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Sr Dominic had an indomitable spirit

We remember Sr Dominic Xavier Sandy O Carm. This is an edited version of her eulogy delivered in 2020.

Sr Dominic Xavier has touched lives in one way or the other. She lived with a passion and, as she worked, taught, laughed, counselled, prayed, and played, she touched the lives of many who will never forget her for her care, love, scoldings, gentle words, smiles, jokes, boldness, and courage. She was a woman with a huge heart and indomitable spirit.

Sr Dominic Xavier Annie Sandy was born to Elliana Hyacinth and Chadrick Sandy on  December 16, 1936 in Constantine, Happy Hill, St George’s Grenada, the first of six children, three of whom are Valerie Gibbs (USA), Joan Hyacinth (Grenada) and Sandra Alexander (Grenada). Janet Hyacinth and her brother Andrew Hyacinth are deceased.

She often shared that her mother told her siblings to call her ‘Queen’, a title in which she gloried.

In August 1955, in her 19th year, Sister left Grenada to enter the Corpus Christi Carmelites here in Trinidad. When asked why she wanted to enter the convent her response was “because I rather work for Heaven, than to follow earthly pleasures”, which she lived out for 64 years in the convent.

On August 15, 1956, she received the Carmelite habit as a novice in Belmont, Trinidad. In 1957, she was granted permission to make her first simple vows and her final vows were made in 1962.

Sister was an ambitious, eager, and earnest learner both in the ways of God and for the development of herself and others. Her zeal for learning and working saw her opening herself to whatever she was asked to do by her superiors and to suggest ways in which she felt she could be more effective in helping others.

Through her openness to learning, she acquired the following skills in:

  • Canning, packaging, storing, and marketing fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Handicraft and home economics
  • The dynamics of marriage and family counselling
  • The rudiments of music up to Grade V through Trinity College of Music, London.
  • Theology, so that she was able to better understand her faith and therefore to teach it more effectively

She secured:

  • A certificate in Management Studies
  • A certificate in Social Work from The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine in February 1990
  • A UNESCO scholarship in the Principles and Practice of Social Welfare, a four-month course at The UWI, Mona, Jamaica

Her work for the Lord saw her primarily doing wonders wherever she was planted:

  • In St Vincent, she worked with teenagers and young adults in group training in spirituality and morality
  • She brought great warmth and love to the elderly in the Spaccapietra Home for the Aged in Trinidad, popularly known as L’Hospice

From 1981 to 1997, she cared for many young women at the Girls’ Industrial/St Jude School for Girls, (a school for girls who broke the law of the land), expanding the institution and the minds and hearts of the young women as they learnt to discipline themselves by participating in holistic human development through music, including Parang,  and the formation of a new steel band.

The Girls’ Industrial School produced the first female steel band earlier in its history. Other activities included spirituality and the teaching of life skills through sports, especially  cricket and netball. They were a force to be reckoned with in these games where for many years they won the trophies at the secondary school level. Some attended secondary schools outside the compound.

A few of these young women were able to pursue their degrees and were successful. One was accepted as a national netball player. Most of them became constructive contributors to society becoming nurses, police officers, joining the Regiment, among other worthwhile occupations.

In 1999, two years after her retirement from St Jude School, with the help of Ann Dupont and her hardworking and dedicated team, the Grand Anse Development Centre was reopened.

This Centre is still functioning under the able hands of the members of the Board, Sr Allison Mitchell and her team of teachers and other staff.

The motto of the Centre is ‘Grow where you are planted,’  while the  Mission Statement is: “To prepare the girls holistically to contribute to themselves and society.”

Fr Ambrose Mackinnon SFM, her good friend, once described her as “a capable Sister who has a genuine facility for working with people, young and old, and especially with the underprivileged… she was a skilled listener and thoughtful counsellor.”

Another personal friend, one-time General Secretary of the Caribbean Conference of Churches, Rev Roy Neehall said: “She is a dynamic person with the ability to relate well to the grass roots community.”

Indeed, her life of service to others, especially the underprivileged which is the legacy of the Corpus Christi Carmelites, reminds of the comforting words of Jesus where He identifies Himself with those in need, “I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!”

Of course, Sr Dominic was not a saint, for many of us have varied unforgettable experiences of her.  However, few of us could stay vexed with her for too long. Her kindness, bravery, thoughtfulness, and love often won us back.

Her tongue remained sharp, but her illness in her later years mellowed her, and yes, often, there were genuine tears in her eyes when she became aware of what was happening to her, amidst her confusion and memory loss.

Through it all Sister’s love shone through to the point where we can say:  ‘God has visited us, His people, through Sr Dominic.’

We thank God for her life and the many gifts and talents with which He endowed her.