FOCUS ON VOCATIONS - Apr 29 God calling?


Just to say thanks

By Fr Dwight Merrick

Vocations day is here again and once more we hear the familiar cry “we need more priests”. This year however, I find myself thinking about so many people along my journey who quietly and faithfully lived out their vocations without fanfare, recognition or even appreciation. In this article therefore, I would like to suggest that maybe the call to priesthood and to the Religious life probably follows the willingness of many other people to live out well their vocations and thus dispose young people to being able to hear the master’s voice and His call.
Attending St Benedict’s and then Presentation (San Fernando) College, I never had a priest for a teacher. I did have however, Bro John (now Fr Wilfred John) and Bro Michael Samuel for religion for brief stints. What I have always cherished about St Benedict’s however, was the commitment and witness of my teachers who helped put down foundations upon which I have built my life. Here were teachers who were motivated and excited about imparting knowledge as well as nurturing and forming boys. These educators formed and fashioned our minds in ways that could never be measured or fully appreciated.
At St Benedict’s, there was one feature of our school’s culture which I believe was its hallmark then and probably even today. This was the promotion of a balanced lifestyle. Not only did my teachers speak about this but I certainly got the impression that they all genuinely believed it and lived it as a philosophy of life.
How could I forget Ms Baptiste and my initial shock at seeing her playing the piano. Then there was Mr Ali whose solution to boys fighting was lunchtime boxing matches, complete with new gloves and the spectators forming the ring. And then there was Mr Ledgerwood, who never taught me but who stood so tall in my eyes as the art teacher who rode a motorbike and who I saw playing hockey at the highest level. Mr King (deceased) even as an old man still kept coming back to keep our scout troop together and Mr Antoine whose guava whip I did unfortunately experience was our VP, exceptional at Geography an avid hiker all without making a fuss.
My favourites though, were the sportsmen, Mr Ali, Mr Regis and Mr Thomas. Here were men who were as passionate about West Indies Cricket, football or whatever was in the sporting news as they were about their particular subject area. I wanted to be just like them; great at sports as well as academics. I wonder if they ever knew how deep an impression they were making on people like me. Without a doubt, the balance in life I cherish and continually pursue today was solidly put in place by these mentors during these priceless years at St Benedict’s.
Today therefore, I want to recognise and appreciate all those educators who likewise mentor and mould the youth of today. To you we say heartfelt thanks for your impact in making us the persons we’ve become.
Also influential though from a distance were my parish priests: Frs Rochard, Mendes and Tagallie (then newly ordained). Tremendous too were all my football, hockey and athletic coaches at Brooklyn Athletic, Juniors, Rangers and Petrotrin sport clubs. In fact I couldn’t imagine my life without the impact of sports and coaches generally.
Later on I came to know priests for the first time really in Fr Theodore and then Fr Rivas who were Chaplains at the UWI. Later on at the Seminary there was Abbot Hildebrand Greene for spiritual direction along with the Seminary lecturers.
My diaconate ordination brought an unexpected invitation to join the Fraternity of Priests (FOP). I still remember so clearly, returning to the sacristy after the diaconate ceremony only to be told by Fr John T, “We have a group and I want you to join it, we meet every Thursday”. Well, that was almost 20 years ago and I still cherish meeting every Thursday with our FOP group.
These priests without doubt have been among the greatest gifts and blessings to my life. How could I thank God for Frs Cyril Ross, Reggie Ging and Compton (all deceased) or to Fr John T, Msgr Alexander, Frs Clifford, George and Ian. And then there were those visiting priests who also shared in our group for a while like Fr Sonny (O Carm) and Fr Seamus.
So yes, let us pray for more priests to serve the needs of the Church. Yet maybe we should see how important it is that our young people are mentored properly from an early age if they are going to be able to hear a call from the Lord to live a life of service as a priest or Religious.

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