Send forth Your Spirit
May 18, 2021
UNHCR gives devices for RC schools
May 18, 2021

‘Be where people are’, see with religious imagination

Archbishop at Seminary’s first virtual graduation

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times…” said Archbishop Jason Gordon, using the opening lines from Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities to contextualise the present time living with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the face of the “negativity” with deaths from COVID, families in anguish, health system overrun, poverty, job loss; it was “the worst of times”.  Addressing the May 14 virtual graduation ceremony for the Seminary of St John Vianney and Uganda Martyrs, Tunapuna, Archbishop Gordon said, it was also a time of opportunities and seeing with “religious imagination”.

The Church had to become a servant, going to the periphery and “willing to descend and be where people are” and listen to their joy, their hopes, in their grief and anxiety.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl had used the words “tsunami of secularism” when the 2011 synod on the new evangelisation was taking place. Commenting on the rise of secularism, Archbishop said there has been a shrinking of the Divine and a sense of God.

Unlike the days of his grandmother who saw God’s presence in her daily life, the secular influence was more real today. Young people no longer saw religion as important, and their imagination is influenced by the secular, not religious.

“As we look around our own nation and Caribbean, something that seemed impossible generations ago, we have to look at it now and see this is possible; that the flame of faith could go out for many people.”

On the question of how to live in this time as people committed to God, he referred to Pope St John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis who all say “this is not the time to shrink…to cower…”

Archbishop Gordon said a new epoch was emerging and values will be questioned and tested again.

“We have to therefore enter into discipleship, mission and ministry differently today than we have done in the last 50 years, 100 years. Yet, there must be a common thread that runs from the apostles to us. So, what needs to change and what needs to remain becomes the real challenge of the disciple today.”

He suggested that the graduation’s chosen Bible passage (Phil 2:2–18) provides the graduates with a “roadmap” to enter into the new era. They were instructed to continue reflecting prayerfully on the text.

“This call to humility that Paul gives to the church in Philippi is a call we must hear in the Church today…Trinidad and Tobago…the missionary call.” He explained that Paul was calling the Church to humility, which led to obedience. Archbishop disclosed that previous graduates of the seminary who were priests had done a nine-month programme on emotional intelligence. “If humility, self-emptying and obedience are the touchstone of the new Church then we must have the tools to be able to live in this new Church… so emotional intelligence is vital”.

The Archbishop told the graduates in this time of pandemic, they were being prepared for mission. “In the height of crisis we are facing, highlights the minister God is calling you to be.”

Valedictorian Rev Eliaza Mulemba CSSp described the academic journey as “unique” and a “full package” with opportunities and challenges. He thanked God for His goodness which was shown through the people students met.

He went on to thank various persons involved. Rev Mulemba said the seminary provided a favourable environment not only to study but also to grow, mature and flourish.

Lecturer Dr Adanna James gave a tribute to former lecturer, Dean of Studies Dr Everard Johnston, who retired after 48 years of service last year, saying his contribution has been invaluable.

Eight persons graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Theology, and six received Certificates of Participation. —LPG