New chapter in Church, First Peoples relations

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New chapter in Church, First Peoples relations

Fr Steve Duncan (left) and Chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples’ Community Ricardo Bharath Hernandez are photographed on the final night of the novena. Around Fr Duncan’s neck is a caricoli (necklace) which Chief Hernandez presented on behalf of the Community. Photo: Gerard-Paul Wanliss

It is time for another chapter in the history of Santa Rosa Catholic community and First Peoples to begin. “Let us cross over,” said Chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples’ Community Ricardo Bharath Hernandez last Tuesday at the Santa Rosa RC church.

From August 14 to 22, the Santa Rosa parish collaborated with the Santa Rosa First Peoples’ Community through the novena to Santa Rosa. Knowing Our Story was the main theme and each night Bharath Hernandez gave a talk about the significance of some of the First Peoples’ traditions as they relate to St Rose of Lima (Santa Rosa de Lima). Feature speaker Fr Urban Hudlin OP, while preaching, connected scripture and the life of St Rose, highlighting the spirituality of the saint and challenging the wider parish community to live that spiritualty in contemporary times.

Referring to the Feast day of Santa Rosa de Lima which is being celebrated today, Sunday (the actual day was on Wednesday), Bharath Hernandez said Arima has something unique compared to other festivals. “We can boast of having the oldest religious/secular festival that dates back to early times. This year, we celebrate 231 years of the festival.”

In the past, the festival attracted people from across the country but times have changed and other events were drawing the public. Bharath Hernandez remarked, “That does not mean we should stand still and see this deterioration of this glorious Festival, and do nothing about it. Let us always do our part to ensure that this tradition continues.”

He said that the different aspects of the festival clearly showed the benefits of working together as practised by ancestors and still manifested in preparations for the Santa Rosa festival.

During the novena, Bharath Hernandez made presentations on: ‘Introduction to the Spirituality of the First Peoples’, ‘The Cannon Blast’, ‘The Festival King and Queen of the Day and the Role of the Carib Queen’, ‘Days of Preparation’, ‘The Meaning of the Lights, the Symbolism of the Flags and the Sacred Procession’.

Bharath Hernandez said the First Peoples practised their spirituality with deep faith, and sacrifice “and most of the time, it worked for them”.  There was a lot more to be said about their traditions but time did not permit. He added the community will find ways to make the information available to the public so there is more knowledge about the history and meaning of the First Peoples’ traditions.

In closing remarks, he thanked parish priest Fr Steve Duncan for the opportunity to speak during the novena, as this allowed the First Peoples to become more visible in keeping with their theme for 2017 On becoming Visible towards Meaningful Recognition. He thanked Fr Hudlin for his powerful deliveries which strengthened his spirituality.

Bharath Hernandez presented Fr Duncan with a petition on behalf of the First Peoples. It raised concerns about the layout of the nearby park which is not conducive to having events because of a big sink hole; the need to document the history of the First Peoples and the Church for the present and future generations; having access to the archdiocese’s archive to compile a “true history” of the First Peoples in relation to the Church; and the amendment of the words on the sign board in the park to reflect the First Peoples’ presence when the Catholic mission came to Trinidad. – LPG