Members of the congregation at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception expressed their gratitude to Archbishop Joseph Harris, the second local archbishop of the diocese at his thanksgiving Mass last Sunday.
Leading off the tributes was Ronald Grosberg who said the Archbishop Anthony Pantin Centre for Peace, Beetham Gardens, happened under the Archbishop’s patronage. He noted the Adoration Chapel was open “24/7”. He recalled Archbishop Harris initiated the Stations of the Cross and on Good Friday this year led the procession. The Adoration Chapel at Warren Street, Woodbrook was mentioned as another initiative. He said thanks on behalf of all the people in Beetham.
Donna Miles, speaking on behalf of lay people and persons who worked with Archbishop Harris, said his vision was shared and assistance was given whenever he called. “You had an open-door policy with everybody. It wasn’t only that we helped you; you helped us tremendously. Whenever we had a problem you were there for us and helped us as archbishop, as employer to some of us. We appreciate your humility and wanting us to be a better people, wanting us to be a better nation calling us to do everything with love.”
Deborah de Rosia of the Eternal Light Community recalled Archbishop Harris’ challenge at a Catholic Charismatic Renewal Rally to look at the Corporal Works of Mercy and particularly bringing a Catholic presence to hospitals. She thanked God for the response from parishes, informing the Archbishop that the only hospital not yet visited was the Pt Fortin hospital.
“We are grateful you pushed us in that way and we trust that more and more parishioners would become more involved in that ministry.” He was also remembered for pushing “mission” and the archdiocese’s providing finances to train visitors. They are now working in Sea Lots, Enterprise, Malabar and other areas.
Gerard Granado, General Secretary, Caribbean Conferences of Churches employed cricketing parlance telling Archbishop Harris he went “beyond the boundary”. He continued, “You have not seen your ministry as limited to only the Archdiocese of Port of Spain. You have understood very deeply the last prayer of Jesus ‘may they all be one’…You have given tremendous support to the ecumenical movement in the region and not just in lip service but in very concrete ways.”
Fr John Persaud, General Secretary, Antilles Episcopal Conference on behalf of the bishops extended thanks for his “great contribution” to the Conference. “Your involvement in the Conference of bishops has been marked by great humility and courage and we thank you for the leadership and we wish you well as you move on to more things.”
Fr Pax Jey-Sharwan VC, on behalf of Superior General of the Via Christi Society, Fr Theophilus Hwande VC, voiced appreciation for the care shown by Archbishop Harris. He noted his efforts to ensure the people of God in Trinidad and Tobago were served. Fr Jey-Sharwan was also thankful for the care shown to visiting VC missionaries. “I would like to assure you of the prayers of many priests of the Via Christi back in Nigeria, and your humility which is amazing…you have been a true father to me.”
Ruby Fraser, head of the Cathedral Hospitality ministry expressed admiration for ‘Archbishop Joe’ and his service to this beloved country. “On behalf of all hospitality members in Trinidad and Tobago: we love you.” Fraser sang her tribute: “Bishop, God is our master; you were born to be our leader what God has joined together no one can put asunder; Archbishop of Trinbago this is the reason why we pray, Archbishop of Trinbago this is the reason why we pray.”
Responding to the sentiments expressed, Archbishop Harris said he was “kind of overwhelmed” and asked himself “when did I do that?” He credited the Holy Spirit and power of prayer. He thanked the many priests who worked with him remarking, “they did not give me too many problems; I think I got on with most of them. Our clergy has begun to gel as a true community.” Archbishop Harris said he may have had ideas but it was clergy who did the work.
He also thanked the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, staff of the Chancery and choir for the Mass. – LPG