BEST WISHES TO THE PORTUGUESE COMMUNITY
Archbishop Thomas E Gullickson
I am most pleased to respond to an invitation from Abbot John Pereira and Dr Jo-Anne Ferreira to prepare a congratulatory note for inclusion in the Trinidad Guardian 165th Anniversary Supplement on the Madeiran Portuguese of Trinidad & Tobago.
Prior to reading the background materials provided by Jo-Anne Ferreira, I had read the marvellous book by Sr. Mary Noel Menezes, RSM, entitled The Portuguese of Guyana: A Study in Culture and Conflict. I have wondered at the impact which a now diminished Portuguese community had left on that country in the continued faithfulness of Catholic people there of all ethnic backgrounds to the beautiful tradition of the Christmas Novena. Elsewhere in the region, at Kingstown (SVG) I had learned of a Christmas celebration (of 9 days?) in the early morning hours which takes place on the street in front of the Catholic Cathedral but no longer has the Portuguese connection to bring the folk inside the church for novena devotions. But for Trinidad I really hadn’t had the occasion during my six years on this beautiful island to go beyond making the acquaintance of many sons and daughters of those early immigrants from across the Atlantic.
Thanks to the Abbot and Dr Ferreira, I now possess another piece to the Portuguese puzzle or picture and am once again impressed by the richness which these good folk brought with them to this part of the world. I am thinking specifically of the impetus which the Madeiran Portuguese celebrations of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary gave to what would later become the Laventille Devotions. In other words, just as elsewhere in the region so also here in Trinidad, the Portuguese community, firmly rooted in the Catholic faith, has gifted the faith expression of this island in ways that go far beyond the numeric importance of its numbers. The word is indeed “gifted” and certainly applies to a whole series of things I can’t quantify like the Laventille Devotions.
We thank the Lord for the courage, hard work and countless sacrifices for the sake of family and country which have marked these 165 years. May God bless all who have preceded us in death with light, happiness and peace with Him forever! May He continue to bless the children and children’s children of these pioneers, now thoroughly Trini, to draw on the wealth of their heritage for the sake of future generations regardless of origin!