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Our praying mothers

Where would many of us be without our praying mothers and grandmothers? As this Marian month of October draws to an end, reader Claire Baptiste testifies to the role the women in her life played in inculcating the Catholic faith.

Mary, Mother of God, and the Holy Rosary, together with our praying mothers have taught us the gift of sacrificial love and some life lessons over the years.

My great-grandmother Margaret Holford was 90 years old when my sister Maria and I were born. Her son, our grandfather, Mortimer Holford died before we were born. ‘Ma’ or ‘Maggie’ as we fondly called her was our nanny and first of our praying mothers.

Our earliest memory was of her leaving our home in Woodbrook, at 5 a.m., to walk to All Saints’ Anglican Church for 6 a.m. Mass daily, and then walking back home. Our mother and aunt told us stories that as children, ‘Ma’ lived with them in Maraval, and she also took care of them and often took them with her to church. With humility, she always put God first in life by praying, reciting the Holy Rosary, reading the Bible, and going to Holy Mass.

Ma told us as a child in the 1870s, her mother died, and she was orphaned. Her grandmother had a dream of the situation and left Barbados to search the islands and found her in St Lucia and raised her. Ma died peacefully at our home at 103 years.

Our grandmother, Lucy Holford always had a small altar, with a lit candle, a rosary, and a crucifix in her bedroom, where she made her daily prayers to Jesus. A praying mother of courage and wisdom who saved dollar by dollar, she bought a wooden house in Woodbrook and renovated it, until it became a family home. She also offered lodging to single persons. She married Norman ‘Gramps’ Pitcairn and God sent us a second grandfather.

She made the best Christmas black cake and as children, we helped in making the cakes to give away as gifts. As a praying mother, she taught us to share the gifts and blessings God gives us.

Our granny Amelia ‘Chapoo’ Baptiste, our father Libert’s mother, was widowed when dad was born. From humble beginnings, she raised him and his sisters on her grandfather Jobin Ramos’ estate in Tableland, which she later inherited and managed.

When dad was seven the family moved to Port of Spain. She took him often to the L’Hospice for Holy Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, to give alms, and pray to St Anthony. This practice still continues at 90 years old and this tradition she has passed on to us, her granddaughters. She died at age 95.

Phyllis Margaret Holford Baptiste, our mother, died suddenly when my sister and I were teenagers. For almost ten years before her death, she suffered with rheumatoid arthritis, which left her hands deformed and her knees and other joints very painful to move.

Nevertheless, we saw her pray the rosary daily while taking care of us: cooking, cleaning, driving us to school and overseeing the building of our home with our father. However, she could no longer sew even though she was a master dressmaker.

She was a breast cancer survivor but never told the family it had returned. Silently she bore her burden. As a praying mother, she carried her cross and followed God’s will. She died on a Good Friday. We knew the legacy of love and sacrifice, faith, and hope she left us, and we had to honour that by carrying on with our lives.

Our aunt Yvonne Holford, our mother’s sister, would become our next praying mother. Our grandfather ‘Gramps’ died a few months before our mother and our grandmother Lucy died at 79, three years after our mother.

Father God would give us the blessing of aunty Yvonne as our praying mother for 42 years until she died at almost 88 years. She had no children and never married, but she would become our foster mother through the deaths of our mother and grandmother Lucy as well as every aspect of our lives, failures, and joys.

Aunty showed us through prayer and Holy Mass to have mercy and forgive, and God would be with us through life’s challenges. I believe the rosary was her source of strength.

Aunty was always helping a friend with a project or serving the Church, as she was a gifted decorator and organiser, plant/flower lover and gardener. The beauty of God’s creation nourished her spirit and soul.

It was 20 years before her death that she survived breast cancer, and a few years later she became blind in one eye. She demonstrated by her kindness, fortitude, and faithfulness, that life is God’s gift. When we have loss and sufferings, we must adjust to that season in life: no complaining; only gratitude until God calls us home.

Sr Regina SJC, principal during my years at Providence Girls’, is a praying mother; I thank God for her guidance and Catholic education. My sister also thanks God for Sr Bernadette OP, her principal at Holy Name Convent.

We thank God for the blessings of all our praying mothers, and Mother Mary, who joyfully guides us to her Son Jesus Christ, Our Saviour.