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May 29, 2020

On answering the Call—Fr Ransome’s story

On May 29, 2010 Fr Steve Ransome, a diocesan priest said ‘Yes’ to the priesthood. He shares his journey with us.

I grew up in Maloney, a community to which there is a stigma attached. Drive through at any time and you will see groups of young men just ‘liming’ on the blocks. The unemployment rate, poverty level, and incidence of violent crime are always high but good has come and will continue to come out of that east Trinidad community.

It was tough, mainly because of people’s perception of the area. I remember at age 16 going to a school bazaar with friends. I met, danced and chatted with a girl until I told her where I lived. She walked off and never came back.

Where I lived, the houses seemed stuck to each other. My bedroom wall was a wall to my neighbours’ kitchen and his speaker boxes were right there, so on a Sunday morning… well, you can just imagine.’ But, I look at growing up in Maloney in a positive way. Salvation always has a context. That context is always a time, a place, and a people and you have to seize that opportunity to bring Jesus into the picture of that context. Coming out of that context of Maloney, I suppose I have a built-in love and appreciation for people who know what it is to not have, and to do without.

I was born 36 years ago, the third of four children. I have two elder sisters and a younger brother. Before Maloney, our family called San Juan home. I attended San Juan Seventh Day Adventist Primary School then Curepe Junior Secondary and St Augustine Senior Comprehensive, where I did my A Level studies. Our family moved to Maloney when I was around seven years old. It is at Maloney parish that I received my First Communion and was confirmed. As I became more involved in Church life—youth group, altar server, lector—I overcame my shyness and the ‘call’ to the priesthood began to emerge.

Confirmation was the turning point. We had some good teachers. Neil Parsanlal, who was a seminarian then, and Fr Clyde Harvey was parish priest. It was really a nice time. I always felt the two calls—married life and priesthood were legitimate, but I always questioned which one I was called to. The idea of becoming a priest, of service, community work and outreach, and just giving your whole life for something that was meaningful, really appealed to me.

After A Level examination in 1997, I took a year off then entered university, studying for a degree in Sociology. After UWI, I taught Forms Five and Six at North Gate College in St Augustine for a year, then entered the seminary in 2002.

My family has always been supportive. My mother, born an Anglican (but who became a Catholic in 1990), sensed that her first-born son was being ‘called’. A bit of a joke: I liked wearing white clothes as a child, and Mom joked one day about me wanting to be a priest.

I remember in detail the first time I broached the topic with my father who was a policeman, a man in whose footsteps I once considered following. He was polishing his shoe. He never raised his head. He said “If that is what you feel you have to do in life, then I will support you”.

Fr Harvey has been a role model, the first priest I really got to know. He came to Maloney when I was 10, and left at 19. He was the first priest who made me think that priesthood was even possible. I think that’s the best way to put it,  the priesthood wasn’t for weirdos.

I also have good memories of Fr Michael Makhan at the Cathedral, and successors to Fr Harvey at Maloney, Frs Allan Ventour and Lennox MacPhillip. Their ministries enhanced my thoughts on the religious life.

As to the usual question about seminary life, the best part for me was the fellowship and friendships formed, under the leadership of a good rector, Msgr ‘Mike’ De Verteuil. There were the usual challenges of course. Nobody socialises a young man to be a priest, eh. You get socialised for marriage, even to be single. Your mother tells you, “When yuh get married ah hope yuh change your ways”, but nobody tells you as a young boy ‘When you become a priest you have to do so by so..’

Because of my university studies, I felt called to teach catechesis and Church doctrine. I see it as such a need. There are many Catholics walking around who feel they know the faith. It’s not that they believe they need to know more…they feel they know the faith and when you hear them talk, you know that they don’t know.

About the priesthood, I like to describe it as an irony. Jesus was an irony. He was born of a virgin and had two fathers, He died on a cross for sinners yet he was without sin. Our irony, as priests, is that we live in a society where sex sells and yet we take a vow of celibacy… We have to be an irony that will force people to ask the question why . Why would somebody want to be a priest, and to come to know a person, and in knowing that person come to develop a deeper understanding of who Jesus is in the life of that person and to be so transformed by that experience?

As a holy priest of God I try to steer clear of experiencing one of the few pitfalls of being a priest. Parishioners put you up on a pedestal. Sometimes you can have a feeling of entitlement and as a result you can lose touch and run the risk of becoming disconnected. For this reason, it is important to constantly seek to be hidden in the heart of Christ through quiet time in the presence of GOD and through the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary in the mysteries of the Holy Rosary.