Although leadership in the Church, society and even in our homes continues to be an ongoing challenge,when the Apostolic Nuncio imposed the pallium on Archbishop Jason Gordon at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Tuesday August 14, 2018,hope surged within, while the sound of Pope Francis’ advice to the world’s priestsdrummed upon memory, “Be shepherds with the smell of the sheep, in the midst of your people like Jesus the Good Shepherd”.
The pallium, a vestment worn around the neck is a strip woven of white lamb’s wool. It is about two inches wide, with six black crosses (three of the crosses have gold pins through them, reminiscent of the nails of Christ’s crucifixion) andusually conferred on metropolitan archbishops in Rome by the Holy Father (Archbishops Gilbert and Harris received theirs in this way).
In 2015, Pope Francis reverted to the ancient practice of blessing the two lambs raised by the Trappist monks outside Rome whose fleece is used to make the vestment, and handing over the pallium on the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul onJune 29 (after it has been placed overnight on the tomb of St Peter). Later, at a formal public ceremony in the local archdiocese, amongst his sheep—the pallium is imposed upon the archbishop.
The black ends of the pallium which hang in the front and back, look like the hooves of a lamb carried on the archbishop’s shoulders—a reminder of the archbishop’s role as shepherd to his people.
The symbolism of the pallium and its significant placement on the archbishop within his own archdioceseis not lost in the pomp, pageantry and pleasure which the ceremony ignites.
Amidst the crime, violence, murders, kidnappings, pornographic obsession, refugee invasion, drug addiction with which his flock struggles, the archbishop acquires the smell of his sheep and the universal Church validates and celebrates the participation of a local Church in the throes of a breeched birth.
Yet every mother knows that, “Whenever a woman is in labour she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world” (John 16:21). With its rebirth, what anguish will the Caribbean Church no longer remember? What kind of child will the Caribbean Church beget?
The leadership (shepherding) of the Caribbean Church must be about creating vision, building bridges, setting goals and developing strategies to achieve them. It should be about communicating clearly on national and regional issues, even if such messages are sometimes unfavourable and unpalatable.
It demands effort in serving the most vulnerable sheep—addicts, refugees, divorcees, single parents, the homeless, destitute, disabled, abused and the discriminated—whether that includes LGBT+ members or women who yearn to serve beyond lay ministry.
Should Archbishop J undertake some of these in the feeding of his sheep, he shall no doubt weave quite a legacy into his now pristine pallium.