Archbishop Joseph Harris Received a National Award.
The Archbishop, who left for Rome the following day for a meeting of bishops ordained within the past year, received the Chaconia Medal Gold “for long and meritorious service to Trinidad and Tobago” in the sphere of religion.
He is the third archbishop to receive a national award; in 2000, Archbishop Anthony Pantin was awarded the Trinity Cross posthumously. Archbishop Finbar Ryan was the first, receiving the Trinity Cross in 1969. The Trinity Cross, then the nation’s highest award, has since been replaced by the Order of Trinidad and Tobago.
Vicar for Clergy, Fr Clyde Harvey, received the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) for Religion and Community Service at last year’s ceremony.
There were other Catholics among the awardees this year, including retired Justice of Appeal Anthony Lucky (Chaconia Medal Gold in the field of law) and Beatriz Ramoutarsingh (Humming Bird Medal Silver for business).
Ramoutarsingh told Catholic News last Wednesday morning that when she was contacted, she was “at first surprised, then elated at even being considered”. “I thanked God” she said, adding that she has always encouraged her employees to practice their respective faiths, even as she lived her Catholic faith at work.
Hours before accepting the award at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, Archbishop Harris concelebrated midnight Mass at the Pro-Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando.
He said the best gift the Catholic Church could give to the nation was to promote family life and so create a nation “of truth and life, a nation of holiness and grace, a nation of justice, love and peace”. He identified families – whether extended, single parent or nuclear – as the building blocks of the nation.
He added: “Families are truly the schools of virtuous living which our country so desperately needs. We have to ensure that our education system helps our boys and girls, young women and young men, develop into well rounded individuals, confident of their gifts and talents and of their ability to help this nation to become truly what its name signifies: Unity in Diversity.”
Archbishop Harris said the Church also needed to revitalise the sacramental life of its members, “so that nourished by the Eucharist, we will be truly a Church which witnesses to the truth of the Gospel even in the most difficult situations…..Our parishes and institutions must be places of imagination, inclusivity and availability where justice and truth are not only preached but lived.”
He added that 50 years ago, then Archbishop Finbar Ryan celebrated Eucharist in thanksgiving for the birth of the nation, but “tonight we celebrate in thanksgiving to God for having protected us, in spite of our infidelities, from the consequences of the folly of so many of us; for the gifts and talents which have allowed us to navigate sometimes through turbulent, sometimes through calm seas; for the talented, creative, joyful people that we are; for sparing us the ravages of natural disasters.”
Archbishop Harris said in thanking God, the nation must also recognise its faults and imperfections and ask forgiveness “for not having loved this country of ours and our fellow citizens with passion”.
He urged nationals to love T&T and called on “elected representatives of all faiths, but especially those of my flock, to put country before self and political affiliation”.
We here at Dominican Vocation congratulate the Archbishop Harris.