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Seminary says goodbye to Dr Johnston

Generations have benefitted says Archbishop

By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Twitter: @gordon_lp

Bishops, priests, religious and lay people from the Caribbean have all benefitted from Dr Everard Johnson’s vocation.

His 48 years at the Seminary St John Vianney and Uganda Martyrs, Tunapuna was an “incredible gift”. Dr Johnston’s retirement marks “the end of an era”, Archbishop Jason Gordon said Thursday, July 16 at Mass, the Abbey Church, Mt St Benedict for the close of the academic year.

“There are generations who have drunk from the wisdom font that he has provided for us; 48 years of commitment to this institution is no small matter. It has been a life of sacrifice, a life of dedication and a life in pursuit of wisdom,” he said. Dr Johnston’s work as a researcher was called “immaculate”.

In his more than 40 years, Dr Johnston served as librarian, dean, lecturer. Archbishop Gordon praised Johnston as a stable presence during times of “flux” at the seminary during the late 1980s and 1990s. He told Johnston, “You were the voice of reason and wisdom that stayed the course and kept things going”. Many rectors, lecturers, seminarians, students, have passed through the seminary and Archbishop Gordon said, “from generation after generation and he was still there”.

Archbishop Gordon said Johnston has demonstrated vocation is plural, as a married man and with his work at the seminary which was “a very fruitful offering”.  As a lay married man dedicated to theology, research and wisdom he gave his students “the best that is possible” and in the formation of persons he gave the seminary “anchoring in principles” and a steadfast view of Christianity. Archbishop Gordon singled out Johnston’s wife June, the former Catholic News editor for her “sacrifice.” As a couple they dedicated many years to serving the Church.

He said, “the vocation of marriage and the vocation to be in the Church and give to the Church in a particular way are the two vocations that this married couple holds for us today”. He added that they highlighted, “a way to be Christian disciple and missionary in the church in Port of Spain and… in the whole region.”

The gospel of the day was from Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy; and my burden is light.”

The question of what is the yoke God is asking the Catholic to bear or not bear is one that Archbishop Gordon commented Catholics have not done too well at discerning.

“Many times, we take on things that have nothing to do with what God is asking of us and then we complain and fret on how busy, how stressed and how overburdened we are”.  In taking on the yoke, the individual can take on something that is heavy or something light but which it is, depends on whether they are willing to yield to the will of God. Archbishop Gordon said the yoke and the cross are two images used by Jesus when speaking of the sacrificial way. He quoted also Sirac 51: 23 and 29 as “appropriate for the occasion”. It teaches “check yourself into the school of wisdom, and if you do so she will teach you the yoke to put on and she will lead you to a way that will bring your life to prosperity and to peace.”

Wisdom, he clarified was different from “book knowledge”, intellectual pursuit, academic achievement. It is “the pursuit of God and understanding the ways of God”.

He instructed the seminarians, “If your learnt anything in the seminary in this formation time I pray it is that you will seek fearlessly after the Word of God and live it with great courage”. On the days when they think it is too hard or taking too long, they were told to find courage to keep going by remembering Dr Johnston who toiled in the vineyard for 48 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the end of the academic year to shift from May 17 to July 15. Seven persons graduated: six with a Bachelor of Theology degree, among them two seminarians and one with a licentiate in Theology.