By Kaelanne Jordan
At 83 years, Muriel Hazzard has no plans of allowing ageing to slow her down. She dismisses the thought that one day she wouldn’t be able to attend church due to failing health or even continue her daily practice of visiting the sick and ensuring all copies of Catholic News find its place in every home.
A parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima RC, Curepe, Hazzard has been selling the Catholic News when the cost was only a few cents. She has also been caretaker for parish priests and those in failing health.
Born November 3, 1935 in Grenada to Agatha and Joseph Hazzard, she came to Trinidad when she was in her early 20s to join her sister, and her mother who was employed here as a domestic worker. Upon her arrival, Hazzard did household duties for the Webster family on Scott Street, Curepe. It was with this family, she said, that her love for priests began, as the matriarch of that family was a cook for priests.
With Scott Street just walking distance from the church’s Bushe Street location, Our Lady of Fatima was inevitably her home parish. Her involvement in Church included picking up collection, becoming a member of the Legion of Mary and selling Catholic News, not just at her parish but across the Archdiocese for over 60 years.
“Long time I used to sell Catholic News in Laventille. I never used to miss there…. I used to sell Catholic News in the Queen’s Park Savannah for charismatic rallies…. I used to go Blanchisseuse in harvest and I [would] bring my Catholic News with me and I selling…. I used to go UWI when it had leftovers…All these years I going with a big parcel, sometimes a big bag in town,” she said.
Hazzard shared that many years ago, the returns (unsold copies) at Our Lady were high and rather than returning them to the office, she would walk or sometimes travel to other parishes and public spaces to sell the excess. She boasted however that nowadays, whether it be a few hundred for regular Mass or three hundred for Easter, “I sold out all”.
So what exactly does Hazzard enjoy about the Catholic News? She chuckled, adding that she enjoys the features on local priests. Not surprising, as after all, Hazzard has interacted with most of the priests stationed at Our Lady.
She recalled fond memories of Fr Leo Donovan OP, with whom she is still in contact even though he lives in Ireland now; Bishop Malcolm Galt CSSp, Msgr Esau Joseph, Frs Cyril Ward CSSp, Vincent Compton, Reginald Hezekiah, and Urban Hudlin OP.
“I know all the priests. I used to go in, make breakfast for Fr Leo, go in the market every morning, cook for him. Before he went away, they send him to St Finbar’s and I used to go down there and make his breakfast. I know all the nice things to do…” she said.
Hazzard’s great love and respect for priests were inculcated in her childhood. She said that growing up, she was taught never to speak negatively of priests, for if her parents heard such comments, she would get “box”.
She also had a great love for the first local archbishop. “Archbishop Pantin, he did like me yuh know! …. You know how much times I dreamt him…He was a real nice person,” she commented.
Hazzard highlighted that her vocation to the Church was steadfast even when she was too tired to commit to her duties. She isn’t worried about her high blood pressure and cataracts. “God is good. I not worried about that…. As long as you open your hands to the Lord, He won’t let you suffer. He will take care of you.”
So how does Hazzard intend on spending Mother’s Day next Sunday? Well while some envision a fancy setting at a restaurant, Hazzard’s plans are simple——go to church and visit the sick.
“I not fussy you know,” she said with a contented smile.