|Hummingbirds and heavy metal - Sep 11|
|2011 - Features|
|Saturday, 10 September 2011 22:50|
Fr Clyde Harvey reflects on being awarded the Humming Bird Medal Gold for community service at this year’s Independence Day Awards.
On three occasions in the past, I have been asked for permission to nominate me for a national award. I have declined. This time there was no request for permission. I simply got a call saying that I was to receive a national award. Could I refuse? Should I refuse? My sister settled that for me by her own insistence and then by reminding me that our mother often wondered aloud in her latter years about what she saw as a lack of recognition.
A positive response immediately led to a flood of memories and a canticle of gratitude. I remembered the local priests who have served Church and people with selfless dedication and who had known no awards. This award had to be for a whole generation of honourable men, ordinary priests – Patience, Oliviere, Compton, Mohammed, Hezekiah, Makhan, Jubrajsingh. I would include Aguiton, Reid and Julien, each of whom was an inspiration in my seminary formation. I thanked God particularly for Michael Makhan who was always willing to brave the “plannings” of George, Duncan and Nelson Streets establishing relationships, ministering to God’s people. He is still remembered and loved. The priests of my generation are still a long list, but I paused particularly to pray and thank God for “Madoo”, Sebastian Madhosingh, a very dear friend. Archbishop Pantin had used the word “enigmatic” of both of us. Madoo taught me that one could be angry and deeply loving at the same time. He would have heckled me to laughter over this award with a good dose of religious and political picong. My heart exulted as I thought of the younger generation, a glorious blessing for the archdiocese and the hope of the future for church and nation. Their work, spiritually buttressed by the witness of Ben Peters and Hugh Joyeau, will see us beyond the pain and challenge of the present. This award was primarily for all the brethren.
In focusing on the diocesan clergy, I am not forgetting the members of religious orders who also have been unheralded. I have often sung the praises of Toba Valdez, Knolly Knox, Matt O’Dwyer and Michael Harkins. Roland Quesnel opened up my appetite for language. Ildefons Schroots was my first rector and a model of priestly growth and conversion in his latter years. Michel deVerteuil gave us the inspiration and freedom to follow the Spirit, rooted in Scripture, wherever She led. Peter Bennett and Michael Hande, as Dominican parish priests, supported with enthusiasm a diocesan vocation. Johnny Woods and Leo Donovan have always been an inspiration for creative, people-centred ministry.
The religious sisters have always been there, in every field of my ministry. In every congregation, there is at least one sister who inspired and supported me. They challenge us priests to love the Church no matter what, although they know that Mother often treats her sons much better than her daughters. The diocesan clergy would be a lot weaker, if it were not for the support of these concerned and committed women.
The lay persons who contributed to the work which this award honours are numerous. Some have been outstanding. Leon Stanislaus, Errol Cooper and Joan Flavigny taught me how to minister in my first parish assignment. Authentic collaboration in ministry always leads to deep friendship. Fr. Christian and I, working in Laventille-Morvant, knew that with each other and with some wonderful lay people. Clara Mazely, Tony Pantin’s aunt and secretary, a wonderful combination of intelligence and compassion, helped to steer a young priest away from prejudice and cynicism. At UWI chaplaincy, in Maloney, San Fernando, Rosary-St.Martin’s and beyond, God has blessed me with zealous collaborators and wonderful friends. My seminary work would not have endured if the staff did not include friends with whom one could always experience the humour that is essential on the road to true holiness. In this, Everard Johnston was always a true canon, a normative presence academically, spiritually, personally for many of us.
This award is for community service. Most of that service has not been directly linked to the church, though always fueled by the Eucharist and the fellowship. In most of that community service, Catholics, some on the fringes, have been great collaborators. In HIV/AIDS, it has been Godfrey Sealy, Angela Daniel-Rocke, Ricardo and Grace Mohammed, Lorna Trinidade, Debbie Caddle and more recently, Terrence Beepath. Morris Marshall taught me that, if people give to me without questioning, then in giving to the poor I must be careful lest my own questions become a form of domination and manipulation. His Foundation which I continue to lead in the service of Laventille would not have been possible if it were not for people like Jocelyn McLeod-Smith and Ejenny Espinet. The Foundation has partnered with Scottish Masons in the East POS Mentoring Project with Carlos HeeHoung, Michael Toney and Anthony Franklin sharing their many talents in helping some of the at-risk youth in our community. Government has used many of our insights in launching their own programme. More recently, Community Intervention for Transformation and Empowerment(CIT+E), started by Bishop-elect Jason Gordon, has brought together Catholics of fairly high social standing in the service of the deprived and less fortunate. This programme can provide insights for the whole diocese.and should, with care, become part of the total diocesan social apostolate. In all of this work in the service of our people, I have come to treasure the depths of the Catholic inspiration, the value of the Catholic institutional framework and been challenged about Catholic superciliousness. People like May Inniss and Cavelle Joseph teach me that Seventh Day Adventists and Pentecostals can work well with us, teach us and learn from us. Canons Knolly Clarke and Francis Caesar, Rev. Joy Abdul-Mohan, helped me to embrace fully the ecumenical dimensions of priestly service and the enigmas of accepting women in full ministry.
The day after I received the award, a Catholic stopped me on the street and said, “Fr. Harvey, from now on you can write after your name both PP(Parish Priest) and HBM” I told him that I do not write PP after my name and I do not intend to start writing HBM. In reflecting on it afterwards, it struck me that HBM can be an acrostic for HUMAN BEINGS MATTER. It has since become an inspiration for my life and witness in the days ahead. I had seen the award from the first instant, as a great responsibility, even a burden, especially in context of the crisis which both State and Church face. We have a national State of Emergency. It became heavy metal, whether on my chest or in my hand..
As the next three months unfold, this award challenges me to proclaim HUMAN BEINGS MATTER, every Human Being Matters. As we relish our presumed safety, especially in curfew hours, we must remember the innocent who have been detained, the night worker without that extra income, the soldier and policeman whose family life is compromised, the good Catholics in government who must wrestle with the temptations of absolute power. Above all, we must remember that the suspension of our rights can never be normal. We must not get accustomed to the State of Emergency.
There is a lot of work yet to be done. I do not see an award as something that I deserve. Only on that final day will there be accurate and transparent accounting for our lives, our true work. The aerodynamics of the hummingbird is breathtaking. It is the only bird that flies backward. It hovers like a helicopter. It is constant energy. In its aerodynamic capacity, it is perhaps a better symbol of the Spirit. Whether we are going forward, backward or hovering in stillness, we are energized by the Spirit, still alive in God.
Pat Bishop once said to me, “Priests are necessary but often not very useful”. I asked whether she considered priests to be useless. This disciple of Julian of Norwich retorted, “I said not very useful. Whether you are useless is your choice.” Priests sometimes struggle when we recognize that, in addition to our radical sinfulness, we often have to admit that we have not been very useful in many a situation. Yet we are priests, broken and blessed, not for ourselves but for God’s purpose and people. We always come back to Anthony Pantin’s humble echoing of the apostle Paul, “It is all God’s work”. I can only trust that this award celebrates God’s work. May that work continue to God’s glory in our church and nation. Amen.________________________________________________________________________________________ **DISCLAIMER**: User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Camsel/Catholic News or its staff. Camsel/Catholic News accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments. Please help us keep our site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option. Camsel/Catholic News reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed. Before posting, please refer to the Comments Policy under Resources