|When priests came under fire - Nov 8|
|2009 - News from the Parishes|
|Friday, 06 November 2009 15:12|
We continue the series honouring the priests who served the Parish of La Divina Pastora, Siparia.
After the departure of Fr O’Hanlon from the parish of Siparia, Fr Armand Masse, better known as Abbé Masse, and famous because of his published diaries, served as parish priest for a short while. Abbé Masse was familiar with the parish, as he had visited on a number of occasions while Fr O’Hanlon served there. Keenly interested in the culture of the people of Trinidad, and of other islands in the West Indies, he recorded many of the practices associated with the devotion to Our Lady, La Divina Pastora, including the practices of Hindu devotees. He wrote a description of the procession on the feast day, stating that the famous statue was carried in procession by men, and that the males and females walked separately in the procession; he commented that this separation of the genders was a Spanish custom, which it would be impossible to eradicate.
Have the people of Siparia ever behaved in a manner to cause serious problems to their parish priests? Fr Clunes, a Trinidadian succeeded Abbé Masse, with pastoral responsibility for both Siparia and South Oropouche. He, as well as his successors with responsibility for both parishes, lived at South Oropouche. He began to have disagreements with a group of Siparia residents, and at one point they physically attacked him.
Fr Rychaert, a native of Belgium, succeeded him. He fell out with the same group of people, who seem to have been squatters on Church lands. He, too, was physically attacked, and by early 1892, the people of South Oropouche had had enough of this type of treatment of the priests. So on Good Friday 1892, a posse of 100 people armed with sticks and cutlasses, left Oropouche and marched to Siparia to defend Fr Rychaert from “….these Siparia rowdies….” The account does not state whether the factions actually came to blows, but the tensions remained. Good Friday, 1892, must have been a most interesting day in this town!
Some time during 1892, Fr Rychaert left the Ppstoral area, and Fr Aloysius Osenda arrived. In a very short space of time, he too clashed with the same group who were disagreeing with his predecessors. In November of that year, he discovered that the same group picked and kept all the cocoa and coffee from the tree-crops on the church lands. Fr Aloysius tried to persuade them to return the produce, but their reply, “…..in violent language…..” was that everything in Siparia belonged to Siparians, and that no priest, no Bishop and no Governor could tell them differently! In order to show him that they meant business, on December 31, 1892, the same group attempted to remove the statue of La Divina Pastora from the church and take possession of it. Before they could complete this act, though, Lance Corporal Codrington of the Oropouche Police arrived on the scene, and made them replace the statue. He laid charges against the group. The matter was heard at the South Oropouche Police Court on January 28, 1893, and the group was found guilty and fined. Shortly after this incident, Fr Aloysius returned to his native Italy, due to failing health.
What did it mean to be Catholic, for these three priests? For Abbé Masse, it meant trying his best to understand the culture of the people, to discern what of it could be used to deepen their faith.
For Frs Clunes and Rychaert, it meant accepting opposition, and physical and emotional violence for the sake of spreading the gospel.
We thank God for these priests who have served us as we pray:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen. – Theresa Noel________________________________________________________________________________________ **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