History was created yesterday when Kenneth Reginald Vieira became the oldest deacon in Trinidad and Tobago to ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.
The silver-haired Vieira, 78, took his oath before a packed congregation at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Independence Square, Port of Spain, which was administered by Archbishop Jason Gordon.
In brief remarks at the end of the solemn, two-hour long ceremony, Vieira thanked his family, friends and priests for their support in his journey toward the ordination.
“To all those who contributed to my being here where I am. It did not happen all by myself,” he told listeners, who included Sharon Rowley, wife of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
“It happened because of people’s friendships... and now on this great day for me, all of you that have come to support me and join me coming to the climax of my journey so that I may journey on further on a new journey.
Vieira added: “ I want to thank all those people who made this happen, all the helpers, all the priests involved, without a whole lot of people. We are people of God and we reflect the unity of the Trinity which is at the centre of our religion.” He urged the congregation to “take something away from here that will remain with you, please God.”
Vieira is the oldest cleric of the diocesan order to become a priest. He is said to have surpassed Fr Wilfed John, 76, who was in his 60s when he was ordained.
After being elected to the presbyterate, Vieira took his oath, promising to “discharge without fail the office of priesthood in the presbyteral rank, as worthy fellow worker with the Order of Bishops in caring for the Lord’s flock.”
He also agreed to celebrate faithfully and reverently, in accordance with the church’s tradition, the mysteries of Christ, especially the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation.
Vieira also vowed to respect and obey Gordon and his successors..
In his homily, Archbishop Gordon jokingly described Vieira as “our baby priest.”
“We celebrate the mystery, today, our brother entering the priesthood at a young age. We celebrate because having heard the call to one vocation, our brother decided to make two vocations and come to the first one at this stage of his life.”
He added: “The race is not for the swiftest but it is for those who will persevere until the end. And, our brother has persevered inn his vocation, in giving himself to God and in offering himself to the church, today, in the order of priesthood.”
Gordon, who based his sermon on the life of 18th century French parish priest John Vianney, who later became a saint, said the church and priesthood was being confronted by false notions of salvation.
“They feel that somehow there is some secret knowledge somewhere that, if we find it, we will have the magic key, unlock the mystery and help people to salvation with some sacred knowledge.”
He added: “That is a heresy because all knowledge has already been given to us through Jesus Christ.”
Gordon said there was also an “uncanny belief” that if the church and priests dedicated itself more to work “that some how we will pull ourselves and everyone else up by their bootstraps.
“That is a heresy because we do not understand that salvation comes from God and God alone,” he said.