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June 26, 2024
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June 26, 2024

Finding God’s light in darkness

“What we don’t transform, we will transmit to our loved ones, to the people we work with in ministry, to people who live with us. Sometimes the people who get it the most are the people who live with us. And that is not fair….”

This observation was shared by Fr Matthew Ragbir, Director of Pastoral Formation and General Manager of the Catholic Religious Education Development Institute (CREDI), at the Leadership Conference June 19 at the Centre of Excellence, Tunapuna. It was hosted by the Archdiocese, CREDI and the Office of Pastoral Planning and Development. The theme was Leadership and Formation in a Synodal Church.

Fr Ragbir was the moderator of a panel discussion ‘Leaders Being and Becoming, Whole and Holy’ with human behaviour and leadership development expert Shian Ottley-Reid; Justice Tricia Hudlin-Cooper; Fr Peter McIsaac, Archdiocese Director for Synodal Transformation and Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon.

Justice Hudlin-Cooper experienced negative responses when people heard she lived in Laventille. It was in primary and secondary school she became aware the area was treated like a “bad word”. “People automatically expected me to be a particular way, expected me to act in a particular way, and they immediately reacted to me in a particular way,” she said.  Joining the youth group and attending Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception gave her a sense of belonging. She learned about service and spirituality, “all these things that make up who you are as a person with Jesus at the centre”.

Early on, she was impacted by seeing the examples of faith in her family and “older heads,” and being in the youth group, she experienced “striving together to really live a wholesome life”. The youth group was a “cushioning” following her father’s death. “What I had then to re-centre in a real way and think, because now I have my mother alone and I have all these dreams…but how realistically  could I do all this?…that is where the ‘who I am in a youth group and church’, ….that is where that groundedness came in”.

Fr McIsaac said conversion can take time. He shared a testimony that at 11 years old,  his father was diagnosed with an aneurysm. Surgery was done which left him blind, severely brain damaged and paralysed for 20 years. As a teen Fr McIsaac struggled to understand what the pain and suffering meant. “Whose sin is it?” he wondered. During his early years as a Jesuit, his father was in hospital. His mother went to the hospital weekly for years, spending six hours at his bedside. As a deacon, he preached at his father’s funeral, and it was then he recognised what he had missed.  “All I saw was my father’s brokenness; I never saw my mother’s mercy,” Fr McIsaac said. As a priest in west Kingston for ten years, he saw great pain, injustice, poverty and violence.  Fr McIsaac stated: “What my mother had communicated to me, even without me understanding it theologically, was where I was going to find God’s grace. As far as my priesthood goes, I wouldn’t change ten years in west Kingston; it taught me to be a priest, it taught me to be present; it taught me to discern God’s grace in the most dark times of the parish, to accompany people, to bring a sense of hope. What my mother taught me was how to find God’s light in the darkness”.