Working to improve Catholic education in Tobago
October 5, 2021
The Queen’s art
October 5, 2021

‘Our Lady’ becomes more beautiful

When the finished works on the renovated and refurbished Church of Our Lady of Fatima, Curepe were revealed to parishioners in online peeks, one morning, a member of one of the parish cluster communities described the view as “like an art museum”.

In fact, our present parish priest, Rev Dr Arnold Francis whilst sitting on a midway pew for an interview in preparation for the October 13 blessing of the church, remarked that the desire was for changing the perspective of some about the ‘warehouse’ profile of the church.

The design focus was intentional about infusing a renaissance of sorts in ‘church art’, as we worship under the cross of Christ, glowing under the bright lights overhead, whilst enjoying clear audio reproduction and being able to share our liturgies further than the church walls and into the homes for virtual video-enabled ‘come and see’ experiences of community care.

Looking back, it was the dream and spiritual light in Fr KL Devenish CSSp for which he’s  remembered as a kind of hero by parishioners of the 1950s.

It was this spirited Spiritan who, in responding to the need to expand the parish chapel to better accommodate the growing number of parishioners attending Mass, decided to bless three Miraculous Medals and place them on the land he was interested in purchasing, to counter the resistance he was experiencing from the old land occupier’s relatives.

Fr Devenish promised the Blessed Virgin that Miraculous Medal devotions would be said regularly if he got the land.

A small document entitled A Brief History of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Curepe compiled by Dorothy Jolly and others in 1997, tells the story that “He did get the land. It was purchased on May 17, 1954, at a cost of $7,000. Fr Devenish kept his promise and up to the present time the Miraculous Medal novena is being said every Monday morning after Mass.” That practice continues.

Our proud history

One of the two new chapels at the newly renovated Church of Our Lady of Fatima, Curepe is dedicated to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. That chapel will be used for the celebration of Morning Mass at which a faithful pre-Covid 30 to 40 persons attend every day. Some have been at the parish from the beginning and maintain the devotion in memory of those who’ve passed on.

A Catholic News’ article in mid-1968 described Fr Devenish as “the indefatigable parish priest”. The story described the details of the imminent consecration of the church on October 7, 1968, by His Grace, Most Reverend Anthony Pantin CSSp.

Invitations were issued far and wide, as devotion to Our Lady was highly promoted by former Archbishop Count Finbar Ryan OP who on Friday, June 22, 1962, at the laying of the foundation stone for the church’s construction, described the event as “happy augury”—that the blessing should occur “at such a historic point of our country”.

He “believed that she (Our Lady) will do for us what she promised to do for the people of Portugal – if she is honoured and her requests fulfilled, the pressure of enemies both by land and sea, will be repelled and by her protection no warlike power will come to us.”

In a review on The Holy Ghost Fathers and Parish Work in the Archdiocese by Fr Knolly Knox CSSp extracted from a Centenary Record of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Trinidad and of St Mary’s College 1863–1963, the new church was described as “a dream-come-true” for providing ample accommodation for the parishioners of St Augustine, Curepe and Valsayn Park.

Since then, persons from as far as Chaguanas, Tacarigua, Cunupia, Maracas and Barataria come regularly to our worship centre. Several of these ‘parishioners’ come because of sacramental memory – they were either baptised, confirmed, married, consecrated or their relatives received the last rites from this pastoral centre.

From womb to tomb, pastoral experience is nurtured for the 1,500 persons counted in the parish census of 2012. Several new families have since joined our community.

However, what Fr Francis terms “loyalty” is tested, especially since the pandemic restrictions. Persons have gravitated towards churches nearer their home or ‘online Masses’.

The building measuring 120 feet by 60 feet, seats 800 persons. Since 1968, the hinted construction of a new school on the site south of the church, has given way to the Pastoral Centre used by many from across the archdiocese and the country.

Church development

The church as originally constructed was windowless and with an internal clear view of the altar from all angles due to the absence of columns. Over the past six years or so, plans for refurbishment–altar enhancement, stained glass windows, air conditioning and much needed ceiling replacement and attention to moisture incursion in the main sacristy/sanctuary wall have been realised.  Waves of fundraising have been washing over our community, including the satellite, Holy Family Community at Kelly Village, Caroni.

Priests over the years have consulted with parishioners and service professionals of various disciplines to arrive at a consensus on how our renovated church should look and feel, in terms of the functional features, as well as to integrate modernity and technological facilitation for a worship and pastoral experience that animates all who participate.

The initially projected $5 million cost of the works has morphed into a royal $6 million, plus costs for desired ‘gilding’ of altar decor, furnishings, church art installations and satisfying the perennial call for a cooler, more comfortable environment, free from the increasing dust incursion, as climate systems change and affect us.

The pastoral centres (Phase 1), large and small, have already received attention with refurbishment of bathroom facilities for disability and child friendly provisions, kitchen cupboards, storage space, multimedia installations and public address systems, some portable.

Phase 2 saw the upgrade of the presbytery, counselling room and conference meeting rooms. Phase 3 was the church renovations project which was paused and restarted a couple times.

Meanwhile, the community celebrates 53 years of faith, liturgy, pastoral work, challenge, and trust. Even so, the young ones are bemused by the activity and are now learning about the significance of the work done by their forebears and the heritage of Faith.

Just like our patroness Mother and Queen, whose feast we’ll celebrate on October 13, we too must model our lived faith, by following her response, even as we organise to repay the balance of some $4 million and zealously clear our way, in love.

Join us on Wednesday, October 13 and gain partial indulgences as provided in Archbishop Pantin’s Authentication document at our church’s consecration.

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