By Kaelanne Jordan
The Blanchisseuse parish is one of the traditional standalone parishes which does not belong to a cluster group except belonging to the Northern Vicariate. The parish comprises five church communities under the respective patrons: Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Blanchisseuse; St Michael’s, Las Cuevas; Our Lady of Fatima, La Fillette; Our Lady of Sorrows, Morne La Croix; and St Joseph the Worker, Brasso Seco, Paria.
Parish priest Fr Kenneth Assing told The Catholic News that over the almost seven years of pastoral service, he has become deeply concerned for the spiritual, religious, moral, and social patrimony which are slowly being left behind in the lives of the present-day youth population.
“Encouragement into clandestine activities have been sending young men to the cemeteries,” he said.
This “very and deeply disturbing pervasive event” has, in 2018, inspired the emergence of a Liturgical Ensemble of 30 Catholics in primary and secondary school. Their instruments include the steel pan, keyboard, guitar, quarto, percussion instruments, drum set, along with voice training for the vocalists.
This ensemble is tutored by Joseph Rivers, better known as Joey. He is the second Managing Director at Calypso Arts Specialists Trinidad and Tobago. Fr Assing clarified the Liturgical Ensemble was inspired by God “and not from what can be termed ‘a good idea’.” It emerged, he emphasised, as an expression of a deep spiritual presence which the children themselves have come to realise.
It is the hope that through this Liturgical Ensemble, the students would themselves encourage a more thoughtful and intentional spiritual presence within and for the respective parish communities in which they reside.
Fr Assing expressed gratitude to the more immediate past pastoral presence of Frs Dwight Merrick, Ross Mac Cauley OP, Tom Williamsen CSSp and Leslie Tang Kai who, both knowingly and unknowingly, were preparing, through their foundational pastoral services, for a new Church presence.
Speaking to The Catholic News at the Our Lady of Mt Carmel’s 150th anniversary celebrations July 16, Rivers said he and his team of liturgical music instructors have been journeying to the north coast parish every Sunday, 2 – 5 p.m. for the last three years.
“It’s something that we pride ourselves with in our advocacy in connecting the institution with industry, the classroom with careers, and so the participants get to see us actually perform and minister and there’s no better way to educate, to influence by demonstrating,” Rivers explained.
He said while the team enjoys the “nice, scenic” drive from Arima, they feel fulfilled seeing the students and their parents in the community, from Morne La Croix to Las Cuevas, appreciate their efforts as well.
Rivers would have met Fr Assing, then parish priest at St Philip and St James RC, Chaguanas while a member of GRACE Music Ministries.
“So coming here to Blanchisseuse, following him around the country, when he shared this vision of wanting to start this youth liturgical music ensemble, I was too eager to come,” Rivers said.
While the pandemic caused a “lull” in practice sessions, Rivers expressed joy having 23 students from the Liturgical Ensemble, ranging from as young as eight years to older teenagers, showcasing their accomplishments at the 150th celebrations.