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Pope, President congratulate centenarian ‘Nurse Charles’

Roumania Pamphile received an Apostolic Blessing on October 31 on her 100th birthday, and the President Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes sent her a postcard and letter extending congratulations and blessings.

“The best birthday wish I can extend to you is to live out your days the same way you have lived right up to this very moment with the love and respect of friends and family,” stated Her Excellency in the letter.

“I felt light and happy as if I was in Heaven,” said Roumania responding to a question on her reaction to receiving the recognition from the Holy Father and the President.

Roumania grew up in Todd’s Road, Chaguanas. She is the eighth of 11 children, six girls and five boys born to Betelda and Joseph Charles.

She worked as a Nursing Assistant at the Laventille’s health centre until she retired. “Even today, people on the streets call her Nurse Charles, because they know her long before she was married,” said Carl Jacob, her 70-year-old nephew. She attends Sunday morning Mass with her 97-year-old sister Fedora Jacob, Carl’s mother.

During her childhood her family moved to Port of Spain for better job opportunities. Later, they moved to Barataria where several siblings got married including Roumania.

She met Cornelius Pamphile  at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain. They had one son, Bernard who attended Nelson Street Boys’ RC. Unfortunately, he died around the age of seven. They did not have any other children.

“Cornelius was a loving husband,” said Roumania, recalling that it was their commitment to God that kept them together after the death of their son. Cornelius is now deceased but he is alive in the heart of Roumania who still blushes when she recalls their years together.

From Barataria, Roumania moved to San Juan around 1968, where she took care of her mother until she passed away at the age of 103. “We grew up saying the rosary every night. Grace before meals and grace after meals and we grew with that. At Christmas time, we would come together. Even those who migrated returned. We would visit each other and that was something instilled in us…”.

For many years, Roumania volunteered her time and talent to prepare the sanctuary for Mass. “I loved buying and arranging flowers. I would feel a sense of immense joy”.

She received a certificate of merit from the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for being a faithful member. She was also a part of the same ministry at St John the Baptist RC from the time she moved to San Juan.  Her advice to people on living a long life gave an insight into her naturally cheerful disposition. “Do everything that is good especially to God. Going to church isn’t all, you have to pray. Kneel down, say the rosary and ask God to help you.”

— Story and photo courtesy Tenisha Sylvester