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Happy memories

Archbishop Anthony Pantin at the Archbishop’s House, circa early 1970s with White Oak Harmonites directed by Antonio Prospect. Images courtesy Dr Kim Johnson from The Angostura collection. 

This Tuesday, March 12 marks the 19th anniversary of Archbishop Anthony Pantin’s death. Many still remember with fondness Trinidad & Tobago’s first local archbishop, like St Mary’s, Mucurapo parishioner Adelia Alves who sent us her memories.

In the 1950s when Fr Mark Connolly was parish priest at St Mary’s Church, St James, he invited Fr Anthony Pantin to help us prepare for Christmas. This took the form of a Novena which began on December 16 and ended on Christmas Eve. It was always well attended, even though it began early in the morning (6 a.m.).

When Fr Pantin was appointed our first local archbishop, he still continued to celebrate our Novena with us. We looked forward to his presence and I was fortunate to be present at almost all of them.

I was a lector for many years and once during the Novena, I was pregnant and did the First Reading. That day he began his sermon saying, “I was very happy to see a pregnant woman reading this morning. I celebrated Mass in another parish and a pregnant lady did the reading and after Mass a woman came to me and said ‘Your Grace, you should tell these big belly women to keep off the altar.’” She felt it was not proper. He said he explained to her that being pregnant is a God-given gift and “it is beautiful”.

During his sermons he gave instances of how we could be narrow-minded and needed to be more Christ-like. I often wished he could speak longer but time did not permit.

He had a lot of sympathy for prisoners and he visited Carrera Island when possible. He never refused to see anyone and would speak about giving employment to people who had spent time in prison otherwise they would go back to their bad ways. He had visits from some of them asking him to help them get a job. He saw everyone as a child of God and did whatever he could to help.

One of the happiest memories I have was when Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass with our archbishop on February 5, 1985. The Mass was beautiful and because of our archbishop’s invitation we saw our beloved pope, now a saint. Although the time was short, it was a night to remember.

As the pope mobile drove out of the stadium with our Holy Father, Archbishop Anthony Pantin and the Papal Nuncio, we sang “We love you John Paul” and waved our white handkerchiefs. I could only think how wonderful it was to be a Catholic!

When Archbishop’s House was under repairs our very humble archbishop decided to stay at our church on Laventille Hill. Many people said it was a very bad idea but he did it anyway. He always put his life in God’s hands. He had a very kind heart and when he would drive up the hill he would stop and offer a drop to others.

One very rainy lunchtime, I myself asked him for a drop back to my office, which was close to Archbishop’s House, after attending midday Mass he had celebrated at Sacred Heart Church. Had he not been friendly and approachable, I would dare not ask.

I heard him say that when you are driving and you have to wait at a traffic light or you may be in a traffic jam, don’t fret or get angry, say a decade of the rosary. Mary was always mentioned in his sermons. No doubt he had a great love for her.

After his death when praying for him I always put ‘Blessed’ in front of his name. I pray that this will soon be a reality and by God’s grace he will be on our calendar of saints. He was truly unique and we thank God for him and his time with us on earth!