By Kaelanne Jordan, firstname.lastname@example.org
At his farewell celebration last Sunday, Fr Elton Letang CSsR said his seven years of priestly ministry was rich and life-giving. He believes it was truly an honour and privilege to collaborate with an “eclectic” community at St Theresa’s, Barataria and Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), El Socorro.
Fr Letang said though he returns home to Dominica with a heavy heart, he is truly edified and has grown through the many challenges which have now become the stepping stones for his ministry in Dominica.
His experience here, he added, cannot be reproduced or reinvented elsewhere.
“Love is what have me here in this parish for the last seven years and I did experience your love in many ways. A friend told me ‘God has greater things in store’ for me; you have contributed to this greater thing…. It will be a challenge but it is one I am ready for because of you.”
In delivering his homily, Fr Letang referenced the opening words from the novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, “it was the best of times and sometimes it felt like the worst of times”.
Fr Letang described St Theresa’s parish as a potpourri of personalities, a people of different upbringings, ideas, personalities, temperament and culture. “It was like experiencing the four seasons in one day,” he said.
He explained because of this uniqueness he experienced highs and lows, joy and anger, times of both strength and uncertainty. “It was a relationship with its ebb and flow: like the waves of the sea. There were swells of intimacy, passion and energy…Up and down, back and forth, give and take, push and pull are some terms best suitable for my seven years here.”
However, Fr Letang believed that there are genuine souls and lovely people in the parish. He thanked God that together they all learned from “circumstances”, adding “this parish helped me. It made me who I am today and obviously I will use [that] and put this experience into my future ministry.”
Fr Letang also recognised the Barataria community of the Dominican Sisters, principal and staff of both Malick Girls’ RC and St Dominica Savio Boys’, youth, General Parish Council, altar servers, hospitality ministries, among others, for their support, ministry and prayers.
“All of you have been very open and diligent in moving forward with both faith and good judgement. It has been a genuine pleasure working with you these past years. I cannot thank you enough for the many times that you have given me advice, helpful correction, encouragement, a good laugh, a good meal, or a needed hug when necessary. Your professionalism, service and faithfulness to the people of our parish are humbling.”
At the Mass, Fr Letang was presented with gifts from various members of the congregation. Christine Chee You, PRO of the Barataria/El Socorro Cluster and Fr Gerard Tang Choon O Carm gave farewell remarks. The celebration concluded with a tribute concert and reception.
Fr Letang’s departure from the Cluster signals the end of the Redemptorist Fathers’ presence in this Archdiocese. As of Easter Sunday, the Redemptorists returned pastoral care of the parish. A failed attempt was made via appeals and an online petition to Redemptorist administration for the priests to stay.