‘Foodemic’ in the pandemic
November 30, 2021
‘Finding Your Purpose…’ to support youth education
November 30, 2021

Listening during the pandemic

Contributing writer Ottrisha Carter shares on her experience of this year’s virtual Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today, held November 8 to 12.

Over the last few months, I was asked to write a few articles about the Conference on Theology in the Caribbean Today (CTCT).

Before being approached by Lauren Branker, Communications Officer at the Antilles Episcopal Conference Secretariat, I had never heard about CTCT. My initial thought was: ‘I’m willing but how am I going to write about an organisation that I’m not familiar with?’

As I reflected, Pope Francis’ words came to mind, “This is the first step in order to grow on our journey of faith: listening. Before speaking, listen.”

As time went by, my interest in the CTCT increased. After viewing CTCT’s social media launch (Catholic News (CN), October 24), it was clear that CTCT is a safe environment where people of different religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds are welcomed. I also had the opportunity to interview one of CTCT’s members, Deacon Joel Thompson SJ (CN, November 7).

Although I was writing these articles, promoting the conference, and encouraging people to register, I had not registered. I thought about registering but the idea of an entire week of activities scared me because of my school-related commitments.

However, a few days before the conference started, my parish priest Fr Stephan Alexander invited me to attend the conference. I accepted the invitation and my journey of listening during the pandemic continued.

Each day’s activities began with prayer, giving me the opportunity to open my heart to God’s love, healing, and mercy in my life. Through silent reflections, I felt encouraged to examine my relationship with God.

For example, a question posed by Rev Thompson, one of the prayer facilitators was: ‘Where did you find God today?’. I was reminded of the important role that gratitude to God should play in my life.

The ‘Youthful Tides’ segment on November 10 (CN, November 21) which was created to give young people the opportunity to share their faith experiences, really stood out for me.

For example, in Sherette Almandoz’s ‘Designing for the Discarded’, she explored how the traditional, more inclusive family structure has changed over time and highlighted how the pandemic has given us the chance to be more open to inclusive living.

Almandoz mentioned Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ which speaks about the ‘throwaway culture’. When we classify people or objects as unnecessary, we discard of them. In Almandoz’s presentation, she shared some design options to accommodate the elderly in this type of inclusive living.

Presenters used their creativity to theologise through art, poetry, music, education and even by listening to each other. For example, in the Idris Hamid Lecture (November 10), there were representatives from different religious backgrounds giving us an opportunity to listen to their faith experiences.

Pope Francis reminds us, “Whenever people listen to one another humbly and openly, their shared values and aspirations become more apparent. Diversity is no longer seen as a threat but a source of enrichment.”

As a first-time youth attendee, I enjoyed seeing how the CTCT really provides the opportunity for spiritual growth, cultural development, and the formation of personal relationships. It was a beautiful experience!