Friday, 8 July 2011

Archbishops of Port of Spain from 1850 - 1966

In my previous post I listed the Archbishops. Here I list their works as noted by Dr Bernard Tappin in his website:

The year 1851 can be regarded as an “annus mirabilis” for the young archdiocese. It was also a jubilee year of the Universal Church . On 9th February 1851, Smith was installed as first Archbishop of Port-of-Spain with a moving ceremony at his cathedral. He publicly discharged his new authority on 16th February 1851, when he consecrated his Vicar-General, Michael Monaghan as Bishop of Roseau. On Friday 19th February, Smith began three days of liturgical celebrations marking the consecration of the cathedral; its foundation stone had been previously laid by Governor Woodford on 25th March 1816. The Cathedral enjoyed the privileges of a Minor Basilica.

Later that year, special jubilee functions were held, culminating with the erection of a cross at Laventille on 15th August. Smith used these occasions to demonstrate the Catholic Church’s new status. The church remained a leading institution in British colonial Trinidad .

When the Archdiocese was created in 1850, Trinidad was becoming an even more complex colonial society, with the arrival of varying numbers of migrants from neighbouring West Indian islands and Venezuela , Africa, Madeira and China . The Indian Immigration scheme was becoming entrenched, adding a totally new religious dimension to the colony, as these migrants were Hindus and followers of Islam. There was need for the British to stamp their authority, institutions, language and religion on the colony - the anglicisation policy was in its hey-day.

The Catholic Church was often regarded in official government circles as being a “foreign church”; the church was very French in character. It drew its staunchest support from the influential French Creole elite; many adherents also came from the French Patois-speaking ex-slaves. Moreover, many priests were French, who as a rule preached in the language. The years following the creation of the Archdiocese continued to witness antagonisms between the colonial government and the Catholic Church.

Tensions between the church and the colonial government came to a head with the appointment of Vincent Spaccapietra in 1855 as Archbishop. There was difficulty in finding a successor to Smith who died suddenly in 1852. Spaccapietra was Apostolic Delegate to the West Indies touring the islands when he was directed by Rome to assume control of the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain. He was the first non - British subject to head the church in Trinidad ; Spaccapietra was an Italian from the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The manner of his appointment aggravated the relations between himself and the Governor, Charles Elliot. The colonial office in London had not been informed by Rome of the appointment of Spaccapietra. Prior to the creation of the Archdiocese, there was always a ready flow of correspondence between the church and London . Once the archdiocese was formed, it was the opinion of Rome that there was no longer any need to communicate with the colonial authorities. Rome dealt directly with the archdiocese. Governor Elliot refused to recognise the new archbishop. Leaders among the Catholic party sprang to the defence of their church and archbishop. Rome sent Monsignor Talbot to diffuse the situation in December 1855 and to assure the Governor that no slight was intended to the colonial government. Given the continued strained relations, it was no surprise that Spaccapietra resigned as Archbishop, assuming a new post in 1859 as Archbishop of Smyrna.

During his short term in office, Spaccapietra carved for himself a monumental role among the archbishops of Port-of-Spain. He effectively established the church’s social out-reach to the less fortunate. Spaccapietra arrived in Trinidad after the dreaded out-break of a cholera epidemic, which also plagued other West Indian islands. There was an immediate need to care for the poor. He therefore established the Les Amantes de Jesus Society, the St. Vincent de Paul Society (1857) and the L’hospice Spaccapietra (1858). These organisations have all stood the test of time and exist even today.

There was need for the church to mend its fences with the colonial authorities. The new archbishop was an Englishman, aptly named Ferdinand English, a canon from the Diocese of Clifton. Rome reported his appointment to London in good time. English arrived in Trinidad in 1861; in September 1862 he died during a pastoral visit to Grenada . Archbishop English will be remembered for his initial efforts in bringing the Holy Ghost Fathers to Trinidad to establish St. Mary’s College. This was important for the church. The “old” Catholic St. George’s College had failed and the Protestant English elite had their needs met with the establishment in 1857 of the Queen’s Collegiate School , sponsored by the colonial regime. English was the founder of the Catholic Press with the establishment of the Catholic newspaper, the Star of the West, in 1862.

The appointment of Louis Joachim Gonin, O.P. as 4th Archbishop of Port-of-Spain ushered in a period of growth and consolidation. His tenure lasted twenty-six years (1863-1889). His appointment satisfied the wishes of the contending power brokers in colonial Trinidad . Born in France , he grew up in Mauritius , a British colony in the Indian Ocean . French in culture, Gonin was above all a British subject. He was also a Religious, a Dominican Father. Gonin’s arrival in 1864 with a party of six young Dominicans was a critical development for the church in Trinidad . The church would now be assured of an adequate supply of clergy to man the increasing number of parishes. The Dominican Order was further entrenched with the arrival in 1868 of sisters of the Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena of Etrepagny, France, who came to take charge of the leprosarium at Cocorite. The Order’s presence was completed in May 1874, with the coming of the contemplative nuns from Venezuela . They fled their Dominican Monastery in Caracas during the persecutions of the President, Guzman Blanco.

The archdiocese was not only a stronghold of the Dominican Order. The Holy Ghost fathers arrived in 1863 to administer St. Mary’s College. The Cluny Sisters were also in an expansionist mood during Gonin’s time. In 1866, Providence was established. Convents were founded in St Joseph (1870), San Fernando (1882) and Arima (1885). The Good Shepherd Sisters of Angers arrived in 1890. Richard Rawle, first Anglican Bishop of Trinidad (1872) commented: “The Roman Church has Dominicans and sisters and all kinds of organised help”.

During Gonin’s episcopacy, there was a “rapprochement” between the church and the colonial officials. Governor Arthur Gordon nurtured the easing of tensions as colonial policy. The once vexing issue of the primacy of the Anglican Church was resolved by its dis-establishment in 1872. The church won an even more significant battle for it’s continuing role in education when the Keenan Report (1869) recommended that church schools be granted state aid under certain conditions. The dual system of primary education subsequently came into effect (1870). The colonial government sought the church’s help in furthering its work in education and welfare. In 1868, Gordon got Gonin to bring the Dominican sisters to care for the lepers. His successor, Henry Turner Irving in 1878 offered Gonin government funding if the church undertook the responsibility of finding a suitable religious order to run a reformatory. In 1890 the Girls Reformatory was opened, run by the Good Shepherd Sisters of Angers.

Gonin was succeeded in 1889 by his co-adjutor, Patrick Vincent Flood, O.P. He was the first of the Irish Dominicans to govern the see of Port-of-Spain. His appointment signaled a new era. In 1897, the Irish Dominican fathers replaced those from the Province of Lyons, France in staffing the archdiocese, following the departure of the Superior , Fr. Hilaire Arnaud. The long-standing battle between the French and English elements in the society was abating. The church could no longer continue to allow itself to be viewed as “foreign”.

Archbishop Flood’s episcopacy stands out for his unflinching support for Catholic education at the primary school level. In 1890, discussions were renewed concerning the dual system. There was again widespread support for a secular system of education. Flood was adamant about his church’s position. He won the day. A new ordinance was passed giving church primary schools increased financial support from the government. The dual system was maintained, with the government very generous with its support.

By 1903, the Catholic Church ran the largest number of schools, 72, with a student population of 11,286. The government had 51 schools with 8,731 pupils, the Anglicans ran 48 primary schools and 8,831 pupils and the Presbyterians 50 schools with 5,200 on roll. The long battle for church schools had borne fruit; the church treasured its schools established throughout the colony.

Before Flood died in 1907, he moved into the Archbishop’s House, built in 1904 in St. Clair. Flood himself designed the residence. Previously, the archbishops lived in a residence on the grounds of St. Joseph ’s Convent.

Flood’s successor was John Pius Dowling, O.P., who ran the archdiocese for 31 years from 1909 to 1940. He nurtured an increase in the number of religious orders to serve Trinidad . He welcomed Spanish Augustinians - the Recollect Hermits of St Augustine - who were placed in charge of a number of rural parishes where there were many Spanish speakers. In 1911, Dom Mayeul de Caigny, O.S.B., sought entry into the Archdiocese in the light of political pressures in Bahia , Brazil . A year later the first monks arrived to found the Abbey of Our Lady in Exile at Mt. St Benedict. In 1919, Dowling welcomed from England to the Archdiocese, the newly established Corpus Christi Carmelites. They were destined to do critical social work for the local church in the years to follow.

Dowling’s most difficult moments as archbishop were during the years 1926 to 1932 when he fought tenaciously but unsuccessfully against the introduction of Divorce legislation into the colony. In 1931, he presented yet another Solemn Protest to the Governor, Claud Hollis, signed also by the Anglican Bishop, Arthur Anstey, the Kazi of the Islamic faith and many Hindu pundits. On 22nd March 1931, Dowling addressed a mass protest rally at the Savannah along with Anglican, Hindu and Labour Leaders. The church was painted as being reactionary; divorce was seen as a “progressive” bit of social legislation. The government won the day. The King reigned.

Dowling was ably succeeded by his co-adjuctor, Finbar Ryan, O.P in 1940. When he assumed office, Ryan already had a long and distinguished career in the church in Ireland . He was not a young archbishop, but he was destined to govern the church during 26 exciting years in the country’s and church’s history. Ryan witnessed Trinidad ’s political emergence as an independent country and he had the honour of being the first religious leader to bless the nation, minutes after the National Flag was raised on the first Independence Day 31st August 1962. The Archbishop was also present at the sessions of Vatican Council II in Rome (1963-1965).

As Archbishop of Port-of-Spain, he saw the church grow in the Caribbean. He celebrated the centenary of the Archdiocese in December 1950, with days of celebrations. In 1956, St Lucia and Grenada became separate dioceses. On 10th December 1957, the Antilles Episcopal Conference was born, one of the first in the church worldwide. The vast majority were only established in the wake of Vatican II. In December 1958, Ryan consecrated his Vicar-General, William Michael Fitzgerald O.P., as his auxiliary.

Ryan will forever be remembered as the founder of the Seminary of St. John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs. As early as 1819, Rome proposed the foundation of a seminary, but it was on 19th January 1943, that Ryan blessed the seminary building then housed within the monastic compound of Mt St Benedict. The monks assumed responsibility for the seminary. In 1961, the seminary was transferred to its present site. Ryan also stands out for his determined advancement of Catholic education. Not only were primary schools built and renovated, Ryan was responsible for the rapid growth of Catholic secondary education in Trinidad . He invited to Trinidad the Presentation Brothers (1946) and the Holy Faith Sisters (1947) with this in mind. He encouraged the Holy Ghost Fathers to open Fatima College (1945). His own Dominican Fathers opened Holy Cross College in 1957. The parishes of St Joseph and Tunapuna had their own colleges, St. Joseph ’s College and St. Charles . The Dominican Sisters opened St. Dominic’s in Barataria. The church was the effective pioneer in the spread of secondary education in the years after World War II. Above all, Ryan sought to make his church strong and he stood ready to defend against all-comers.

When Finbar Ryan resigned in 1966, it was anticipated that a son of the soil would be his successor. The time was ripe for change and the man of the moment was Gordon Anthony Pantin, C.S.Sp. He was merely thirty-eight years old. He followed in a line of solid church leaders.

No comments:

Post a Comment