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God places you where He wants you

Photo courtesy the Diocese of Kingstown, St Vincent & the Grenadines

By Simone Delochan

A story was told to Fr Collin Jackson, before he was even contemplating becoming a priest, of an incident when he was a baby. The woman, with whom he was left while his mother worked, used to clean the church in Boug Mulatresse, and would place him on the altar to sleep while she cleaned. One day, the Irish priest of the parish came in and saw the sleeping baby. He picked him up, offered him to the Lord, returned the baby to his temporary crib and left. The incident left Fr Jackson’s family feeling that he had a “special affinity” to God.

He was born to Victor and Indera Jackson, on December 29, 1981 in the rural village of Caigual, located between Sangre Grande and Manzanilla. He has four siblings, two older brothers and two younger sisters and was the oldest sibling in the household.
Caigual was his weekend home. During the week, he would stay in Sangre Grande as he was a pupil of Guaico Presbyterian at the time. He did his First Communion in St Patrick’s Chapel in Caigual, because “other people in the area were doing First Communion”. After First Communion, he says, “church died out”—he just did the obligatory weekend Mass.

While he was in Standard Four, the family moved permanently to Sangre Grande and he began attending St Francis RC. At the time Fr Garfield Rochard was parish priest. Fr Jackson continued going to Mass, but again solely as an obligation. By the time he entered North Eastern College—at which point, Fr Trevor Nathasingh was the parish priest of Sangre Grande—he had stopped attending Mass, a pause that would last for almost four years.

The spiritual journey begins…sort of

The turning point began innocuously enough. Wednesdays were his late days at school, because of the Religious Instruction (RI) class that had students accumulated in the auditorium, standing for the duration. “I didn’t have time for that,” he laughs.

One Wednesday morning, his mom happened to be home, and sent him right off to school. The RI class that morning was led by Marvin Clarke who mentioned the importance of Confirmation to marriage. “…and I said, ‘Wait a second, I need to get confirmed!’, because I had already seen the girl I wanted to get married to. I joined Confirmation class with the sole purpose of getting confirmed so that when it was time to get married, I would have no problems.” He is now Godfather to that woman’s daughter.

It was in his Confirmation classes that he began to feel that God had a greater call for him than marriage. “I joined the altar servers’ ministry because a girl came and asked me if I would join. I became head altar server, and she was assistant. I was 17.” He also got confirmed around that time.

Transformation occurred at a youth camp with Couples for Christ. Without going into too much detail because of the intimacy of the moment, he describes being left with the knowledge of God’s unconditional love, and “He would cause me to be more”. Attending Mass became more than a social event; it was spirit-filled.

People noticed the change in him, and observations that he should become a priest increased. It annoyed him. Fr Jackson recalled one incident of a parishioner, with whom he had never spoken, approaching while he stood in procession holding the crucifix, telling him, “I think you will make an awesome priest”. He was angered immediately. He handed the crucifix to another altar server and left. Later, Fr Neil Rodriguez CSSp, then parish priest, visited him at home and said: “You need to ask yourself why this is bothering you so much”.

At a Carnival camp, he had a waking dream of wild wolves in a line being given Holy Communion, and their becoming placid after receiving it. Fr Rodriguez told him “I think God may be inviting you to become a priest.” It was the first time that he felt that he had an option: a vocation could be answered or not. He began his search.

Quest for religious life

He joined the Holy Ghost Fathers in 2001 because he liked the idea of community and journeying with others but after a year, he felt that perhaps he was too young and wanted to explore other options for six months. Six months turned into seven years.

He became Fr Peter de la Bastide’s CSSp secretary at the St Francis Church, then left for employment at Car Search (his “wildest” days). Following that he became a teacher at Maracas RC. Teaching he thinks is truly his gift.

“I have always worked with youth, giving young people a space where they can explore information, and come up with ways of interpreting it and understanding it, …I find that to be absolutely exhilarating.”

He rejoined the Holy Ghost Fathers in 2009. His duration with the religious order lasted eight and a half years but he, unfortunately, had to part ways with them. He describes it as “heartbreaking” and said he suffered from a serious “tabanca”, ameliorated only by the support he received from members of the congregation at Arouca, Fr Dexter Brereton CSSp, Bishop Emeritus Malcolm Galt CSSp, Fr Tom Willemsen CSSp, and Fr Rochard among others. He was “done”, however. He wanted simply to take time for himself.

Visits to St Vincent and Grenada in that year, 2018 bolstered him once again.  He listed three possibilities: Port of Spain (which he decided against), Grenada and St Vincent. Bishop Clyde Harvey of St George’s-in-Grenada had already indicated that Grenada would be open to an application from him; Bishop Gerard County CSSp of Kingstown had taken him around the island explaining his pastoral plan and introduced him to a school with much potential—St Martin’s Secondary School for young men.

His completed formal application to Grenada sat on his side table for a week. He prayed, “Lord, why can’t I send these documents?” and a clear response came, “Because I am not sending you there”.  He contacted Bishop County two weeks before Christmas 2018. By January 2, 2019 he was in St Vincent and began teaching January 3 at St Martin’s. He is now also co-director of formation for the diocese.

It was a slow process of opening up to Bishop County who is a Spiritan. He took the psychological evaluation assessment, and with school and parish having no concerns with him, he returned to Sangre Grande to be ordained a deacon in December 2019. The experience of seeing both his Diocesan and Spiritan brothers supporting him was an “amazing affirmation”. “Diaconate ordination was a fulfilment of a journey.”

He was ordained to the priesthood on Thursday, August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration, and celebrated his first Mass the following day in the parish of St John’s, Mesopotamia. He says, “…there are some things that cannot really be explained. And one of those things is the majesty of celebrating Mass, by your words cause bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ. …when in that moment you are standing there in persona Christi, it’s a whole different feeling.”