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Archbishop’s first stop is with socially displaced

By Simone Delochan

“The thing about power is when you are seeking after power, you seek after it in your heart, but when you acquire it, it goes from your heart to your head…” said Michael Stafford, resident at Nazareth Halfway House, Duncan Street to Archbishop Jason Gordon in a visit on the morning of December 28, the day after his installation.

The archbishop led a lectio divina with the very vocal group of residents at the halfway house. He focused on three areas in the text after the sharing: “The first piece…is they wanted to kill Him before He even started. They wanted to crucify Him before He actually began His ministry…”, Joseph’s obedience to God’s will, and the abuse of power.

“And whenever we have a little bit of power and we start to use it badly, then the innocent are going to be affected…I am not talking about the politicians. I am talking about us. Because if we are going to live together as a community, we have to use our power properly.  So we can’t use it for ourselves, and we can’t use it for the people we like, so we have to use it to ensure that those we don’t like get what they need.”

It was at this point Stafford proffered advice that the archbishop stay connected to the people on the ground, saying “…the people on the ground are sincere people. They are the people who are experiencing the whole turmoil, physical, not just mental… The people who walked the same path that Christ walked, you seeing them very rarely…” The archbishop responded: “That is why on the first day of being archbishop I am down here.”

Rudolph Boneo, national President of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, on the impact of the archbishop’s visit on the residents, laughed: “I feel they impacted him, too. I think it was a mutual thing. It just goes to show that you find wisdom all about.”

Following his visit to the halfway house, Archbishop Gordon toured the Centre for the Socially Displaced (CSDP), Riverside Plaza. He told the Catholic News that he wanted to focus on the plight of the socially displaced. “I haven’t planned it out yet. For a start I’m coming to see….we have to grow our people to be comfortable with development thinking as opposed to just aid thinking…”

Roger Watson, manager for the CSDP, told the archbishop that the number of homeless on the street seemed to be going down but there was “still a lot in town”: “Western Main Road had 18; there are five now. Woodbrook playground had about 18. There is one now.”

One of the many plights highlighted, once residents got employment, was the prohibitive rents which proved to be a challenge to independent living from the centre. “The whole salary is the rent” so some of the residents who have been there for four or five years, are still there because they simply cannot afford to leave, said Boneo.

The archbishop, during the discussion on the issue of social displacement, commented: “We have to find the mechanisms to put this into the public so we can move the whole of Port of Spain forward…”

After his installation, Archbishop Jason Gordon had told reporters, that he will be visiting both Rosary monastery, and the CSDP. “We have to reach to the margins of our society and to be present to all the people and especially those most in need. So those are my first two priorities.”