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Bishop ‘Syd’ RIP

Bishop Emeritus Sydney Charles in front the sanctuary after a Mass on May 18, 2014 in celebration of the 60th anniversary of his priestly ordination at St Joseph RC Church, St Joseph. Photo: Desmond Durham

By Kaelanne Jordan,

The funeral for Trinidad-born Bishop Emeritus Sydney Charles will take place at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in St George’s-in-Grenada, September 28.

Bishop Charles, the third bishop of St George’s died 3.45 a.m. Tuesday at the general hospital where he had been for the past week after his health began to fail. He was 92 years.

Catholic News learned that Bishop Clyde Harvey of St George’s-in-Grenada is currently in Rome for a seminar until September 26 and shall preside over the funeral Mass.

Born in St Joseph, Trinidad on April 17, 1926, Bishop Charles was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Port of Spain on March 7, 1954. He was Vicar General and Administrator of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception until Pope Paul VI called him to serve as bishop in Grenada. He was consecrated bishop January 26, 1975 and served until his retirement on July 10, 2002 at the age of 76.

Despite recent health challenges, Bishop Charles attended the July 2017 ordination of Bishop Harvey in a wheelchair to fulfil his role as co-consecrator.

Bishop Charles’ eldest nephew, Peter Charles said his ‘Uncle Syd’, as he is affectionately known, will likely be entombed at the crypt of the Cathedral. The chamber already holds the remains of Bishops Justice Fields OP, the first Catholic Bishop of the Diocese and Vincent Darius OP, the diocese’s fourth bishop.

Charles told Catholic News via phone last Tuesday that his death was not a surprise as his health had significantly deteriorated over the past year from complications of a hip injury.  “…We had been getting reports…Bishop Harvey would send video clips. He was not good. He was saying ‘Pray for me, I love you all’.”

Charles, a dialysis patient said that he was uncertain whether he will travel for the funeral as he is due for dialysis treatment September 28. He however, confirmed that his daughters Amanda La Caille and Delia Montanez, other family and friends will attend the funeral.

Asked of his fondest memories of ‘Uncle Syd’, Charles said during his uncle’s visits to Trinidad around Christmas time, he would have Mass every morning for a congregation of two—Charles and his wife.

“Those were wonderful times. Once he was here, we were always on the move. He enjoyed visiting friends—the Ramdeens, Pembertons and Mr Peter…. He kept us busy…. He has had a great effect on our lives and on our spirituality,” he said.

Retired Fr Benedict ‘Bunty’ Hilaire and Catholic News’ columnist Vernon Khelawan, both nephews of Bishop Charles said they too anticipated his demise.

“He was lying flat in bed. [He was] immobile. He lost a tremendous amount of weight. His eyes were open…. I think he was getting pneumonia. When I went back to see him he could not speak. You did not know what he was saying….” Fr Bunty said.

Similarly, he also shared a story of his uncle on one night returning from a bazaar.

“He had a little mini Austin car and on one occasion, 13 people fit in the car,” he said with a chuckle.

“He [was] only stopping for people and I don’t know how five fit in the front seat. It’s a two-door car!” he exclaimed, adding that his uncle’s reasoning was that they wouldn’t have got transport that night.

A release sent to Catholic News from Vicar General Fr Carl Haynes on Tuesday said that Bishop Charles’ deep love of people, gentle manner and sense of humour saw new beginnings for the Church in Grenada, especially with the young people for whom he had a special love.

It stated however, “events overtook him with the coming to power of the New Jewel Movement led by Maurice Bishop in 1979. He often joked that Grenada then had two bishops, religious and political.”

The release mentioned that those days took a “heavy toll” on him, but Bishop Charles remained steadfast in his love for and commitment to Grenada and its people.