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Put God first

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

Archbishop Jason Gordon has invited Catholics to join him on the path to becoming “beloved disciples” of Jesus Christ. In his first homily as Archbishop of Port of Spain, he said the problems of today can only be solved through “conversion of heart where we put God first”.

“The real power of the Church is not in having a bishop, priests, religious; the real power is in the depth of discipleship of its people. When the people of God from bishop right down to the youngest member of the Church are living as beloved disciples of Jesus Christ, the Church will have real power,” he said at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, December 27. His appeal drew responses of “amen” from some in the congregation and support for the archbishop was shown with applause during the homily.

Fifty-eight-year-old Archbishop Gordon, the first Trinidad-born diocesan priest to be appointed archbishop, accepted the mandate to lead the Church in Trinidad and Tobago “with faith” in Jesus Christ and “love of God” in his heart. During the installation rite he committed to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit in the pastoral care of the people of God in the archdiocese. In opening remarks he told the congregation, “I know God’s grace is sufficient and that’s the only reason I am standing here today”.

The installation of a new archbishop generated much excitement with a few people arriving hours in advance to secure seats. A power outage caused a 20-minute delay but the crowd was kept engaged with music from the Archdiocesan Festival Choir led by Winston Garcia.

Rapturous applause came when electricity was restored and a crowd was assembled by the time the Mass started. In the gathering were priests and lay people from St Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados, where Gordon served as bishop.

President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) Bishop Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica and other bishops were present, as well as Cardinal Kelvin Felix, Archbishop Emeritus of Castries, St Lucia.  Bishop Claude Berkley, leader of the Anglican Church in Trinidad and Tobago sat with other bishops in the sacristy. President Anthony Carmona and his wife Reema and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his wife Sharon were among the officials of state witnessing the installation.

It began with Msgr Julien Kabore, Counselor Deputy Head of Mission Apostolic Nunciature reading the Mandate announcing the appointment. The Mandate was then viewed by Chancellor Fr Roger Paponette and Msgr Esau Joseph. Judicial Vicar Fr Ronald Mendes and Cathedral Administrator Msgr Christian Pereira and predecessor Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris conducted the rite.

Archbishop Emeritus Harris presented a crozier, the symbol of the archbishop’s pastoral office, which belonged to the late Archbishop Anthony Pantin who died in 2000.

The new archbishop greeted representatives of the clergy, religious and laity. He then knelt before the altar and was encircled by the representatives holding hands. A medley of local social commentary calypsoes including ‘Progress’, ‘Voices from the Ghetto’, ‘Missing Generation’ were sung in slow tempo by Edward Cumberbatch, Raymond Edwards and Nigel Floyd.

Representative of clergy Fr Matthew d’Hereaux led a prayer for the archbishop. The congregation was involved and stretched out their hands with the refrain “Spirit of the living God fall afresh on him” from the choir.

With the installation complete, the Liturgy of the Word followed.  The readings were given by Rosemary Scott, Assistant Director, Living Water Community and Gordon’s nephew Jeremy McNeil. The Gospel was proclaimed by Kirt Prospere, who was recently ordinated to the diaconate in Bridgetown.

At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Gordon announced Fr Martin Sirju will be the next Vicar General. “Anyone who knows Fr Martin knows he’s not afraid to speak his mind and he is a man who pushes hard for what he believes and I pray together we find the path to build this archdiocese,” he said.

The Mass was streamed on the Archdiocese of Port of Spain Facebook page and carried on Trinity Communications Network.