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Synod and hospitality

By Janine Aqui

Synod has been swirling around in our Catholic Church since 2021. Appreciated or not, it is a vitally important collaboration that Pope Francis deems necessary for the Church to move forward.

Our Church in Trinidad and Tobago, like the rest of the world, is not perfect. Interestingly, our Synod discussions have raised issues quite similar to other continents. Perhaps the most anticipated segment of Synod is the plan of action to actually address these issues. This work will surely be disconcerting for some and welcoming for others.

It takes purposeful resolve and moxie, to run against the grain of wrongdoing and evil. When doing the right thing is overlooked for selfishness and vainglory, it is time to speak up and fight the good fight.

The wrongdoers will continue doing what is wrong because nobody has the temerity to call them out; nobody has the fortitude to confront them; and nobody wants to rock the boat.

That being said, it is far too lazy to swim with the school of fish heading downstream to the wide, open mouth of sharks. ‘Run with the tide’; ‘Put up and shut up’; and ‘Don’t make a scene’ are misplaced admonitions so readily voiced by unadulterated cowardice.

Things will not get better unless the wrongs are made right. One person’s voice may not change the world, but it will surely keep that person’s conscience clear that at least an effort was made. Silence to wrongdoing is shameful assent.

Only very insecure and dysfunctional minds make matters difficult for others when it ought to be a straightforward, easy, and quick process. Little do they realise that their misdeeds heap damnation upon their own heads.

They may feel momentary satisfaction with such sinister behaviour, but an empty soul which is already plunged in darkness will never be quenched by more darkness.

Doing good for others is not a question of ‘Why should I?’, but rather, ‘How could I be of service?’. In my experience, I have endured poor service from the very same Church to which I belong.

This is the reality, and this vulgarity is deeply embedded in the psyche of a few ‘rotten apples’, who seem to gain a perverted joy knowing that they could make things difficult and awful for others. How sad and depraved is this? Will the Synod address this in any meaningful manner?

Allow me to share a few of my personal experiences. Several months ago, I attended a weeklong series of Masses in a Port of Spain church. On the last day, I remembered that it was my godson’s birthday, and some elderly relatives were facing serious health issues.

Before Mass, I apologised to the person in charge for being late with my request for Mass Intentions. After submitting the names, I was told that I HAVE TO pay $20 per request. Fortunately, I had sufficient cash to settle my ‘Mass Intentions Bill’.

And recently, I made an advance request for some documents stamped and signed by a Catholic Church office. These essential documents were required for me to present to an important appointment with a government office. Despite the advance request, I was advised that the person who handles this is not at work, and it is unknown when I could get these documents. These are just a few of the slightly lesser offensive incidents experienced in our Catholic Church.

Jesus has asked us to ‘feed His lambs’, and to care for all people. We have ego-bloated Catholics within our Church who behave like the Pharisee in the temple, believing that their perceived superiority justifies their contempt for underlings and abysmal treatment of others.

Their style is to create ruction and disharmony, then boastfully proclaim that only they could fix it. This haughtiness and arrogant attitude are  hideous stains, the antithesis of humility and grace, and definitely not the face of Jesus.

Will Synod alleviate this scourge that perpetuates in our Catholic Church?


Be hospitable

Perhaps the Church could learn several lessons from the Hospitality Industry. In this industry, we work in service to others, we aim to anticipate and exceed expectations, and serve because we consider ourselves ladies and gentlemen who serve ladies and gentlemen, deserving of only the best.

Does the Catholic Church consider this to be the benchmark of hospitality? Does the Church sincerely desire to be hospitable, or is the preference to behave like swamp crabs in a barrel?

Hard questions for serious thought.

In the Hospitality Industry, all staff are expected to be hospitable, back of house, front line, and especially management who lead by example, who walk the talk.

Hospitality is first extended to internal customers – fellow colleagues, and external customers – suppliers, contractors, customers, and potential customers. Like our Catholic Church, the hospitality industry is not perfect, but serious and successful leaders in this industry work hard every single day to ensure there is harmony in the workplace, and they coach all staff to ‘eat, sleep, breathe’ hospitality. This industry is a noble one because selflessness is the main, consistent order of the day.

I for one, look forward to the day when our Catholic Church would understand hospitality and be hospitable. It is hoped that Synod will make a difference with how Catholics are treated within our Church.

When we get our own house in order maybe then we could get our communities in order and make our tent larger to welcome all.