“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” – James 4:8.
Our relationship with God strengthens as we make a commitment each day to put Him first, and 82-year-old Lourdes Birmingham has surrendered to that call, devoting her life to Christ and her church community of St Martin de Porres RC in Gonzales, Port of Spain.
Birmingham, who has been married for what she describes as 63 blissful years, believes her close connection to the church started from birth, when she was named after Our Lady of Lourdes.
A mother of six, with 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, Birmingham said her relationship with St Martin de Porres began when the church was first established in 1951.
Birmingham recalled: “As a child, my grandmother always kept me close to my faith by reciting the rosary, praying with me, and taking me to church with her regularly. Through this, my love for Christ grew which drives my devotion.”
“I started off as just a member of the church. But, in the later years, I was offered the opportunity to serve communion through Fr Hand and Fr McMahon. There was no one else to help that day so I was asked to step in even though I was not ordained as a communion minister,” Birmingham said.
She added: “A few years later, Fr Carlyle Guiseppi sent me to begin the journey of becoming a lay minister. I have since offered my service in all ministries at St Martin de Porres RC.”
Birmingham, however, has had to decrease her role at the church significantly, after she suffered an injury earlier this year, which affected her mobility.
According to Birmingham, St Martin de Porres started off as a fairly large parish, however, the attendance has since decreased significantly, and she believes the main attribute to be the crime situation in the community.
However, she has hopes of its regaining traction, as there are some young people offering their service to the parish. She said: “I do see their potential in taking up the mantle in years to come.”
“There is room for improvement within the Catholic Church overall and once these improvements are made, even more young people may come into the parish.”
The church recently completed its novena, which began on October 25, 2022. It was initially set to end on November 2, however, in observance of All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day, they ended their novena on November 6.
“It was done with some days having morning prayers and other days having evening prayers. It was fairly well attended, with the morning sessions having a larger crowd,” revealed Birmingham.
“For those who have never participated in a novena – it is essentially nine days of prayer, asking God for specific intention as we ask for intercession through a saint or the Virgin Mary. We celebrate the patron saint of the church, and we end on the ninth day with a Mass and a sharing.”
Having devoted her life to St Martin de Porres and her community of Gonzales, Birmingham said her main hope right now is that more youth turn to the Church and join the various ministries of the parish.