By June Johnston
As I began writing this, I was struck by the words of this newspaper’s own advertisement—“We know nothing is considered normal at this time…during this pandemic when we lose a loved one there is no wake, no real funeral nor physical support from family and loved ones to connect…”
So true, but yet not so true for the ‘loved ones’ of St Patrick’s stalwart and ‘pillar’ Nimwattie Ramdial who died on August 2, and whose Funeral Mass took place in the parish church on August 6, Feast of the Transfiguration.
Also, not quite true for the loved ones of Barbara Chandleur, another parish stalwart whose funeral took place the day before. The wider community would have learnt of Barbara’s death via the media as she was a national sporting icon.
It was indeed an honour and privilege to be physically present at both Funeral Masses.
The choice of hymns and the singing of the Germains and friends (Wednesday) and the traditional choir (Thursday) brought comfort, healing and acceptance to loved ones, family and friends and indeed the St Patrick’s family.
Ours is a small parish. Many who worship there no longer reside in the area. Many who still reside within walking distance of our beautiful parish church are among the most vulnerable in this COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID has meant closure of the church to the children of both schools and to those who work in the area. The weekday morning Masses and the Wednesday midday Mass that brought the small neighbourhood St Patrick’s family together are no more.
Attending the Funeral Masses of these two pillars and stalwarts, whom I had known personally for so many years, was a privileged blessing. Both these women of St Patrick’s, Newtown represented dedication, dependability, humble service, and trust in God.
After Barbara’s funeral, everyone quickly dispersed. Burial at the Lapeyrouse Cemetery was private. After Nimwattie’s funeral, people hung around in the churchyard, greeting each other (observing the social distancing protocols).
I would attend the cremation at the Caroni Banks. More than one parishioner came to me to request that I “do something” for the Catholic News; more than one person said, “Nimwattie is a saint”.
Her children made no request that their short, simple eulogy be published. The humble, self-sacrificing mother they knew and loved would not have thought of such a thing!
I have used the phrase “pillar of St Patrick’s” to describe Nimwattie, but to the majority of worshippers at our parish this word would not seem to fit.
As her family—her biological family as well as her parish family—filed past her coffin, there was a sense (in me) that the fruit of her dedicated, humble service of 35 years had transformed her death (at the relatively young age of 62) from a time of grief and mourning to the awe of being in God’s presence and hearing, “This is my beloved child, she enjoys my favour”.
Nimwattie’s work as parish housekeeper was never really applauded. She was practically invisible, except to the small core of persons who know the presbytery and the sanctuary of the church. But as her children expressed in their eulogy, “she loved her work at St Patrick’s”.
She believed and lived by the words ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ and applied this to her work in the presbytery and in the church, cleaning and polishing the floors and the altar. She felt that her service to all the parish priests of St Patrick’s was a service to which God had called her.
In the words of her children, she took on different roles with her beloved parish priests—“friend, confidante, mother, sister and nurse.”
But before she was parish housekeeper, Nimwattie was a committed wife and devoted mother. She worked long and hard and made every sacrifice for her children’s education. Hers was not an easy life. Her favourite quote: “Don’t worry, the Lord will provide”.
Fr Herbert Charles CSSp, the last parish priest whom she served, shared in his homily at her funeral two outstanding features of Nimwattie’s life in the parish. The first—providing food, not only for ‘Father’ but, on occasion for whoever else was visiting and needed to be fed. Making time not only to serve but to sit and eat. The second: her prayer every day with him for the children of our parish schools and especially on SEA day, when they together kept a silent prayer vigil for the children doing the exam.
On the odd Wednesday I attended midday Mass, Nimwattie would be present with the few workers and ‘Newtown Boys’ who would be there, too.
Barbara shared some of the qualities as Nimwattie. They were both “pillars and stalwarts” of our parish in different ways. What they both had in common was the sharing of food and being women of prayer.
On August 5 and 6, our parish church was given the gift of celebrating as parish family once again. Even as we mourned the passing of these two beloved parishioners—their funeral liturgies were thanksgiving celebrations of their lives. Our parish, which because of COVID-19, had had no feast day celebration (a celebration that would have included worshippers from all the weekend Masses, as well as some weekday ones too) was celebrating once more in our parish church! Brought together to feast at the table of the Lord and say farewell. Unlike at our St Patrick’s Day celebrations—no-one was dressed in green. There was no ‘feast’ on Irish stew, green frosted cake and even beer in green bottles.
Barbara and Nimwattie and several others on the list of our parish deceased, not only were sure to be present at St Patrick’s Day celebrations but contributed their time, talent, and treasure in making it happen every year.
The hope that the colour green signifies was in our hearts on those August days. Someday we’d be able to celebrate together in our church and feast together in each other’s company, and Barbara and Nimwattie and others on our list would be with us, their parish family.
As we begin this month dedicated to remembering the faithful departed, we begin on this feast of All Saints acknowledging that we are all called to be saints.
Thank you, Father for revealing Your glory in the humble, dedicated persons of loving service who are our family. All you Saints of God, pray for us.
We remember the deceased members of
St Patrick’s Parish November 2019 – October 2020
Reynold Joseph: November 3, 2019
Ann Elizabeth Pereira: November 4, 2019
November 9, 2019
Margaret Gomes: November 15, 2019 – Chair of the Parish Council
Noreen Theresa Browne:
November 16, 2019
Yolande Esta Aman: November 28, 2019
December 23, 2019
Lisa Maria Gurley:
January 6, 2020 – Member of the Events Committee
Cartlton Woo: January 11, 2020 – Benefactor
Barbara Chandleur: July 28, 2020 – Member of Senior Citizens group
Nimwattie Ramdial: August 2, 2020 – Parish Housekeeper
Eudora Chay: September 15, 2020 – Benefactor
September 27, 2020 – Member of Traditional Choir
Lloyd Farnum: October 5, 2020
Maureen Caracciolo: October 14, 2020
Sheila Boyce: October 15, 2020
Catherine Farmer: October 16, 2020