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A “double blessing” for the Holy Faith Sisters

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

It was a “double blessing” as the Congregation of the Holy Faith Sisters (CHF) celebrated God’s grace and favour, 75 years of mission in Trinidad and Tobago and Sr Pauline Trim making her Final Profession.

Archbishop Jason Gordon, main celebrant at the Mass at St Theresa’s RC Church, Woodbrook paid tribute to the many contributions of the Sisters in the Archdiocese: “We thank you for the 75 years of ministry and I pray that the journey now start, I pray that somebody will be here to celebrate the 150th and on and on.” Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju, Abbot John Pereira OSB and Fr Carlyle Guiseppi CSSp concelebrated; Deacon Patrick Laurence assisted.

Archbishop Gordon’s homily focused on the day’s readings, First Reading, 2 Maccabees 7:1–2, 9–14 and the Gospel of Luke 20:27–38. He underscored the importance of sacrifice in the life of the Christian and the work required to get to Heaven. He said Sr Pauline was sacrificing “a life in the world and all that it brings”, for something “more important” than anything else the world can give.

Archbishop Gordon said he wanted the old-time word “sacrifice” to be part of today. He wished for “every child in our schools, in our parishes to build a culture of sacrifice, that every day they make a sacrifice and every day check up on them on how they are going”. He said children need to be taught that sacrifice is a good thing; it is giving up something good for something better.

Today’s generation has more disposable income and things, yet they are not happy and suffer more ailments including depression. Contrasting this Archbishop Gordon asserted, “True happiness is in the One who has given us all that He has given us, and when we live in His way by making a sacrifice today for what is important tomorrow.”

Alluding to Sr Pauline’s decision, he stated the value of the consecrated life was in giving oneself as a sign and witness to the present generation who have difficulty seeing and grasping God because “consecrated life is a sacrificial life…also a life of great joy for what you receive”.

He added that what is received from God can never be fully comprehended but He “fills us out and grows us up”. The whole purpose of life is to be with God, to be saints, but he told attendees this cannot happen, “unless you are willing to start making sacrifices here and now.” He called sacrifice a “love offering”.

He had words of encouragement. She was following the strong, courageous, and feisty Sisters who pioneered so much in the Archdiocese. He urged her to, “Give Him all you have…don’t worry about what you don’t have…we could never outdo God in generosity…and the more generous you are, the more generous God will be to you and to this Congregation.”

Area Leader for Trinidad, Sr Juliet Rajah CHF read a message from Sr Rosaleen Cunniffe, Congregational Leader. Sr Rosaleen said firsts are always important in a person’s life. “T&T holds a special place in the hearts and minds of Holy Faith Sisters because it is our first venture outside the shores of Ireland and the Congregation was almost 100 years when we made that move.”

The CHF had accepted an invitation by Archbishop Finbar Ryan OP to respond to the expanding educational needs of the time. “He wanted experienced educators for the children and young people of the Archdiocese; education was a passion for our foundress Margaret Aylward.”

Eight Sisters left Ireland in 1947 to travel to Trinidad, it was their first overseas trip. They were happy with the good weather, beauty of the country and vegetation but most of all the warm welcome they received. They delighted in teaching their pupils. Holy Faith Sisters are also in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Sudan.

Sr Rosaleen called the arrival of the first Sisters, a “life-changing event in the life of the Congregation” which brought many blessings, one of the most important being the young Trinidadian women joining the Congregation.

“The Holy Faith Sisters in Trinidad remained true to the spirt of Margaret Aylward, evident in the work which continues in primary and secondary schools, work with young people through the Credo Foundation for Justice, faith development, and catechetical work in the Archdiocese and many other ministries related to faith and justice.”

After years of prayer, reflection and preparation, Sr Pauline made her Final Profession and decision to uphold the constitution of the CHF. “It is a courageous decision in an increasingly secular world,” Sr Rosaleen stated in the message.

It was also a tribute and confirmation of the example she has given over the years forming as a dedicated educator (she is a teacher at St Theresa’s Girls’ RC) in carrying out the heritage and tradition that reached back to Margaret Alyward. “Sr Trim’s commitment is a call to all to renew the commitment to the bringing about God’s kingdom of love, justice and peace.”

She thanked God for all the good that happened over 75 years and for abundant blessings on those who assisted and continue to collaborate with the Sisters. Sr Rosemary Duffy CHF, who is visiting Trinidad brought the good wishes and prayers of the general congregation of the CHF.

In brief remarks to the Catholic News as well-wishers flocked around her, Sr Pauline said, “I would like to thank God for His faithfulness.”

The Mass was attended by students of secondary and primary schools under the CHF: Holy Faith Convent Couva, Holy Faith Convent Penal, and St Monica’s Preparatory, Port of Spain and St Bernadette’s Preparatory, St Ann’s.