Archbishop Gordon: 'Families need daddies'
SITUATED on a hill overlooking Scarborough, St Joseph RC Church, Tobago, has a storied past.
Originally constructed in 1892 on a site opposite where it now stands on Bacolet Street, the church was destroyed when Hurricane Flora devastated the island on September 30, 1963.
“It was left a headless skeleton, devastated, roof gone, body shaking in shambles,” a lay minister said in an overview of the church’s history during its consecration on Monday.
Late archbishop Count Finbar Ryan blessed the stone for the current church that same year.
The lay minister said the consecration of the church was scheduled to take place on two previous occasions – April 30, 2021 and May 1, 2022 – but the covid19 pandemic prevented it.
“We therefore give God thanks that the consecration is being realised today (March 20) – the solemnity of St Joseph, spouse of the blessed Virgin Mary,” she told the congregation.
Indeed, the two-hour mass was a solemn yet joyful celebration, presided over by Archbishop Jason Gordon and concelebrants Frs Kwesi Alleyne, Alan Hall and parish priest Leslie Tang Kai.
It featured the symbolic blessing of the water and sprinkling of the church, the anointing of the altar and walls and the incensing and dressing of the altar.
Gordon prefaced his homily by saying the church has been a source of love and life for its family in Tobago over the past six decades. He added many people had been baptised, confirmed and married at the church.
“As much as it has been a source of grace, we have had to wait 60 years for this day,” he said, alluding to the consecration.
Gordon recalled jokingly the last time he visited Tobago to bless the church.
“I came in good faith, got on the plane, landed and when I got off, Father (Tang Kai) asked me, ‘What are you doing here? The prime minister close the country – go back home.' So, obedient as I was, I went back home.”
Recalling the biblical story of Joseph and Mary, who gave birth to Jesus Christ, Gordon spoke at length about the significance of how Joseph figures in today’s society, particularly in the lives of young men.
He said the plantation system in the Caribbean did its people a grave injustice by systematically disintegrating the family to the point where mothers, over the generations, were forced to shoulder the burden of parenting.
Gordon said, “Every Caribbean family knows that they have a mummy. But because of our salvation history and because of the plantation system, because very early in the plantation system, the husbands and wives were separated deliberately, because wherever there were families, there was revolution. And it was easy to control the plantation once you separated the family.”
He noted the matrifocal family in the region came into being because the family was “systematically driven apart."
“It was not as a grace but as a response to an evil, and it is a grace that emerged because of a terrible evil that existed.
“And so the matrifocal family, which we are so accustomed to and so much a part of our Caribbean history, is not God’s intention, but it the best we did in the midst of a very terrible and evil situation.”
Reflecting on the life of Joseph, the church’s patron saint, Gordon, told listeners, “Today (Monday), we have to put before the church again, that every family needs to know that they have a father. Just like every family knows it has a mother, we have to imagine a day when every family has a father.”
Gordon noticed the hush among the congregation
“I eh hearing nothing for that one, boy. That one hard to imagine.”
Contending that every family must have a father, Gordon lamented their absence in many homes.
“When you visit the prisons, when you visit the gangs, as I have done on many, many occasions, the things that come through is the absence of the father.
"Over and over and over in our society, women have done an incredible job in raising their children, especially their boy children, to be on the straight and narrow. But there are so many that have never been able to do it because the absence of the father."
Gordon recalled a man once told him although there are “plenty fathers all over the place, what we don’t have is daddies.
“A father is somebody who got you going in life. A daddy is somebody who is with you through the whole of your life, through the good, the bad, the ups and the downs, and is there as a wisdom and mentor figure, as a rod of correction and as a rod of enlightenment and encouragement.”
He argued the “wound in the Caribbean of fatherhood is one that we can’t easily undo.
“But thank God, our church not only has a mummy but our church has a daddy, and his name is Joseph."
The archbishop described Joseph as the “best daddy in the world.
“If you had to leave your children by some man for some extended period of time, you wouldn’t just go and do a lottery to find that man. You checking character, you checking credentials, consistency, emotional intelligence, his capacity to love. You checking everything.”
Saying God chose Joseph to be the father of his son, Gordon said, “That is the best credentials any man could ever have.”
He urged parishioners to seek him in their times of need.
“If we have been wounded in our father relationship, Joseph is Daddy, and we can go to him and ask him to be our daddy and ask him to heal the wound of fatherhood that we have in this part of the world we call the Caribbean.”
Gordon said the consecration of a church promotes a community of faith.
“What we come to is this great sense of being a holy people, a people set apart for the praise and the glory of our God.”
He noted the use of oil and chrism on the altar and walls of the church are reminders that people make up the church of Jesus Christ.
“We are the living temple of God, not stones that one day will become rubble, but each of us fitted together as parts of Christ’s body, that become a living temple in this wonderful country, Trinidad and Tobago.
“This living temple is more glorious than this House of God that we will consecrate and this living temple is more powerful, more efficacious in God’s plan of salvation than the walls and the altar that we will consecrate.”
He said although the consecration of a church is a most beautiful experience, it is done for one purpose.
“As people of the parish of St Joseph, you have to live like your patron, and you have to ask your patron every single day to help you to make your heart to the will of God. By bending your heart to the will of God, Joseph claimed that child as his own.
“If you and I bend our hearts to the will of God, grace will become open in our time, and God will be able to accomplish in our time all that God wants to accomplish here in Tobago.”
Tang Kai, who was assigned to St Joseph RC as parish priest in 2016, thanked the archbishop, his concelebrants, altar servers, readers, lay ministers, choir and service providers for making the consecration a memorable occasion.
"Archbishop Gordon: ‘Families need daddies’"