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Taking the faith up the hills

The Corpus Christi Carmelite Sisters will celebrate their centenary of arrival in Trinidad in November. This is Part Four of the history of the Order.

The classes in religious instruction became very popular. Many who had drifted from the faith and needed only a helping hand to bring them back came. There were only three in the class at first but by the end of the first year, there were almost 100. Men came as well as women; usually after Confirmation the men joined the local Holy Name Society and the women came together at the mothers’ meetings.

The census, the Sisters had thought, would be a minor task. They were given a map which they studied very carefully. It looked simple, but it was a very different matter when they went to work. They had not realised how different was the reality from the flat map. The topography of Port of Spain consists chiefly of hills.

“Is everything uphill?” groaned Sr Josephine, after days of climbing, sometimes 100 steps to get to a house, sometimes a hillside with no steps at all.

The training of bands of acolytes proved to be an exciting task, too. Each boy wanted to be the high acolyte, the one who rang the bell during Mass. There were heated arguments about this peaceful office, and these were settled by the sisters who had an uneasy fear that sometimes the boys did further ‘settling’ of their own later.

Word spread about these classes, and mothers came to ask if their children who were attending the public schools could perhaps come to the Sisters to be prepared for their First Communion. The religious were happy to do this and in turn learned as they taught. For these children were very different to the English children they had hitherto taught, much more mature and thoughtful. The answers they gave were sometimes unexpected too.

Once, when Sr Josephine asked her class why Jesus had chosen to be born in a poor stable instead of a fine house like the Governor’s, there was no immediate answer. This the Sisters had learned did not mean inattention or ignorance; it often meant the children were thinking over the question. Finally, one small boy said, “Maybe He wanted a quiet life.”

Excerpts taken from With God and Two Ducats (1958) by Katherine Burton, and A Great Adventure (1944), Corpus Christi Carmelites.



Thursday, November 7 to Friday 15

Novena in honour of 100th Anniversary @ 6 p.m. at L’Hospice

Thursday, November 14

Mass at L’Hospice, actual day of Arrival; Carmelite Sisters and regular devotees at 6 p.m.

Saturday, November 16

Holy Mass at Cathedral at 10 a.m.