persons interested in composing new hymns and/or settings for the Eucharistic Liturgy.
Over the years Br Paschal has become well known for his liturgical compositions. More than this, Br Paschal has been able to share his gifts ecumenically and has worked regionally with the Caribbean Conference of Churches and internationally with the World Council of Churches. His role at liturgy school continues undiminished.