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Carmelite ‘giant’ honoured

By Lara Pickford-Gordon, snrwriter.camsel@catholictt.org

Corpus Christi Carmelite Sister Petronilla Joseph is a “giant” for championing the ideals of the Carmelite congregation and managing the Corpus Christi College. She became the “least to ensure the young entrusted to her care was the greatest”, said Archbishop Emeritus Robert Rivas OP on Friday, October 6 at the St John the Evangelist Church, Diego Martin.

The staff and students of the Corpus Christi College of Occupational Education and Training, alumni, past teachers, family, friends and well-wishers gathered for Mass to give thanks to Sr Petronilla on her retirement after 53 years of dedicated service.

Archbishop Rivas was the main celebrant along with concelebrants Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju and Fr Mikkel Trestrail. Deacons Michael Smith, Peter Timothy and Nigel Thomas assisted.

Describing the occasion as a “Carmelite moment” and “a Church moment”, he said, “her Carmelite vocation has not been devoid of humour and the ability to enjoy the lighter side of life.” Archbishop Rivas commented that her humour had to be included in his reflection because she “does not make only God laugh, she has made me laugh many times”.

He said the congregation was present for a woman who has brought delight to the Church and who delights God “because of the conversations she has with her God she is able to make Him laugh and He is tickled by her and He gets out of her all He wants because she is His daughter. She knows it and He knows it.”

Archbishop Rivas said the word “listen” was mentioned repeatedly in the readings of the day: Baruch 1:15–22, and Luke 10:13–16. Listening is powerful and “it is everything”; parents cannot raise children without listening and parish priests cannot lead by making all decisions and not listening. When people fail to listen, they fail each other. Listening was important in Church synodality.

Alluding to Sr Petronilla’s service as principal and Carmelite Prioress General, he said: “you cannot manage a school as a leader, principal, if you don’t know how to listen, even when there is no sound. And you cannot lead a congregation of women, if you don’t listen to the women you lead.”

Archbishop Rivas spoke of the beauty of consecrated life stating, “The consecrated person may be materially poor but spiritually rich and that is why the consecrated life is a life of generosity, self-emptying, giving and loving service.”

As a consecrated woman, Sr Petronilla has reached retirement with many accomplishments which can “put her head in the sky” but she has a deeper sense of fulfilment which came from loving service and faithful love.

Archbishop Rivas appealed for vocations to the priesthood and religious, urging parents to give their sons and daughters a chance to listen to what God is calling them to be. He urged the students present to hear the call to consecrate their lives to God because the Church needs women and men to witness to the gospel by a radical way of life.

Archbishop Rivas asked the congregation to imagine what would have happened to the Church in Trinidad and Tobago, if “mama and papa Joseph”, referring to Sr Petronilla’s parents, had held on to their daughter. He answered: “We would not have known the rich experience of her life that is totally given over to others in loving service.”

Following the liturgy, Fr Sirju read a message from Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon, and Archbishop Rivas presented a gift to her. Sr Petronilla, accompanied by recently appointed Principal of Corpus Christi College, Sr Sarah Waterman O Carm walked from the church through a student guard of honour to the school for a programme of entertainment and tributes.