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Joyous celebration with the poor

By Felix Edinborough

Was it a festival, a carnival, a spiritual celebration? Perhaps it was all three in one. As I approached the St Peter’s RC Church, Mayaro my ears were greeted by sounds of happiness rendered in vocal harmonies beckoning me to join in the experience. It was the entrance procession for the Mass proclaiming the grand celebration of the tenth anniversary of priestly ordination of Fr Robert Christo.

The extravaganza actually began with an all-night vigil from 6 p.m. Friday, December 15 to Saturday 6 a.m. Later that morning there was a living Rosary tableau on the beach in honour of the centenary of Our Lady of Fatima (1917–2017). This was followed by a Holy Hour Adoration then the Mass.

The entrance procession danced up the pathway alongside the church to the stage which was specially erected for the occasion. Fr Christo, as the Church protocol requires, was at the tail and he was preceded by a masquerader in a hummingbird costume. Before this dancing participant there were other ballerinas in folk costume, bele dancers, chipping up to the rhythm of ‘Enter into Jerusalem’. This was the start of the Eucharistic celebration. It was right and fitting to have this spiritual togetherness outside of the church since the congregation was much too large to fit inside.

In the presence of Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris, the chief celebrant, Fr Christo began the liturgy. Several other priests concelebrated. The homily was given by Fr Steve Ransome who, in a very imaginative and reflective presentation, spelled out the word C-H-R-I-S-T-O, giving each letter a spiritual significance.

He concluded by expressing what was perhaps uppermost in many minds, including that of the archbishop: If this is a celebration for a tenth anniversary, can you imagine what will happen for the twenty-fifth?

The singing of the well-chosen hymns was led by a combined choir comprising members of 15 church choirs led by Sharon Jackson, the soloist who enchanted us at the recessional with her vocal forte singing out in melodious tones “Are you ready? as the procession of priests, deacons and dancers chipped out, followed by members of the congregation.

This, however, was not the end of proceedings for though we were not on the shores of Galilee but close to the Mayaro beach, the crowd of close to 2,000, were all fed.

Thoughtfully, in this festival, the specially invited guests were not forgotten and were provided with their own menu and accommodation. These were the children of the Lady Hochoy Home, St Dominic’s Home for Children, Marion House for Boys, Port of Spain street dwellers, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Food Ministry, and the Outfit Prison Ministry from the Frederick Street, Port of Spain Prison.

The gala continued after lunch with a concert highlighted by parang and complemented with other musical items. This was a fitting closure to the day of festivity, and the totally joyous occasion faded away in early evening as the parish prepared for the weekend Mass.