Pray, through the intercession of La Divina Pastora, not only for personal needs but FOR those of the parish, the community, the nation and the world, urged Archbishop Edward Gilbert during Mass at the Siparia RC Church on the Feast of La Divina Pastora, patroness of the parish church.
As expected, parishioners were joined by hundreds of pilgrims from across the archdiocese - Santa Cruz, Port of Spain, San Juan, San Fernando to name a few areas - for last Sunday’s annual event.
This year also marks the 250th anniversary of the establishment of the Catholic Church in Siparia. In his homily, the archbishop said such celebrations were “a sign of conviction, commitment to the Lord, and a sign of a Church that is alive”.
“I appreciate this sign of faith,” he said as he looked out at the packed pews and aisles. He praised the parish community for “the marvellous job being done without a priest” and said one would be appointed in August.
|A parishioner carries a framed image of the La Divina Pastora statue in last Sunday's procession. Raymond Syms photos
|The statue is brought back into the church
Parish priest Fr Stephen Doyle OP, who has not missed La Divina celebrations since 1994, is ailing in Ireland. Prayers were offered during the Mass for his continued recovery.
Archbishop Gilbert said the Church was built through “witness, outreach and prayerfulness” and these were the things that would draw people to it.
As it was Vocations Sunday, he asked parishioners rhetorically when last a man or woman from the parish had entered religious life. He said for the Church to continue its ministry, Catholics must pray for vocations not from someone else’s family “but from your own family – your son, your daughter, your brother, your sister, your cousin”.
One of the readings was taken from the book of the Apocalypse. The archbishop said it was written during the persecution of the early Church to give early Christians encouragement.
He remarked that Christianity remained persecuted even today. Catholic Christian values were not accepted, he said, adding that those who lived in “peace, love and justice” must remember their brothers and sisters who suffer for their faith.
“Your faith is your protection from compromise, secularism, neo-paganism…. Your faith is absolutely necessary. If firm, nothing can touch you,” stated the archbishop.
He noted that the gospel reading dealt with shepherding and said, to shepherd people, a willingness to listen to and get to know them was a key ingredient. He urged the parish to continue to listen and to get to know the people who came into the parish.
Grey clouds during Mass gave way to sunshine for the traditional procession with the statue of La Divina Pastora along Siparia’s main streets, which took place under police escort.
Behind the well-known flagman were the altar servers, cub scouts from Siparia Boys’ RC, students of St Brigid Girls’ RC School, the Legion of Mary and members of other Church organisations, followed by the statue.
Archbishop Gilbert was joined for the procession by India-born priests Frs Joseph Henry and Abraham Shijo. Fr Henry serves the South Oropouche parish, while Fr Shijo is based in the La Brea parish.
After Benediction, which followed the return to the church, the archbishop blessed oils brought by pilgrims and was later presented with the senior choir’s first CD.
As part of the continued celebration of the 250th anniversary, the statue of La Divina Pastora is expected to be taken in motorcade around the country with stops at a few churches this today, May 6. - RS