|San Fernando – a parish with a wealth of history - Aug 12|
|Series - PARISH UPDATE|
|Saturday, 11 August 2012 22:45|
Celebrating our heritage, shaping our legacy
by Felix Edinborough
History always excites my interest especially when it transports us to our origins and places that are familiar to us. That is one of the things that makes Sr Marie Thérèse’s book Parish Beat so interesting. About San Fernando she writes: “San Fernando owes its foundation to the last Spanish Governor, Don José Maria Chacon (1784-1797).
His two main reasons for setting up a town at the cape of La Brea was (sic) to develop commerce with the mainland and to exploit the Pitch Lake. ‘Unfortunately ‘, wrote P.G. Borde, ‘Governor Chacon had to give up the site and the town was built at the further end of the large bay of Naparima, on the ground of the ancient deserted mission of the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Lady. He instituted the parish on October 26, 1786 and gave it the name San Fernando in honour of the infant Prince Ferdinand of the Asturias, born in Madrid, October 14, in 1784, and who eventually became King Ferdinand VII of Spain.”
The mother church of this parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, finds itself in the very middle of the town of San Fernando in close proximity to the Town Hall, courts of justice, police headquarters, fire brigade and hospital. The other churches of the parish are Christ the King in Les Efforts, and St Andrew Kaggwa in Vistabella. There is also a strong relationship existing between the parish priest and the schools of the area: San Fernando Boys’ RC, St Gabriel’s Girls’, St Joseph’s Convent and Presentation College.
History tells us again that the priests who have served the Roman Catholic mission of San Fernando since 1970 are: Bishop John Mendes, Garfield Rochard, Emmanuel Pierre, Clyde Harvey, Msgrs Allan Ventour and Christian Pereira. These have been ably assisted in their arduous work by Frs Rudolph Mohammed, G O’Keefe, Franklyn Andrews, Jim Fardy, Ronald Tagallie, Trevor Nathasingh, Carlos Roberts, Martin Sirju, Carlyle Fortune OP, Percy de Souza, Felix Harricharan, Benedict Hilaire, Matthew d’Hereaux, Charles Gachet (former Bishop of St. Lucia), Robert Christo, Joe Dunstan, Alan Hall, Celsu Ryan, Msgr Kenny Spence, and Deacon Roy Raghunanan.
You would expect such a parish to encourage enthusiastic participation by its large congregation and you will not be disappointed for there are many organisations that give the parishioners a wide choice should they be seeking church activities. They may choose from: Family Life Ministry, Hospitality, YOUSERVE, Liturgy Committee, Lectors, Lectio Divina, Bread Line, Legion of Mary, Sando Spirit, Bulletin, Altar Servers, Catechists (Sunday School, First Communion, Confirmation), RCIA, Word & Deed, St Vincent de Paul, Choirs, Eucharistic Ministry, Health & Sick, Other areas of Parish Life, Parish Office, Zion Community, Cluny Eucharistic Centre, Cluny Senior Citizens Group, Stewardship, SOCCA (Session of Creative Children’s Activity).
I was particularly interested in the Bread Line ministry for I thought it was something I could make use of in my many moments of hunger. The information that was proffered was that it all started in March 2003 and is still going strong.
There is an open invitation to the hungry of any walk of life to sit down together to enjoy a meal in what they term a dignified manner. The idea is that there must be family fellowship during the eating so there is no take away. This is not a fast food arrangement and the parish priest makes himself available at times to join in this “family” meal. At Christmas time there is a special lunch. The price is just right as this nutritious event is financed by contributions garnered from donation boxes strategically placed in the churches. There are times, however, when a generous family, community organisation or school class would sponsor the entire lunch although there might be as many as 100 guests! In this parish you must not go hungry.
YOUSERVE is a quasi-acronym for Youth, Service, Volunteer Evangelists. This is a young adults group and it prepares its members to assist in other ministries of the parish. For example they were marshals in the Corpus Christi procession. They also organised CAFÉ (Cricket and Football Event) and assisted in the preparation for the Archdiocesan Family Day this year.
Every year the worshippers of this parish look forward to the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday and this takes place on the San Fernando hill. This year the confirmation candidates presented a dramatic scenario of one of the stations.
To boost family life, on the feast of Sts Ann and Joachim (July 26), the denizens of this metropolitan area can experience the re-enactment of an entire wedding ceremony. This year’s homilist was Deacon Roy Raghunnan.
Feast Days are celebrated with enthusiasm in this community. For the feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, June 27, there is a Mass and procession and this year 2012 saw the launch of their commemorative magazine that recalls the parish’s 225 years of existence. This is a gem for everyone whether you are historian or not.
The community at St Andrew Kaggwa had a very grand celebration this year for its feast day, June 3, as there was present a contingent of Ugandan engineers who joyfully participated in a drum Mass led by the choir. The significance of their presence is that St Andrew is one of the martyrs of Uganda. After Mass lunch was served.
Here, in this environment, Christmas is heralded with a Fiesta de Parang on the San Fernando hill on the second Friday of November (this year November 9). Unfortunately the 2011 fiesta was cancelled because of the State of Emergency. The community looks forward to twice as many patrons this year for the festivity.
There are times the three worshipping communities come together as one fold and one of the occasions is at Corpus Christi and at the launch of the Jubilee year. This year the community of Christ the King, Les Efforts, will celebrate their annual Harvest (fiesta). Even as they seek and need the funds for their new pews it is a time for fellowship and community building. You can find them together again in fellowship at their Christmas dinner. They also bring all their educators together in celebration with a special dinner for the teachers of all the parish schools.
The family spirit that is evident among the populace of this milieu gives them the courage to master their difficulties and challenges. One such challenge, common in many parishes, is the lack of parking space, and there is not much room for extension near the churches.
Here too like in parishes that have several weekend Masses we find that parishioners do not know each other. This is why it is so important for the faithful to take the opportunity when it arises to take part in activities that bring together all the different communities of the parish. A common problem with many parishes that exists here too is the dearth of volunteers to help in parish activities and in San Fernando because it is so centrally located there are many transient church-goers. Worshippers come from neighbouring communities but they do not really live within the parish. This is obviously a challenge to building community for it makes it more difficult to plan for adequate accommodation.
This does not hinder the faithful workers from maintaining the parish properties and they are forever working on projects. They have completed the air-conditioning of the churches at Les Efforts and Vistabella. One major project is the repairing of the William Hill Pipe Organ which is over 100 years old. In their zeal to make improvements in the parish they have on the drawing board the development of the back of the presbytery as a car park and the conversion of a piece of land nearby into what they term “a sacred space” where those so inclined may benefit from quiet reflection. The worshippers at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, displaying evidence of environmental consciousness, maintain a greenhouse.
This flock ably guided by its shepherd, Msgr Christian Pereira, is proud of its many accomplishments. They can boast of a hall that is named after Bishop Mendes and is well used by the schools and the various parish organisations. They are elated that they have been able to publish recently a magazine that gives the history of the parish. The location of the main church is of great benefit to parishioners as many essential services are within a short walk of the parish office.
It is to be noted that with the cathedral in Port of Spain now closed for repairs, the Chair of the Archbishop has to be relocated to San Fernando, making Our Lady of Perpetual Help the pro-cathedral in the south.
The flock in this southern community are very happy with their shepherd who they say, “has a lot of drive” and encourages them and cooperates with them as they work assiduously for the improvement of the parish. He in his turn is elated with his flock for they are ever willing to contribute time and talent, which is why the parish of San Fernando with its three churches is an exemplar for the Catholic Church in this archdiocese.________________________________________________________________________________________ **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