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The Church needs priests: “A leap into adventure”

A member of the faithful receives the blessings of newly ordained priest, Fr Kwesi Alleyne

The Church needs priests. This month-long series features four young priests and their respective journey to answering the Call.

This week: By Fr Kwesi Alleyne

I entered the pre-Seminary of St Kizito, which was located at the time in Carapichaima, on March 9, 2011, Ash Wednesday, with my brothers Stephan Alexander and Kenwyn Sylvester.

The three of us journeyed through seminary together and were ordained to the priesthood on September 14, 2019, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. So much life, grace, struggle, and growth filled those eight years!

For me, the journey began with a tone of adventure. I had wrestled with the question of vocation for several years.

After dedicating 2010 to more focused discernment through prayer and spiritual direction, I found myself in an inner space of peace, ready to make the leap to explore this call to priesthood on my heart. And what a leap it was!

Seminary formation was moved to the Dominican Republic, where we would be pursuing philosophical studies. So, by August 2011 we were off to the Major Seminary of St Thomas Aquinas in Santo Domingo. An insane step many would say, but I knew it was where God wanted me. I was for it!

The next four years in the Dominican Republic were completely en español, an immersion in Latin American culture and Church, Caribbean-style. This fit in with the open, adventurous spirit in me. I hit the ground running, yes, but not without keeling over several times.

A stammer that in English rarely rears its head would, in Spanish, frustratingly overcome me when I felt insecure. Clashes of culture and personality were not wanting either.

In a seminary of 160+ guys, you learn very quickly that there are all types on the journey. What sustained me was friendship and community, as well as prayer and pastoral experience.

My West Indian brothers were a strong support that grounded me. We would meet every week for prayer, regularly lime and spend some of our vacation together. This provided a stability that I appreciate more as I look back. Forging friendships with dominicanos was also a great source of life. Whether it was in the seminary, or as I visited seminarians’ homes on family weekends, or on mission to communities for pastoral experience, encountering people filled with deep faith, open hearts, and genuine love, was a joy.

By grasping the opportunity to delve into parish and community life, I was able to beat with the pulse of a Church which is alive, on the move, on the ground, devout and missionary. I cherish these memories and trust that they still inform me as a pastor.

The love for dominicanos and their culture notwithstanding, the move back home in 2015 was welcome. My language! My people!

Some adjustment was necessary, of course. From a large, youthful, structured seminary community, we were now transferred to one which was small, on the older side of youthful and searching for form.

True to my character, I rolled with the punches. We had the opportunity to build something. I tried to do my part in giving shape to a seminary that was reemerging on our shores.

Some of the uncertainties of the process, especially as we approached the end of our theological studies, did get to me, but the invitation to renewed trust in providence I had to embrace.

I can identify two pillars that took me through this phase of my journey: the support of priests with whom I could openly confide, especially Fr Hugh Joyeau of blessed memory; and joy in service, especially with the community of St Michael’s, Upper St John’s Road, St Augustine.

They kept me connected to God who loved me and to the call to return love in service to the People of God.

The final leg of my journey to priesthood took me into full-time parish ministry. I was missioned to Mission, Toco, to serve in the Parish of Our Lady of the Assumption, Toco/Matelot. It is here that things came together.

Ministry compelled me to dig deep into every resource, spiritual and human, that I could find within me.

Looking back, I see that the seeds planted in the years of formation were quietly being watered by the Spirit and invited to grow. I stand now grateful to God for God’s grace, which was food for my journey, and to the People of God for bringing forth in me the gifts Jesus planted.

May God be praised!