‘Our Lady’ becomes more beautiful
October 5, 2021
A deeper relationship with Christ through silence and meditation
October 5, 2021

The Queen’s art

A most favoured prayer to Our Lady of Fatima, our parish’s patroness, addresses her as ‘Queen of the most holy Rosary’.

As we approach our Mother Mary, virgin of goodness and mercy, devotees implore her to “inspire in our hearts a fervent love for the recitation of the Rosary” and that by our “meditation on the mysteries of redemption therein, we may obtain the graces and virtues we ask, through the merits of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer.”

We honour Mary’s power with God on behalf of all of us and fly to her patronage. Why? In  Matthew J O’Connell’s revision of Alexander De Rouville’s Imitation of Mary, she’s acknowledged as the spotless Daughter eternally loved by the Father, the Mother of the Son, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, appointed Queen of Heaven and Earth, Queen of the Saints.

Of course, she has been given a power suitable to her rank! That is why parish priest, Fr Arnold Francis confidently pleaded our cause before her for the success of the longstanding renovation/refurbishment project for our church.

At every Marian Devotion liturgy on the 13th of each month, our requests and dreams were offered up. Votive prayers and candles were humbly laid before her, at the beautiful shrine placed there for care on behalf of the Archdiocese, but lovingly claimed and cared for by Marianists young and old.

The excellence of that shrine installation in the southern garden, next to the refurbished Pastoral Centre is matched by the attention to detail in the ‘church art’ renditions in the ‘new’ church.

Renowned local artists and artisans were engaged to produce stained glass windows, execute internal and external wall paintings and craft Stations of the Cross on copper.

You’re invited to visit our church, where as you enter the northern gate, you’ll be greeted by a full wall representation of the appearance of Our Lady to the children at Fatima.

Diamond-ager artist Ruthven ‘Bari’ Walkins honoured parishioners’ heartfelt desires to see themselves in the icons of faith. He said he researched the geography of the Portuguese landscape and people of that time, the better to present a “living Bible” orientation to his interpretive art.

Mr Walkins also painted the scene at the entrance to the Adoration Chapel, using in both cases, mixed acrylic and latex emulsions to render the work weather-proof for many years.

He and his apprentice danced between the raindrops and sun’s rays for 15 hours, over five days to produce the pleasing images. You may visit his art gallery WebCraf Concepts at the Cruise Ship Complex to see more of his work.

There’s so much more to see in the light of faith, as you walk along the eaves of the church on the northern and southern sides, you catch glimpses through the side doors. But it’s better from the inside.

Approach from the East carpark, observe the bank of windows which have replaced the open, brick walls. Look up to view the 5-foot-tall statue of Our Lady, often lit in blue, perched atop a 24-foot pedestal which is really the 53-year-old installed Cross.

Marian blue-gray is the accessory colour; pale cloud-blue covers the walls. The Hospitality Ministers welcome you through double doors of varnished wood and glass panels. There’s a plan to instal an air curtain to cool you and keep the dust out.

As you enter, take a look to the left wall at the ‘bas-relief’ sculpture by noted artist, Sybil Atteck, a clay or ceramic firing work, entitled Christ is condemned – a gift that’s as old as our original church. It would have been executed around the same time of similar pieces at the Trinidad Hilton.

The work has attracted the attention of Master artist, Ken Crichlow, who says that the deceased sculptor’s nephew would be interested in seeing this work for his curation project.

To the right of the entrance, in the eastern corner, is a long-held statue of St Joseph with the Child Jesus. It’s in a special place and height to facilitate children’s visits and focus families’ attention in this Year of St Joseph, devoted husband and protector of Mary and Jesus, safeguarding the pledge of humankind’s salvation and redemption.

Look at the expressions and see how the figurine links faith and reality, the manifestation of spiritual riches which St Joseph received from He Who is the Source of all grace, whilst living with Mary, who is the channel of distribution. Experience in his loving gaze, the virtues of patience, mildness, humility, love of neighbour and God.

So, as you turn and raise your head to the ceiling, you’ll literally see the light, as the overhead central recessed light channel to the transept represents “living under the Cross of Christ”.

The rest of the lighting fixtures bathe the nave of the church, where worshippers gather to pray. You can follow the side aisles to view the marvellous stained-glass windows, executed by the artisans of Artistic Glass and Home Finishers, Arima.

Fr Francis explains that the order and representations communicate The Story of Christ, the Saints of God, The presence of the Relics in the altar and the drama of the Stations of the Cross.

Each window has been gifted to the church by parish families and individuals, in memory of relatives who have passed on. There are memorial plaques at each window. We, the Church Militant are reminded therefore of the sacrifices and desires of the Church Penitent who strive to become the Church Triumphant. The eastern and western wings on the altar bear hand-painted work by renowned local artists, including Kerry Collins. The altar has been raised for easier viewing, whilst the tabernacle, a gift by a well-known family, has been refurbished.

The addition of new candelabras on that altar, along with wall art presents that aura of holiness. The custom designed and crafted processional crucifix is also a parishioner’s gift, which features mother of pearl on wood and other fine details executed by Gillian Bishop.

Bryan Mungal of La Romaine, worked with his wife Angelie to interpret drawings by Fr Francis to create the 15 Stations of The Cross. He reports that it was a challenging task to render a realistic image of each dramatic scene.

The work is presented in repousse (worked from the back), on copper with a clear coat lacquer against oxidisation and framed in mahogany provided by Raymond Browne.

Referrals to most of the artists came from the main contractor, Browne, himself a master builder of great repute and resourcefulness.

There’s one other historical feature which has been preserved, with the hope of eventual restoration. This is the carillon mechanism of which the bell horn-shaped amplifier can be seen atop the western roof.

A digital system may be incorporated to facilitate the playing of hymns at timed intervals which would be heard around the neighbourhood. The Trinity Cathedral features a good example of what’s possible.

Meanwhile, back inside the church, already transformed is the choir loft which has been re-appropriated as the audio-visual control room. From there, the new robotic cameras, improved audio system and digital pre-set controls will be operated by trained volunteers and selected delegates.

The current two cameras may be increased to more to effect greater coverage of the liturgical movements. Contractor Victor Donawa of AudioWorks Trinidad and Tobago engaged Dexter Jennings, an expert videographer, to customise a service layout, cabling, and accessories fit-to-task for our parish.

Re-conditioned speakers and new microphones have been set to choral and individual reproduction standards and finely balanced for clarity and fidelity. This professional sound and video capture/streaming management is artistry meeting technology for top quality solutions to long held frustrations in Catholic church environments.

The next step should be the establishment of a competent Media Team for the broadcast and recording/archiving needs.

The newly renovated church has been outfitted with a brand-new air-conditioning system which parishioners had requested and now can relish the cooler temperature in which to worship and praise God, even for fundraising concerts and faith-building events.

The new restroom facilities are also elegantly ‘cool’, catering to the differently abled with ample room for discreet refreshment by all. The sacristy provides for privacy and ample storage for liturgical provisions. The best is yet to come, but in another season.

The present Parish Priest, Rev Dr Arnold Francis joins with his predecessors in expressing deep gratitude to all who generously gave of their time, talent, and treasure to realise this dream of a more beautiful worship space befitting our patroness Queen and Mother. She points us to her Son. Let’s all truly live under the Cross of Christ.