By Lara Pickford-Gordon
The 150th anniversary celebration of Our Lady of Mt Carmel (OLMC), Blanchisseuse is a wonderful celebration of the life of the Church and its sacraments, Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon said at the Blanchisseuse church last Sunday, July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel.
Rather than having a harvest, the day’s activities centred on the theme Celebrating Our Sacraments of Life. “We have this wonderful experience of the grace of the life of the Church starting with Baptism going into Confirmation, Eucharist, renewing marriage; celebrating grace, experiencing the community because we who are gathered here, we are the Body of Christ,” said Archbishop Gordon while delivering the homily. At the Mass, 24 children made First Communion, nine adults were confirmed, and some couples renewed their vows.
Archbishop Gordon told the congregation Christ is not only present in the sacraments but also when “you and I have been grafted into Christ by Baptism therefore we make up the Body of Christ”.
He promoted the congregation to speak out on Christ’s instruction “in so far as you’ve done for the least of these, you have done it to me”. Archbishop Gordon touched on the sacraments for the day’s event including Anointing of the Sick.
He said marriage is not just a civil contract done in a court but a Sacrament, it is “an outward sign of inward grace”. The outward sign is the two people pledging themselves to be one before God.
The outward sign in Baptism is the pouring of the water; the inward grace is being washed from original sin and the renewal of the soul, “the joining of that person to Christ”.
For Confirmation, the outward sign is the bishop and priests’ laying their hands and the bishop anointing with Holy Chrism and conferring the Holy Spirit.
The Book of James 5:14–15 mentions the elders are to anoint the sick with holy oil. He said the Sacrament of Holy Orders was represented by what he and parish priest Fr Kenneth Assing experienced in priesthood and Deacon Peter Timothy in the Diaconate.
Through the Church’s seven sacraments the community has different ways of encountering Christ and His graces. The most common sacrament is Holy Eucharist, but he questioned if people understood the sacred mystery they were experiencing.
“When the priest calls down the Holy Spirit on that bread and on that wine, he is asking God to transform these into the Body and Blood of His Son Jesus Christ. And that calling down of the Holy Spirit, that transforming…makes that bread and wine that which we can’t believe because it is beyond all our comprehension.”
Archbishop Gordon said the Eucharist is not an optional extra for the Christian life: it is an essential. “Jesus gives us the living bread that comes down from Heaven,” he said.
He appealed to Catholics staying away from the Eucharist for good or bad reason to come back and worship with the community. “It is the highest form of worship…It is here as we break that bread and raise that chalice that we encounter Jesus Christ.”
Citing the Sunday’s Gospel (Mt 13:1–23), he said God puts His seed even when one’s heart is hard, rocky, filled with thorns and bush. “God does not discriminate in His sowing He will sow on the good, the bad and the ugly …but when God’s seed falls on fertile soil, the scripture tells us it yields a harvest 30-fold, 60-fold, 100-fold.”
Many people assembled in the small church, among them Member of Parliament for Arima, Minister of Planning and Development Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, Seventh Day Adventist Pastor Adrian Forbes, and President of the Blanchisseuse Community Council, Sharon Debisette.
In her greetings, Beckles-Robinson asked Archbishop Gordon to pray for the community.
“We know over the last couple months we have had an increase in criminal activity. And when we think of Blanchisseuse, when we think of 150 years ago, it was nothing like we are here seeing today,” she commented.
Referring to the time capsule which will be opened in 2073, she hoped that the community will still be known as peaceful, loving, and beautiful.
She said, “We pray for those who are minded to disturb that peace and love the community has had over the years and ask God that it returns to that peaceful land, loving and beautiful community.”
The celebration of 150 years marked the commitment and sacrifice that went into building the church. Beckles-Robinson stated, “we are gathered here to celebrate the success as witnessed by the 150 years of continuous worship.”
A “time capsule” was prepared on Thursday, July 13 and in which religious books, money notes and coins, church artifacts, a bottle of coconut oil, and The Catholic News of July 16–22 were placed before it was sealed.
After the Mass, Archbishop Gordon and Fr Assing capped it off with a plaque.
Several pilgrims from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception were in attendance. It has been a tradition for about four decades for pilgrims to visit Blanchisseuse on the church’s feast day.
The music ministry for the Mass was provided by CHARISM from St Philip and St James RC, Chaguanas and the OLMC Liturgical Ensemble provided entertainment in the afternoon.