Interview with our youthful The Millennial Mind columnist and writer, Daniel Francis
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I went to Holy Name Prep. I met Fr Gregory (Augustine CSSp), loved the man. He introduced me to Fatima, so you know I had to go to Fatima College. I knew I wanted to study abroad after I finished CAPE. I took a year off, did my SATs, and went Loyola University, a Jesuit university.
It was the first time I experienced Jesuits and it was amazing. For those who don’t know, they have to do Master’s over a decade before they become priests. They are very big into discussions, so I would have learned a lot about the Church, feminism, gender…literally everything. They really steep you into it.
My degree was in Biology. I did Biology pre-med, and a minor in Latin American Studies just because I wanted to do classes in Philosophy and other things. I was actually going to be a doctor.
I came back to Trinidad and had a problem actually committing to starting Med school, and I realised it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. It was a tough two years for me because I was working in the bank. I have a Science background, and I had no idea what I was going to do with it. That led me into leadership development. My parents encouraged me, they saw that I was lost. They had me do a programme and that was really the start for me with my business.
They had little things they would make me read, Rich Dad, Poor Dad and they are very heavily into the faith. I grew up in prayer meetings, so families in those prayer meetings… I grew up with them.
When we moved, we did the same thing in Santa Cruz, those families are like brothers and sisters to me. I guess you just grow up with a responsibility towards something in the sphere of Church.
Q: Tell me more about your Jesuit experience as a young man and the exposure to them. What did it bring you?
I was 19 and not what I was expecting. We have this idea of what we expect priests to be like. They shattered that for me because I always felt there were some topics you don’t talk about. They jumped right in. They really want to get people’s perspective on it.
Because they are so learned, of course they have their intellectual understanding, and they are always open to teaching people. If I remember correctly, they would have had the Jesuits who were training, during classes, but they were still interacting with students, doing whatever fellowship they had to do with the priests.
They were just always ready to talk about anything and they really gave me this perspective. They really started my shift into asking questions and having an understanding of things and challenging things.
I would never forget there was this guy from church who talked about everybody going through their own spiritual journey, where you question things, ask the questions and you really see what it is you want from your faith, and you walk that journey until you get to whatever you decide is for you.
They would have helped me through that a lot by understanding that I don’t have to shy away from things, I don’t have to feel like I am stuck in this box.
Q: What are the particular joys that Catholicism brings for you as a young man?
For me, it’s such a compass, just part of my DNA that I can’t be any other way. I think I only realised this when I got into certain business spaces where people just expect to cut corners and I have a real problem with that.
I very much like to do things by rules, which is odd for some people. I know what I believe in, I know what my moral is, I am not going to let anyone tell me that I am less because I decide to follow the rules.
It is only going through those experiences I realised it came from being so steeped in the Catholic Church. It bleeds over into everything you do. I know people have this weird transition where they have to decide if this is what they want to stick with or go with everything else, but that part is really how you handle peer pressure.
After Confirmation, they kept us heavily involved in the church, off the bat. I did Confirmation at Holy Cross. Immediately after that we formed the youth group, we would have been given activities, every Friday we had youth group meeting. They kept us active; they kept us in the faith.
We would have to sign up to do things: clean the church, take part in harvest, fundraising…kinda forcing them to do things but you must keep them active, feel like part of the Church. I felt like part of the Church.
In college, however, even though it was Catholic, that was difficult. It was a major part of my decline away from the Church and having to build my way back up.
It started small but it escalated. Even though there are all these classes, and all the amenities to go to church, it was so easy to miss…. “I should be doing work…”, justifying so much, I miss [Mass], I miss, I miss, I blink, and I haven’t gone to church in half a year!
Two years down, and I’m only going to church when I’m back in Trinidad. It was bad.
When I came back to Trinidad, I was like, I need to refocus. It was an important part of life, it is less so, and I feel the difference internally. A piece of me was now missing. For me, I have to be active in the space. The less active you are, the further away you are from God, for me.
Q: Why do you think in many congregations there are more women than men?
I was thinking about this the other day. I don’t want to say that men just wutless, but I think we just like excitement and fun, and a lot of that is not tied to God. So, you’re getting into that behaviour and, you know, we would go to parties, but we would always find our butts in church the next morning.
As you get older you have more control, you go to events and be, “I don’t want to go to church this morning.” Once you don’t have that pressure of your parents telling you to do it…
I always see all these female-run groups that focus on the Church, I don’t see as many male groups like that. It is almost cultural that the women go to church and take it as a responsibility, and somehow that culture and that responsibility have not been passed on to men.
With my dad, my parents, it was always like a team with them, you never saw one without the other. My dad thought he was going to be a priest so maybe that helped him a lot. He had this innate responsibility that he had to be there: “I have to help; I have to experience my faith in this way.”
I saw that growing up and I took on that experience and responsibility onto myself. That’s possibly what is missing with other men.
Q: How does your faith tie into the professional path that you have taken?
I remember the Life in the Spirit (seminar), I thought I didn’t get a gift. It’s only when I started being a Life Coach, I don’t know, I just see people. When I couldn’t commit to medical school, my parents were way too giddy introducing me to some of their programmes…they were waiting for me! They would have introduced me to human development, and it blew my mind. It changed my life. The first thing I learned about was purpose. It showed me that I was all about facilitating people’s greatness. I felt like one of my gifts was really seeing people, seeing them for who they are, and understanding what they are going through.
My strength is empathy. I would have learned about personal development, I got into that; I got into events, so I can help people plan events; I wrote the book, and you realise the avenue the book can take you.
I started writing for The Catholic News; I started writing scripts for certain things; you get practice doing videos; you can do speeches and talk to people in a way that helps them, that guides them, moves them forward.
The connection between all of these is getting someone from where they are now to higher. My faith helped a lot because I got this understanding of seeing people for who they are, being able to put myself in their shoes.
And now as well, I cut off everything that feels wrong: any person, and business.