Sr Raphael was more than just a devoted teacher

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March 26, 2020
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March 26, 2020

Sr Raphael was more than just a devoted teacher

Sr Raphael of the Holy Face Chandleur SJC died March 13. Her Funeral Mass was March 19. Archbishop Jason Gordon officiated. Bishop Emeritus Malcolm Galt CSSp and Fr Tom Willemsen CSSp concelebrated. Followed is an edited version of her eulogy submitted by the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny.

Sr Raphael of the Holy Face Chandleur was born January 30, 1929 at her parents’ home at 116 Abercrombie Street, Port of Spain. Her birth was duly registered on February 11, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. She was baptised Leola Frances on February 24 at the Rosary Church, Park Street, Port of Spain.

She would, some years later be confirmed at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, by Archbishop Finbar Ryan OP,, adding the name Margaret to her two baptismal names.

She attended different primary schools and pursued her secondary education at St Rose’s Intermediate leading to the Senior Cambridge Certificate Examination in 1948. ‘Miss Chandleur’ was appointed Assistant Probationary Teacher, in January 1949 at Newtown Girls’ RC. She commenced teacher training in 1953 and two years later graduated a fully fledged trained teacher on December 10, 1955.

The following year Miss Chandleur was appointed to Providence Girls  and 11 more years were to pass. It was during that period, in February 1966 ‘Miss’ heard the Call of God to devote her life with still deeper generosity to His children. That desire became a reality, when she entered the Formation House, Arouca, to begin her Postulancy as a Sister of St Joseph of Cluny.

Prior to making her First Vows, as a Novice she was assigned to our Community in St George’s-in-Grenada from September to December 1967. During that time, she taught at Mother Rose, a primary school for girls, where she also served as Ag Principal. She pronounced her First Vows on August 11, 1968,  and appropriately named Sr Raphael.

February of the following year saw her appointed to St Joseph’s Girls’ RC for one year. When her services were required at Arouca Girls’ RC, she promptly responded to the call, and spent three years before returning to St Joseph’s Girls RC as principal from 1972 to 1980 and again from 1981 to 1989, a total of 16 years.


Rainbow Splendour

It was during that period namely, 1980–81, a well-earned sabbatical was spent at the Grafton Street Academy of Haute Couture, Dublin, Ireland. She graduated with two first class certificates in ‘Design and Drafting of Ladies Fashionable Wear’.

Sr Raphael has given over 40 years of her life to teaching and training the children of Trinidad and Tobago. She has devotedly prepared hundreds, maybe thousands of little ones for that special day: their First Holy Communion. Sunday school, parish choir and collector of food and clothes for the less privileged were her outreach.

Over the years in our different communities, she has served as caterer, infirmarian, pharmacist and writer of the Community Journal. Exceptionally gifted not only for the teaching of the academic subjects, Sr Raphael knew how to incorporate the lighter side of education, games, sports, craft, singing and she had a special genius for ‘make-believe’ dressing up and Carnival.

Parents will long remember Kiddies Carnival 1987 when the St Joseph Girls’ RC under her creative and inventive genius, placed first in the competition turning out in ‘Rainbow Splendour’, with perfect discipline on the public stage.

As principal, Sr Raphael was in close contact with her staff and pupils. She saw to it that children in need got a good meal every day, and it was not unusual to find her at her sewing machine ‘running up’ a dress for some past or present pupil in need.

Sr Raphael retired from teaching in January 1989 and after a short holiday gave her services and expertise to our secondary schools in Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines. Here she had a full timetable daily, teaching Food & Nutrition, Home Economics and Craft as well as Needlework and Religious Studies.

To all this she added her care of the Sisters in the Community and in her free time taught catechism to the candidates preparing for Confirmation in the Parish.

Following her retirement from teaching, she returned to the Convent in Port of Spain in 1990, and from here was able to care for her beloved mother in her last years of life.

She was later assigned to our Community in Tobago in September 1994. She undertook the Ministry of Sacristan in the parish Church and was an advisor to many. In Tobago, she spent 16 years teaching at our private secondary school.

Sr Raphael retired from active service but never from teaching. Sr Raphael was able to help many of the underprivileged and vulnerable young boys and girls who had difficulty accessing and adjusting to the education offered at a secondary level.

It was from Tobago that she joined the Lourdes Community at Arouca in June 2010. Her final years spent here were by no means inactive. On the contrary, it would be appropriate to say that she had “several pots on the fire”—as coordinator for the Associates Programme, organising the caregivers’ roster and assisting students with homework among others.

We thank God for her life and her dedicated service in love to all God’s people she encountered on life’s journey.

We are deeply grateful to her deceased parents and family members who gave her to us for the greater part of her life. To her only surviving sibling, Barbara with whom she had a close bond, we express our sincere condolences.

Sr Raphael, may you rest in God’s peace.