Una Bartholomew, a founding member of the Precious Blood Prayer Group, died January 29 at the age of 85. Fr Ferdinand Warner OP celebrated the funeral Mass on February 6 at Santa Rosa RC Church, Arima. The following is an edited version of an interview with Bartholomew conducted by two Arima parishioners. It was submitted to Catholic News following her death.
The quiet, unassuming, gentle ‘young’ lady, ‘sister’ Una Bartholomew entered the room with a twinkle in her eye; her face serious, as if to do spiritual battle. Armed with the truth and notes to make sure she said everything important, she stood ready to edify her interviewers on the start of the Renewal in Trinidad.
She shared that in 1971, a group of Catholics in Arima, who had been having at home prayer sessions under the leadership of Ursula ‘Aunty Babsie’ Bleasdell, began to experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a new way in their lives. Aunty Babsie decided to pray for the Church, so it was more a time of family and close friends.
After two or three meetings, Una’s sister-in-law, Violet Hayes (dec) decided to invite her to a prayer meeting at her home. “Prayer group?” sister Una said then. “I know about Legion of Mary, what prayer group? Anyway I went and I never stopped; I’m still going.” Una went, heard Babsie speak, found that it was awesome and decided to go wherever they were going. At that time the meeting would move from house to house.
Visiting Canadian priest, Fr James Duffy (dec), who was present at one of these early meetings, said he would pray for Aunty Babsie’s ill sister using Babsie as proxy. The Lord gave Aunty Babsie a double portion of His anointing, for her sister at home was healed and Aunty Babsie had a powerful experience in her life that night. She was baptised in the Holy Spirit.
After this experience, which Aunty Babsie could not keep to herself, she called a few friends and relatives to join her in prayer. The group agreed to continue meeting at different homes on Thursdays for prayer.
Sister Una remembered, “On a subsequent occasion Fr Duffy came to Babs’ home….A group from Port of Spain including Nora Devaux, Christina Araujo, Violet D’Ornellas and Rhonda Maingot were also present. We all sat and listened to him expound God’s word to us. It was like a retreat.
“The following day we were escorted to a room on the third floor of the Seminary at Tumpuna Road, Arima (currently a Rehab Centre). There we were prayed with for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Fr Duffy prayed for us individually so that the Holy Spirit would empower us and we would receive His gifts…..Those persons from Arima who were prayed with that day were Violet Hayes, Irving Villafana, Emelda Rosales, Dorothy Legeaux, along with Terry Bartholomew and myself”.
This initial group was called The First Arima Prayer Group, but this name did not last long. One evening a few of them prayed for an appropriate name for the group, and the Bible verse which quickened their hearts was 1Peter 1:18–19, “Now if you invoke as Father him who judges impartially according to each one’s works, conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning, realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious Blood of Christ as a spotless unblemished lamb”. And so in 1971 the Precious Blood Prayer Group was born.
It meant, therefore, that when on the national level, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal was officially launched in 1972, the Precious Blood Prayer group had already been established. Precious Blood (PB) was therefore one of the earliest prayer groups in the Renewal. The Word of Life Prayer Community came into being as part of PB; the Community subsequently went on its own.
The Precious Blood Prayer Group moved from roving house meetings, to meeting at Aunty Babsie’s home, and then to the Holy Cross Chapel (graciously allowed by the Dominican Fathers). The meetings have not stopped since, 47 years on.
Over the last 40 years, PB has had as past leader, the late Roy Medina who wrote:”… PB has spawned and trained founders and leaders of the Charismatic prayer groups throughout Trinidad and the Caribbean.” Examples include Deborah de Rosia of the Eternal Light Community, Tunapuna, and Winston Garcia of the People of Praise Community, Arima.
Over the years various ministries have developed, some with roots from the very beginning. Sister Una remembered, “Babs’ little blue Renault that held about ten people, all bundled up, going everywhere, preaching the Word of God, praying with people and doing deliverance.”
This was the forerunner of today’s Healing Ministry which, in November 1983, received the blessings of the then parish priest, Fr Malcolm Galt CSSp. Medina, Lionel and Illtida Nicholas, Ann Lee King, Theresa Toussaint and sister Una were the main leaders then. Other ministries then included the Rosary around the Park, which later became the Intercessory for the Healing Ministry.
Ministries now include the Music Ministry, Growth Class (now Bible Class), Vigils, Precious Daughters Women’s Ministry, Mass Music Ministry, Prisons Ministry, Men’s Ministry and the Life in the Spirit Seminar Teams.
Today, Marilyn Eusebia Garcia leads PB. She is ably supported by a team of seven other members and extended core of approximately 15 members. There are members with the group since its inception or a bit later that are respectfully known as ‘the Elders’, a name coined by Fr Urban Hudlin. The Elders continue to guide and support the current core and members with their wisdom, and some are still active in various ministries of the group.