By Lara Pickford-Gordon, email@example.com
Coming to the priesthood in his senior years, Archbishop Jason Gordon anticipated that as the best wine was served last at the wedding feast of Cana, Kenneth Reginald Vieira had “saved the best wine for last”. The 78-year-old grandfather and retired lawyer was ordained to the priesthood last Saturday (August 4) at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain.
His prayer for Fr Vieira was “…the wine of your life that you would offer to God through the priesthood would be a finer, and more beautiful and more tasty wine than anything you could have offered in the whole rest of your life. That configured to Christ, you would be a sign to His Church of God’s unfailing and abiding love, and through your ministry many, many people will come to know Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Gordon presided at the ordination with Bishop Emeritus Malcolm Galt, Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju and clergy of the archdiocese concelebrating. Deacons Jeffrey Supersad and Paul Bousignac assisted. Among the attendees were members of Vieira’s family including his brothers Clive and Alan, and Sharon Rowley, wife of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
The Mass celebrated the mystery of love, faith and a journey with “many meanderings”. Archbishop Gordon said Fr Vieira heard the call to one vocation and decided to live two before coming to the first at this stage in his life.
Archbishop Gordon observed, “The race apparently is not for the swiftest but it is for those who persevere until the end and our brother has persevered in hearing the vocation.”
The ordination was held on the Feast of St John Vianney, patron of parish priests. The archbishop reminded the congregation that this year the seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs, Tunapuna, celebrated 75 years.
Archbishop Gordon said St John Vianney is the model of priesthood “put before us by Christ” and to whom there must be aspiration. Identifying the traits to be emulated, Archbishop Gordon highlighted St Vianney’s “deep compassion”. As a confessor, he was never hard on penitents; he took on the burden of the wounds to Christ’s heart caused by their sins.
Archbishop Gordon said the saint understood the fragile nature of those coming to confession and often prayed in vigil for God’s grace to work in their lives. He dedicated himself to prayer.
“He understood that renewal of the Church was dependent on the prayers of the priest and the priest stands as intercessor between God and people.” He added the prayers offered were for the sake of God’s people and the mission and ministry God intends for them.
The archbishop joked Fr Vieira had started looking like St John the longer he spent studying for the priesthood. He prayed the new priest’s “inner disposition” would also resemble the saint.
St John Vianney spent hours at night before the Blessed Sacrament while having a busy pastoral life during the day. “He did not sacrifice one for the other; he lived both the pastoral life with incredible zeal and also lived a life of prayer with deep interiority and conviction. These two together, my brother, is the heart of priesthood today,” Archbishop Gordon stated.
He entrusted Fr Vieira’s priesthood to St John and to Mary, “patron, protector and guide”, each supporting him as he offered the best of his life to God and the salvation of His people.
Fr Emmanuel Pierre, priest of the Maraval/Paramin cluster vested Fr Vieira with the stole and chasuble assisted by seminarian Stephan Alexander. With promises of the office taken, and the formalities of the ordination rite over, at 11.15 a.m. Archbishop Gordon presented the “baby priest” of the archdiocese to lusty applause from the congregation. Vieira’s tears of joy flowed as he greeted fellow clergy.
Fr Vieira participated in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and gave his first blessing to Archbishop Gordon as is customary.
Before dismissal of the congregation, Fr Vieira thanked all who contributed to his journey to priesthood through their friendships and prayers. He confided he was now on to a new journey, wished them the best and hoped they would leave with something from the day. Members of the congregation lined up to get a blessing from Fr Vieira as they left the cathedral.
The first reading Jeremiah 1:4–9 was done by Theodora Sheed, Fr Vieira’s cousin, while seminarian Kenwyn Sylvester gave the second reading 1 Timothy 4:12–16. Deacon Derek Walcott proclaimed the Gospel of John 21:15–17.
The choir was made up of combined members from Assumption church and St Finbar’s. There were solo contributions from Marvin Smith from the Santa Rosa parish and Hermia Charles, of St John the Baptist, San Juan.
Fr Vieira is assigned to the Maraval/Paramin cluster. He presided at his first Mass August 5 at 9 a.m. at the Church of the Assumption, Maraval and the following day had a 6 p.m. thanksgiving Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes.