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Farewell to seminarian ‘Father Michael’

Seminarian Michael Maillard, 35, died on Tuesday, April 23 at the San Fernando General Hospital. He was from the parish of St Paul’s, Couva where his Funeral Mass was celebrated on Monday, April 29. His mother Michelle Armstrong-Maillard delivered the eulogy.

Michael Alister Emanuel Maillard was born on Easter Monday March 27, 1989. At that time, he had six nurses and a doctor excitedly awaiting his birth. So, you see, even at birth, he had a line of people waiting to see him.

He attended Miss Marsha’s Kiddy Care pre-school, then Exchange Roman Catholic Primary School, Couva Junior Secondary School, Carapichaima Senior Comprehensive and Claxton Bay Senior Comprehensive. He continued his development at NESC (National Energy Skills Center) and COSTAATT (College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago).

Michael was always a very focused and determined person. His calm and unassuming demeanour belied his many achievements. Many are unaware that he possessed motorcycle, wheel tractor, light motor vehicles, and heavy motor vehicle licences, and was pursuing the extra heavy licence.

All this was achieved through his own volition and from his personal savings. Michael was not a miser, but he possessed prudent financial management skills. In other words, he never spent a bad cent.

Michael had a big heart and was very jovial and caring. He was loved, admired, and trusted by workmates and customers alike when he worked at Massy Stores and Massy Gas Industries.

Through it all, he sought to do good and bring people to know Jesus. He always loved the Lord and served Him through his interaction with people. He was actually working on getting his omnibus licence so that he could assist people in getting to church and prayer meetings.

At home, Michael was very caring and loving. He loved all of us dearly, his father, his brother and me. He always brought home things to share and would spend lots of time interacting with us at every opportunity. He loved popcorn and late at night, he would pop a very large pot and proceed to share it with us.

Interestingly too, he also embraced the homeless through sharing foodstuff with them. At times, we only found out when they came calling to thank ‘Mr Michael’. He had developed a bond with them and very often they would pass simply to check on him, not for handouts but to get a kind word from him.

Michael’s pathway to saying ‘yes’ to the priesthood started even while he was in my womb.

When I found out that I was pregnant with Michael, I was working at the Maternity Department of the Port of Spain General Hospital. At that time, Fr Michael de Verteuil was the Hospital Chaplain and while he prayed for me to have an uneventful pregnancy, he also prayed that a vocation may come from the pregnancy.

From the time he was four months of age, he was at prayer meetings with the nuns at Holy Faith Convent, Couva. The meetings were held in the prayer room, and he used to be on his comforter in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Later on, from age nine, he accompanied me and his brother Mark on house-to-house Christian community meetings, which were designed to build home cells to foster family prayer among neighbours.

So, coming out of that activity, every Saturday morning, our family gathered together with whoever happened to be in the house at the time. The readings for the weekend Mass were read and followed with teaching of the Word. The sessions ended with us praying the Holy Rosary.

There was a natural progression, post Confirmation, for him to volunteer to become an altar server. He took it very seriously as he said that he was in the Sanctuary. Even back then people started to call him “Father Michael”.

He encouraged other young people to become altar servers as well. He was actively involved in the cadets and Youth Ministry and encouraged all to be active in the parish while working on their careers and to keep God as the centre of their lives even while pursuing those goals. Michael led by example in that regard.

During the period of his employment at Massy Gas Industries, he would minister to workmates as well as customers and other persons he encountered while making deliveries of medical oxygen and industrial gases to hospitals and private homes. He did the same when he made deliveries to Guayaguayare and Point Fortin for distribution to oil rigs.

It was only natural that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he was led to the aspirancy programme in St Joseph and joining the Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs at Mt St Benedict.

So powerful was his conviction to begin his journey to priesthood that he turned down several jobs for which his confirmation came at the same time as his final decision.

He thoroughly enjoyed his time in the Seminary and got involved in the life there. He loved participating in the growing of crops and the rearing of chickens and rabbits, which were used for the nourishment of the residents of the Seminary and the generation of funds to help run the institution.

He studied hard in order to improve his knowledge of his faith and to become closer to Jesus Christ. He purchased his own books from the monies he had saved to help him achieve that goal.

His fellow seminarians have said that he was their pillar of strength throughout his stay with them and even more so during the last few years of his health challenges.

When he had his break of one Sunday per month, he made it his business to attend Mass at St Paul’s and sister communities and to interact with the priest and parishioners.

On those occasions, there were always long lines of people waiting to meet and greet him. He always made time in his customary patient and pleasant manner to chat with everyone who waited to meet him.

After his two years of struggle, he finally chose to be with the Lord during the period of the Resurrection. You all will notice that Michael came to us during the period of Easter and returned to God during Easter time as well.

Michael loved everyone individually and that outpouring of love, which has come back from all of you, has helped to keep us standing strong.

We believe that God in welcoming him to His heavenly home is saying to him, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”