By Lara Picford-Gordon
Rapturous cheers and applause greeted the presentation of Fr Peter Clinton St Hillaire, the newest diocesan priest in the Archdiocese, at his ordination Saturday, December 11 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Port of Spain.
“You might have been there to see the change of the diapers, you might have been there when he was growing up, today I want to present to you Fr Peter St Hillaire,” a happy Archbishop Jason Gordon said. He commented at the start of his homily, “dear brother, you delayed too long and Covid delayed you after that…but today we are here and God has something special for you.”
Archbishop Gordon based his discourse on the readings: Isaiah 61:1–3, Ephesians 4:1–7, 11–13, and the Gospel of Matthew 9:35–37, chosen by Rev St Hillaire, advising him to pattern his life after the messages they contained. “It is through this text [gospel] I am inviting you to interpret the ministry Jesus has entrusted to your hands as a priest of His Archdiocese”, he said.
First, the novice priest had to find the way to God and salvation through the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit. “As a priest [you] will find your way in ministry to do all of the things that He asks of you to proclaim the Good News to the poor.” The Good News for all humanity was named Jesus Christ. Archbishop Gordon told Rev St Hillaire through his love for Christ, he will come to understand what priesthood is. He had to open his heart and configure it to become a priest after the mind and heart of Christ, the head of the Church. Rev St Hillaire must remember the poor because it is through the poor that the face of Christ is reflected. Archbishop spoke of spiritual growth through encounter with the poor. “Their humility causes us to reflect again on our arrogance and our pride…their lowliness causes us to ask questions of us and who we really are and if we are in service to Christ. The Good News to the poor cannot be communicated by words alone but by example, by the example of your life.”
Archbishop Gordon said during the Covid-19 pandemic the hearts of many were shattered and “they don’t know where to start”. As a priest, Rev St Hillaire is called to bind up the broken-hearted and bring them to freedom through knowing God and who God calls them to be. “There is so much raw emotion right now [in] these months of Covid we have lived through.” Rev St Hillaire also had to be a man of deep compassion whose finger is on the pulse of his people and understand how to lead them to the consolations of God.
In the gospel, Jesus says pray for the Lord of the harvest to send more labourers. Archbishop Gordon told Rev St Hillaire the harvest of the Kingdom begins with transformation of the “inner landscape” of people. He added, “It is here we fighting the real battles; it is here the real conquest has to happen; it is here we have to do the work of the spirit to transform our hard hearts into hearts like Jesus Christ. It is inside here we must yield every moment of every day to the grace of God and yield to say ‘yes’ to Him.”
It is in the battle within that the Kingdom of God is being born. He asked Rev St Hillaire to work for unity of the Church in everything he did. The Archbishop stated his hope for his new priest, “I don’t just want a priest; I want a holy priest.” Msgr Esau Joseph, the Vicar for Clergy presented the candidate to the Archbishop. Rev St Hillaire was vested by his sister Susan Mendez and brother Jason Alton St Hillaire. His mother Vissia was in attendance while his father Augustine viewed the ordination from home.
The new priest thanked many people who supported him during his journey to priesthood including Lee Birmingham, Frs Garfield Rochard, Raymond Francis and Kwesi Alleyne and parishioners of the Toco/Matelot area.
He joined the priesthood almost one year to the day of his ordination to the diaconate, Saturday, December 12, 2020, with Rev Omaris Valmond and Rev Moses Kabuga Gikandi on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the St Francis of Assisi RC Church, Sangre Grande. Frs Valmond and Gikandi were ordained July 3 this year for the diocese of Bridgetown and were in attendance.