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The Catholic News meets Manzanilla’s ‘Harvest Hoppers’

By Kaelanne Jordan

I wasn’t aware of the concept of “harvest hopping”, a term coined by my colleague Tshenelle Bethel-Peters, until we attended the St Therese RC, Rio Claro harvest on Sunday, October 1.

Kaelanne was spotted checking out the ‘Plant Stall’ at Rio Claro RC’s harvest on Oct 1, 2023

There we met some familiar faces such as Kenny Garib, whom I initially met at the 150th anniversary celebration of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Blanchisseuse July 16. Garib is a dedicated parishioner of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

While in Rio Claro, The Catholic News team met five pilgrims from St Paul’s RC, Manzanilla. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this group was part of a larger contingent of 25 pilgrims who engaged in the practice of “harvest hopping”.

“This has been happening for a long time,” began Lucille Baptiste.

A growing tradition

The tradition of harvest hopping, Baptiste explained, began with Irma Connelly, retired principal at North Oropouche RC. Baptiste, however, has been harvest hopping with the group, including her husband Paul, for the past five years. Its members are 60 years and over.

“We rent a maxi. There are three people in charge of getting the maxi. When you go through The Catholic News, we see harvests on a Sunday. We call everybody. Who’s there at Sunday Mass, we tell them one time we going so and so place at what time. We will all agree. Very rare we will find somebody say they not going,” Baptiste told The Catholic News via phone.

She mentioned that harvest hopping is usually planned “weeks” in advance. “We started this journey this year with Mayaro. That was in July. And then Connelly look and see where the next one [is] and she will report to us, and we go with the flow.”

Distance, Baptiste underscored, is not a deterrent. “Before Covid, we went as far as La Brea, Tortuga. Distance does not matter. We leave Manzanilla at a certain time according to the distance.”

Questioned if the group has visited all the parishes within the Archdiocese, Baptiste responded, “Not for me, maybe the others.”

So, what excites Baptiste the most about the harvests? Her anticipation centres on exploring new parishes, making new acquaintances, relishing delectable food, and the shared journey. She believes this sentiment is widely shared among the other

members. She couldn’t name one memorable experience as she told The Catholic News all parish harvests are special in their own way.

At the time of the interview, the group was preparing for the St Francis of Assisi, Sangre Grande harvest, on October 8.

The St Paul’s RC, Manzanilla will host its harvest on October 29. Holy Mass begins at 10 a.m. “Save the date…we expect to see you too,” Baptiste told this reporter.

Meanwhile, Connelly, 80, told The Catholic News she’s been harvest hopping since the 1970s. She reminisced when parish priest Fr Stephen Doyle OP was reassigned to the Penal parish and invited her family to join in their harvest celebrations.

“So, we used to go with two cars to go by Fr Doyle…Then we did that for a couple years and when he was transferred to Diego Martin, we started going to Diego Martin for its harvests,” Connelly said.

Fr Doyle returned to Ireland and Fr Johnny Woods OP was appointed parish priest. According to Connelly, Fr Woods played a pivotal role in introducing the parish to the Movement for the Better World of Trinidad and Tobago.

“And he brought people from Gasparillo to introduce Manzanilla to the Better World Movement. Then we started to go harvests in Gasparillo.” That tradition continued until Fr Woods’ passing.

“After we keep looking in The Catholic News where there is another harvest and we started going with a small maxi. And the group started growing and now we have a big maxi.”

Bridging communities

Connelly clarified the group’s primary motivation is to show support to other parishes, with the expectation that they will reciprocate when it’s time for their own harvest celebration.

She went on to recount how the introduction of the St Jude Novena by Fr AJ Fardy OP led to faithful from across the Archdiocese gathering at St Paul’s for Friday recitations, reinforcing the strong bonds of community and support among parishes.

Connelly pointed out that on the same day as the Rio Claro harvest, there were approximately five other concurrent harvests, including those in Maracas, La Romaine, and Erin. However, their parish priest’s guidance was clear: while he appreciated their support at other harvests, the priority was to support Rio Claro, as it belonged to their cluster.

Connelly also shared her personal highlights of the harvest experience, emphasising her enthusiasm for the delicious food, vibrant atmosphere, and camaraderie. Her favourite treats at any harvest include items from the sweet stalls such as fudge, pawpaw balls, benne balls, and khurma.

“It’s according to the make-up of the community. If its East Indian, you get more East Indian dishes. In Rio Claro, I make sure and get my roti and duck to bring home,” she said.

She named her most memorable harvest experience at Tortuga. “The church is a wooden building and as a child, I remember the first church I went to was a little wooden chapel inside Plum Rose. It’s no longer there but it brought back memories,” Connelly said.

Irma Connelly’s role at the popcorn and sno cone stall at the October 29 harvest is anticipated by all. She shared that the guavas used to make the syrup are picked from her Cayenne tree.

“That’s something everyone is looking forward to….I have guava real stack up right now…” Connelly said.