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Fostering faith and community connection through Catholic service

By Kaelanne Jordan

Damian Nandoo asserts he’s lived the life of a dedicated “weekend churchgoer”.

“Up till now in my mid-thirties, if I do have to go somewhere, either I catch the Mass before or get the timing for Mass in whatever part of Trinidad and attend that weekend,” Nandoo told The Catholic News.

Nandoo, a parishioner of St Therese RC, Rio Claro, shared growing up in a mixed religious family, there were different views on how holidays or the weekend should be spent. His mother, Catherine Nandoo grew up Hindu and converted to Catholicism at age 10. Other relatives are of Presbyterian and Pentecostal faiths.

“But my mom always instilled in us that Church is more important than liming… it could come afterwards.”

Nandoo confessed his spiritual life or interest in being involved in Church started in First Communion classes. “I always admire seeing altar servers serving in their gowns or the priest proclaiming the Word of God,” he said.

This led him to join the altar server’s ministry in 2000, during which he spent 16 years growing within the group and the Archdiocese of Port of Spain Altar Servers’ Council (TTAC).

Nandoo served at Mass “on numerous weekends” and was once head altar server and adviser to the group. He even assisted the South Regional Coordinator in organising sports day and training throughout the vicariate. At one point, he even contemplated the possibility of becoming a priest.

In 2016, Nandoo embarked on a new chapter in his life when he attended the CHOICE 78th weekend. A Choice retreat weekend gives young people a much-needed chance for personal introspection and development. Today, he remains an active member of their coordination team, serving as a weekend coordinator.

Answering the Call during Covid

Nandoo spoke of the impact of Covid-19 and not being able to attend Mass and receive the Liturgy of the Word and Eucharist. On March 15, 2020, 65 of the 100 The Catholic News remained in the St Therese RC Church.

“Thinking to myself what I could do about it, I saw Fr Robert Christo riding a bicycle sharing The Catholic News. It hit me; you can do this as your stewardship i.e., using my Time to do home delivery [on Wednesdays and Thursdays], Talent as a motor vehicle driver and my Treasure of giving a free service not only to my parish, but to New Grant and Mayaro as well.”

His deliveries started in the outer communities of Santa Rita, Dades, Navet, Cushe, Ecclesville and Poole. “Then the household in the area was added making the total presently up to 95 out of the 100 being delivered by me.” The remainder is sold in church.

It didn’t stop there. Nandoo took up the position of the PRO Assistant where he shares the inside view of the papers each week. “Which reminds me, today is Tuesday and we usually get front cover of the paper by now which I use along with upcoming harvest, feast etc. to share.”

Nandoo posts most of the paper’s journey, whether it’s scenery or landmark of his trip to the parish’s Facebook page. “I’m not the only one on my trip, I take my mom, girlfriend, family, friends and even passengers,” he said.

“I sell for the parish too, whether it’s Bible, or hymn book, Good Friday and Holy Week books, while I do papers,” he said.

Nandoo added, “To my amazement on Sunday October 1, when our parish celebrated our Feast Day and harvest, I would’ve never believed that members of The Catholic News would grace us with their presence to experience what we have to offer. [I] thank them for that.”

A landmark of faith

St Therese RC, Rio Claro, is renowned for its iconic pink church, serving as a landmark for travellers heading to Mayaro and Rio Claro. According to Nandoo, the temple across the road also becomes a reference point for devotees.

What makes it special to him is that parishioners adopted the St Therese prayer, a unifying prayer that involves the entire community, emphasising the Church’s role in fostering togetherness.