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Missionary discipleship is key pastoral initiative


Like any other country in the world, the Diocese of St John’s-Basseterre has experienced some measure of government implemented lockdown to fight COVID-19.

While there is a “certain resilience” among the people, a major problem affecting the diocese —which comprises the five territories of Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands of Tortola and Virgin Gorda— is the loss of economic activity.

Another “major problem” is parents unable to pay for Catholic education.

“All of our Catholic schools are private schools, and therefore people with no income can’t pay school fees, and if they can’t pay their school fees, then our schools are in trouble because we can’t pay our teachers,” Bishop Robert Llanos said during the weekly Facebook live conversation with AEC (Antilles Episcopal Conference) bishops, May 7.

The Bishop said some persons have been finding themselves in difficult financial situations. “So, we have tried our best to see how we can help,” he said.

Asked to share on how the recent construction of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at the Holy Family Cathedral has helped persons cope spiritually, Bishop Llanos told host AEC General Secretary Fr Donald ‘Don’ Chambers, “that’s a tricky question”.

“Because this diocese is in a Protestant country. So, the Catholics here are in minority, and the issue of Marian devotions is a sensitive thing.”

He shared since becoming Bishop, he has taken steps, albeit “low-key” to re-emphasise, reaffirm and challenge Catholic parishioners to understand clearly and to feel “comfortable” with the devotions.

Bishop Llanos described the new Marian grotto as “quite a beautiful grotto”. Devotions are held on Wednesdays for the month of May.

As the diocese celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Bishop Llanos mentioned some of the diocese’s pastoral initiatives.

Part of the 50th anniversary push is to move the diocese to really live out missionary discipleship. Bishop Llanos has written a document A Call to Missionary Discipleship, Pastoral Exhortation 2020. Part of that thrust, he shared, requires having a good communications system up and running.

The diocese will be launching its new website on Pentecost Sunday (May 23), a new diocesan media communications team, and an enhanced 24-hour Catholic radio station accessible to all parts of the diocese.

Bishop Llanos added that the Diocese will be developing programmes for the radio station with the focus of widening its scope. “That will be starting immediately. For the audiovisual section, we will be renovating the audiovisual room for filming and interviewing… we have four or five of our youth and young adult members, some of whom were trained in the SIGNIS programme years ago.” The Bishop continued that the Diocese has plans to produce a five-minute, information programme to be played on screen in churches, five minutes before Mass so the whole diocese will know what is going on in all the islands.