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Celebrating the ‘Year of the Word of God’ during COVID-19

Msgr William John-Lewis of the Diocese of Roseau, the zonal representative of the Caribbean Region of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF) or (FEBICLAC) convened a virtual encounter of the Biblical Animation of All Pastoral Life (ABP) on June 13 with representatives of the various arch/dioceses of the Caribbean region.

This meeting, the first of its kind, was attended by representatives of the Archdioceses of Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago) and Kingston (Jamaica); and the Dioceses of Paramaribo (Suriname), Belize City and Belmopan (Belize), St George’s-in-Grenada (Grenada), Mandeville (Jamaica), and Roseau (Dominica).

An article on the session via said that the main topic for discussion was the continuing celebration of the Year of the Word of God which began on the First Sunday of Advent last year and ends September 30, 2020, the Feast of St Jerome. It was meant to be an opportunity to share best practices and challenges and to begin to look at the conclusion of this special year.

ABP was adopted by the Antilles Episcopal Conference in early 2011 in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s Post Synodal Exhortation on the Word of God in the Life of the Church, 2010, where he states: “The Synod called for a particular pastoral commitment to emphasizing the centrality of the word of God in the Church’s life, and recommended a greater ‘biblical apostolate’, not alongside other forms of pastoral work, but as a means of letting the Bible inspire all pastoral work”.

The Diocese of Roseau’s Sr Lorraine Royer ICM, co-director of the Diocesan Pastoral Center, said that the team has offered courses on papal documents and produced programmes based on these courses to be aired on Dominica Catholic Radio. An attempt was made to provide some of the programmes on Facebook during COVID-19.

Sr Lorraine explained that the observance of the Year of the Word of God included the blessing and enthronement of Bibles in all the churches of the diocese and in families. Lectio Divina, she said, continues to be taught and encouraged at the beginning of all pastoral activities and meetings.

“There are no definite plans for the conclusion of the Year on the Feast of St Jerome,” she said.

Gerda Misidjang of the Diocese of Paramaribo mentioned that Bishop Karel Choennie asked all priests to do the enthronement of the Word in their parishes, and there was the recommissioning of lectors and ministers of the Word.  Lectio Divina continues to be encouraged.

“There had been plans to invite instructors from the Bible Institute in Trinidad to address the youth, but the event had to be postponed due to the pandemic,” Misidjang said.

The greatest challenge faced in the diocese is the question of language, Misidjang explained. “The Bibles available are in English while the official language of the country is Dutch. There is the need to access Bibles written in Dutch. In addition to Dutch, there are many other languages and dialects spoken in the country,” she shared.

Msgr John-Lewis mentioned that one of the aims of the Biblical Federation is the dissemination of the Word of God in as many languages as possible. He noted that there is now a Jamaican patois Bible.

Peter Timothy of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain said there exists a Bible Institute operated by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. On the Sunday of the Word of God (January 26), Archbishop Jason Gordon collaborated with the Bible Institute in celebrating a Bible fair. “Of note was the vibrant representation and participation in various workshops of the young people,” Timothy said.

He shared that Fr Arnold Francis was invited to produce a DVD on the Gospel of Matthew to be disseminated to the parishes. It did not take place because of the onset of COVID-19. Lectio Divina, he said is being encouraged, integrating the Bible into every aspect of Catholic life.

Timothy offered to share with the group the books used at the Bible Institute where he is an instructor.

The Catholic Biblical Federation of Latin America and the Caribbean is divided into four sections:

  • South – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay
  • Andean – Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela
  • Central America and Mexico – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama
  • Caribbean – Antigua, Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Cayenne, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.