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Greatness in humility

Fr Rudy Mohammed

The following eulogy was written and delivered by Patrick Tam at the February 23 funeral Mass for Fr Rudy Mohammed at St Theresa’s RC Church, Woodbrook.

To the Mohammed family, clergy and friends, today we say goodbye to our dear brother, uncle, colleague and friend.

A eulogy is a speech in praise of someone. This one took some thought, not because I could not find good things to say, but because this man lived a life defined by only good deeds, so many that I did not know what to include or what to leave out. In the end I decided to describe only one which characterised all the others.

Not many people know that as a child he was burnt severely on both legs and spent two years at hospital learning to walk again. From an early age he knew first-hand what physical pain, disability and suffering were.

He entered the seminary in 1954 at age 19 and was ordained in November 1960.  He chose to be a Diocesan priest: the hardest of professions where you must be a teacher, mentor, spiritual guide, confessor, counsellor (with formal office hours), administrator and project manager and at the same time having to look after your own temporal needs (unlike Orders such as Jesuits, Dominicans etc)—all this while living a life of chastity.

This is why we Catholics hold our priests in high esteem. That is the sacrifice they make for us—the life of service Fr Mohammed dedicated to his parishioners.

He came to Arima in 1961 when I was a young child. The adults joked about having a priest named ‘Mohammed’.  Some called him ‘Fr Moho’; children referred to him as ‘Fr Homid’; Boys’ RC teachers called him ‘Rudolpho’; ‘Fr. Rudy’ to many; ‘Sonny’ to his dear family; and in the end, even before caregivers at the home knew he was a priest, they referred to him as ‘Papa’.

To his good deed: A priest’s salary in 1961 was $20 a month. He spent half of it on buying groceries for underprivileged families. He visited our home once a month with a ‘long-handle’ paper bag (it was the days before the ubiquitous plastic bag) containing some rice, flour, sugar, a tin of condensed milk and cereal, because in 1961, we were one of those families.

He walked with three more, one for each of the other three families he helped.  This type of service and generosity was the hallmark of his whole adult life.

Many of us in this church can raise our hands to testify that this man provided us with healing at a time when we were broken in some way. He gave us his time, his resources, advice, blessing, sanctuary and a sense of hope.

Even in his diminished state, he kept bringing out the best in those who visited by giving us the opportunity to show kindness and compassion. Usually when we visit a sick person we bring some cheer to their life. In Fr Mohammed’s case you always felt you were the one taking something away by being blessed in his presence. He would smile and bless for brief moments when he could speak or when in great physical pain, simply whisper “God’s will”.

Thinking of him reminds me of Matthew 9:21—“if I can just touch His cloak, I will get well”; or Luke 6:19— “the entire crowd was trying to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all”.

He always inspired goodness around him and never asked for anything in return. His siblings Anne, Pat and Helen visited and took him home as often as they could.  Msgr Christian Pereira was the first to recognise his diminishing faculties and opened his heart and home to him.

Fr Emmanuel Pierre showed great respect for him in his illness. Fr Martin Sirju in the midst of a packed schedule took time (on short notice) to conduct the service at his 57th anniversary. Fr Robert Christo just two months ago welcomed him on the altar at Mass. Fr Wilfred John was a constant visitor and anointed him.

Fr Mohammed lived a life so dedicated to others that he never provided for himself in a state of incompetence. But God takes care of His children.

They say when God can’t come Himself, He sends an angel—in this case He sent three. Rosemary, Kay and Laura (supported by the able cast of Foster and Sherry) literally practised Matthew 25:40:  “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did so for Me”.

I thought I knew what kindness was, but these three angels took it to a level that was unbelievable. For months they spent their time, energy and resources ensuring that this priest left this world with the dignity befitting of the wonderful human being he was.

We who were blessed by his kindness know that today we bury not just a priest, but a holy man.

Fr Rudolph Mohammed, greatness in humility, a champion for many of us at a time in our lives when we had none.