Abbot Pereira told Catholic News that in the middle of April 2021, he was approached by Ruth Albornoz, a Venezuela- born Catholic who has been living in Trinidad for several years with her family. They have been organising Masses in the Spanish Language for Latino residents in Trinidad for some time now. Albornoz is also a language teacher employed with the University of Trinidad and Tobago.
According to Abbot Pereira, “an agreement was arrived at” to have a Spanish Mass at the Mount Sunday, May 2, 2021.
Unfortunately, the Office of the Prime Minister issued an advisory that all places of worship were to be closed from Friday, April 30, 2021, until at least Sunday, May 23, 2021. This decision was taken by the Government to curtail the growing number of Covid-19 cases in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Immediately a notice was circulated among the Latinos advising them that it was no longer possible to celebrate the Mass due to the advisory. Since that time, our government has been monitoring the spread of the Covid-19 virus and various restrictions had been imposed from time to time. Now that sectors of the nation have been opening once again, it was seen fit to celebrate the Mass at this time,” Abbot Pereira said.
This Spanish Mass on Sunday is not the first at the Mount. The Mount has had a visiting priest from Venezuela, Fr Eduardo Pereira, who had celebrated Masses in Spanish on previous occasions.
On Thursday, August 18, 2022, Abbot Pereira celebrated Mass in Spanish for the Association of JCI Senators of the Americas and the Caribbean (ASAC) at the Abbey Church. The JCI Senators from across the Americas were hosted by our Trinidad and Tobago Jaycees Senators. They were taking part in the 12th Annual Encounter at the HYATT Regency Trinidad as part of their 20 years of existence.
The theme was Friendship, Tourism and Business. The participants had made a special request to visit the Mount and to celebrate Mass in Spanish as part of their visit.
Questioned on the frequency of the Spanish Masses, Abbot Pereira explained Sunday’s Mass is “a test case.” “…and we will consider doing this on a more regular case…we have no idea what to expect,” he said.
He opined that some Latinos were not being “properly serviced” by the local Catholic Church. Because of this, some have abandoned their faith, Abbot Pereira said. “…. when they [Latinos] come to Trinidad they come as Catholics and then they drift…. into churches that are more aggressive to win their souls. We Catholics have been backward in having a spiritual ministry than can be more consistent. Although we have invited the Latinos, we are not sure if they will come…. our expectation is pretty much sober at this point,” the Abbot said.
Concelebrating priest Fr Paez is a 32-year-old Venezuelan priest who was invited by Abbot Pereira to spend some time at the Abbey. The purpose of his visit is to support the Abbey in its pastoral ministry during the absence of Abbot Pereira who will be in Rome to attend the General Chapter of the Benedictine Congregation of Our Lady of the Annunciation.
Fr Paez is from the Archdiocese of Valencia in Venezuela and is familiar with the Benedictine monks in Venezuela. He is attached to the Seminary Nuestra Senora del Socorro in San Diego, Valencia.
By Kaelanne Jordan