It’s a rare and precious occasion when, in our Catholic parishes dotted throughout the country, we glimpse living examples of Christ’s love for His Church popping up every now and then through the witness of a very long and fruitful marriage. Such was the celebration at 7 a.m. Mass at the St Anthony’s Parish in Petit Valley on Sunday, September 3, 2023, when an entire congregation paid tribute to the 60th anniversary of Frank and Gertrude Cooper, octogenarians, and weekly faithful attendees at the Holy Sacrifice.
Fr Christopher Lumsden, parish priest, made it a point to call this senior couple to the altar, not only for the regular blessing of those celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, but to present them with special gifts as well.
The extended blessing of this long union just before the end of Mass came as a surprise to many worshippers. The Coopers say even their children are surprised!
Frank and Gertrude’s rich history began in Holy Matrimony on September 1, 1963, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Laventille.
Gertrude grew up in Picton Road and Frank in Clifton Hill near St Paul Street. Frank grew up near the St Martin’s Welfare Association on Piccadilly Street where he eventually did charity work. But he also has public service experience, at the Ministry of Works, as an accountant at White Hall and in the Auditor General’s Department at the Treasury.
Gertrude was trained as a student nurse at Port of Spain General Hospital and retired as a nursing supervisor – truly a labour of love for the Lord.
So how did this life of seasoned togetherness survive the storms of life? Frank is one of nine siblings, so life was tough with many mouths to feed, yet his parents ensured their children were well evangelised.
He was a lay minister at the Cathedral for several years and, simultaneously, an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, a catechist, as well as actively involved in Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Confirmation and infant Baptism at St Anthony’s.
Gertrude’s father died when she was only 12 years old, so her mother had a formidable challenge raising four children. But at the heart of their marriage is the rock of their Catholic faith.
They also live by the country’s motto of Discipline, Production, Tolerance. For Gertrude, tolerance has so much to do with tempering the tongue.
She advises: “If you know from the beginning what you can tolerate, then you can take the plunge.” Frank admits: “I’m sometimes undisciplined, but it’s Gertrude’s tolerance that sees us through. So, we fulfilled the motto, especially production, and produced three wonderful children (laughter) —Anthony, Joanne, and Gerard.”
As a member of the Third Order Carmelites, Frank’s simple advice for longevity in marriage is that we ought to ask our Holy Mother for guidance to follow the Light of Christ and love God in all things.
After Fr Lumsden’s blessing of Frank and Gertrude Cooper, St Anthony’s church had an after-glow of deep gratitude. Here’s wishing them the very best for the future!
—Mark Andre Augustus