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St Lucia Church celebrates its new archbishop

– Metropolitan Archbishop Gabriel Malzaire installed

By Kaelanne Jordan

In a poignant display of authority to his successor, Archbishop Emeritus Robert Rivas OP removed and conferred his pallium and handed over the pastoral staff/crozier to the new Metropolitan Archbishop of Castries, Gabriel Malzaire as he officially took possession of his homeland Sunday, April 24, Divine Mercy Sunday.

“I have worn this pallium for the past 14 and a half years and the next time I will wear it will be when I die. It’s not easy,” Archbishop Rivas said during Archbishop Malzaire’s installation at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Castries.

In delivering the homily, Archbishop Malzaire quipped that that Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, is the “most fitting” day to be installed as archbishop.

This, Archbishop Malzaire underscored, was significant because it set the tone for the kind of archdiocese he envisions in this new dispensation, one in need of authentic manifestation of divine mercy through mission.

He outlined that as the Archdiocese’s fifth archbishop, the number of episcopal leaders over the last 66 years of its history as an ecclesial entity tells that, “We are not starting from scratch. Thankfully, my predecessors have worked long and hard to bring this local Church to where it is presently,” the Archbishop said to applause.

He commented, “However, I am certain that there are those who are asking ‘what is this new archbishop going to bring to this Archdiocese at this time in history?’. Now, I think that is a fair question. However, for me, there is a simple answer and there’s a more complex one.”

The simple answer, Archbishop Malzaire explained, is that he will bring, with the help of Jesus, the gifts He has bestowed on him.

Commenting on the ongoing Synod process, Archbishop Malzaire said that the listening process is even more important for him now as he begin his ministry in the Castries archdiocese.

Within his almost 37 years of ordained ministry, Archbishop Malzaire has only worked in St Lucia for six years. “It means that I cannot presume to know all the ins and outs of the Archdiocese. I’m almost foreign. But I have been doing my listening,” he said.

He mentioned, a few weeks ago, shortly after the announcement of his appointment, he spent a few days in his hometown of Mon Repos, meeting and listening to the various groups.

A month ago, he made a retreat in the town of Assisi, Italy in preparation to assume the responsibility. It is the town where 800 years ago the Lord spoke to St Francis from the cross saying ‘Francis go repair my house which as you see has fallen into ruins’.

At first, St Francis took the word literally and he proceeded to build a small chapel which is still present in the bigger Basilica of St Mary of Angels, Italy. Later, St Francis understood that God’s call was for something greater, so eventually he built God’s church by means of new proclamation of the gospel by embracing a life of absolute poverty. By the end of his life, at the age 44, there were more than 15,000 friars minor of all nationalities as his followers.

“It is an indication of what God can do with someone who is properly disposed. Therefore, inspired by this, I see my purpose in this archdiocese as one of initiating the process of a new evangelisation. This constitutes the more complex answer to your hidden question. Now this is not novel, nevertheless it is bold,” the Archbishop said.

He opined that the time has come to engage in that process more deeply with its very emphasis on communion, participation, and mission.


Work to be done

Archbishop Malzaire outlined his key areas of pastoral emphasis for his 10-year office. Among them include clergy, whom he described as his main collaborators, special attention to family life, youth and vocation, catechists and Christian/Catholic education, care for the poor and elderly.

Archbishop Malzaire added archdiocesan and parish finances will be given special attention, to which the congregation applauded.

“You know they say that money makes the mayfly fly, and this is true even in the Church,” he said.

After communion, the Archbishop shared that 19 and a half years ago at his episcopal ordination, he sang a song which corresponds with his motto from Phil 3: 8-10. “So tonight, on my installation as Archbishop of Castries, I want to reiterate this desire, promise and quest to make Jesus the only person in my life,” he said, as he sang, ‘All I want is to know Jesus Christ’.

During the four-hour long ceremony, various presentations and gifts were presented to the newly installed Archbishop.

In giving remarks, Vice President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC), Archbishop Jason Gordon began, “…your people have longed for a son of a soil to lead them,” to applause from the packed congregation.

“They have yearned for your return and here you are. They saw you in short pants growing up before their eyes and now you return to be their father, their shepherd, their brother, accompanying them to Jesus Christ.

Be a good shepherd to your flock, tend to the weak, strengthen the weary, feed the sheep and work diligently to keep the unity of the fold,” he beseeched his brother archbishop.

He reminded the Archbishop that his task is a work of unity, love, sacrifice, and a giving of oneself. “It will call forth sacrifice, great commitment and a deep interiority and reliance upon God. This mandate and mission that he [Archbishop Malzaire] set before the Church is a bold and brave mandate. It’s a courageous mandate but it’s a vision that will bring the Church of Castries into new terrain and into deep places.”

He continued, “You come to your people with many years’ experience as a bishop and yet you face a very new pastoral context. But you come with a pastor’s heart. A heart that listens deeply to his people, listens to the joys, hopes, fears, the anxieties, listens to their pains and frustrations, listens to their existential itch where they are searching for that which is unnameable, the connection with the divine and the true relationship with God. Archbishop Gabriel, one of your hallmarks is humility, your willingness to be vulnerable and open to all that is new and unexpected, you are well suited and prepared to lead this church in this context,” Archbishop Gordon said to applause.

Also giving remarks, outgoing Archbishop Rivas, in song, told the newly installed Archbishop “Today you have put Mon Repos on the map and Mon Repos is proud of you.”

“My dear Gabriel, you will know you are shepherding this Church here in St Lucia when you begin to smell like the sheep. … Thank you for your ‘yes’…” Archbishop Emeritus Rivas said.

At the end of the Mass, Archbishop Malzaire announced Msgr Michel Francis will serve as Vicar General of the Archdiocese. He said other appointments will be announced later.

Archbishop Malzaire shared that he plans to visit all 22 parishes in the archdiocese by the beginning of July. His visits commenced with a 5 p.m. thanksgiving Mass at the Mon Repos parish Monday 25.

Present at the installation Mass were other AEC bishops, clergy, dignitaries and a 50-member contingent from Dominica.

Archbishop Malzaire gave special thanks to Cardinal Kelvin Felix, whom he described as his spiritual father. Cardinal Felix ordained Archbishop Malzaire as a deacon, priest, and bishop.

“You can imagine how I feel that he is present for my installation as Bishop of Castries. I thank him for his faith and trust in me over the 41 years of me knowing him,” the Archbishop said.

Archbishop Malzaire, then Bishop of Roseau, Dominica, was appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Castries Friday, February 11. He remains the diocese’s Apostolic Administrator until a new Bishop of Roseau is named.