Monday, 23 June 2014

Thank You Father Gerry Pantin

Not long ago I was at a gas station when I saw the calypsonian the mighty Chalkdust. Something in me said that I should thank this man for all that he has done for the country. Not his calypsoes,although they are pretty good. This calpsonian with all his many degrees, decided that he needed to serve the country by being a teacher and ensuring that he made a difference in some people's life.

I was watching the news this evening and I saw that Father Gerry Pantin had passed. What a loss to this nation. What a loss to the poor. What a loss to humanity. This makes me so sad. Father Gerry was the founder of Servol. Their website describes the founding of this NGO as follows:

In 1970, Trinidad and Tobago was experiencing some very difficult times. A number of people, mainly from the Laventille area, began a series of demonstrations to protect the social conditions of the poor. These marches, subsequently known as the "Black Power" demonstrations, continued and the numbers increased until a group of highly trained officers persuaded the Army to attempt to overthrow the Government by violent revolution.
Following this, Fr.Gerard Pantin, a Roman Catholic Priest/ teacher at St.Mary's College and Mr. Wesley Hall, a cricketer who was on a coaching assignment with the West Indian Tobacco Company, went into the Laventille area to find out how they could assist the people with the various problems they faced. They made contact with a number of street corner groups, had "rap sessions" with them and eventually overcame their initial suspicion and hostility. As a result, SERVOL (Service Volunteered for ALL),a voluntary organisation, was born.

After a period of about three (3) months, Wesley Hall returned to his Barbados and Fr. Pantin made a formal request to the Commander of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force to have some volunteers assigned to work with him in a developmental programme in Laventille.  This request was approved and so twelve (12) soldiers and sailors were assigned to work with SERVOL.  Without knowledge of the theory and practice of community development, they adopted the procedure of asking each group "How can we help you?" It is interesting to note that forty (40) years after, SERVOL workers still continue to ask this question of those who come to them for any form of assistance.

Having laid the groundwork, SERVOL's aim now was not simply to work for the under-privileged but to get the under-privileged to work for themselves, to get them out of the stagnation they were in and to help them formulate goals they could realize.

SERVOL was interested in the self-development of people. It was not a welfare organization nor did it see its explicit task as being the mass transformation of society or the alleviating of the many problems of the poor. Rather it saw itself as a small but important catalyst for social change which Caribbean society desperately needed. In working with people in all their many and various projects, SERVOL was also searching for new models for development, which were capable of being taken up by larger organizations and implemented on a large scale.
The Trinidad Guardian newspaper in 2010 carried a story of the Pantin family:

The Pantin family from Woodbrook answered the call to “serve the people, serve the people, serve all of the people” of T&T. Service has never been an alien concept to the prominent Pantins who made positive inroads on the socio-economic landscape. The late Anthony Pantin was archbishop of the diocese of Port-of-Spain. Former Fatima College principal, Clive Pantin became Minister of Education. Fr Gerard Pantin founded Service Volunteered For All (Servol).  Three doyennes among the Pantin clan epitomise the notion of service, volunteerism and humanitarianism. Ten siblings were born to late housewife Agnes and Julien Pantin, a managing director at the defunct Salvatori Scott Ltd. The union produced Gerard, Tony (late), Rose, Geoffrey (late), Clive, Monica, Ronald (late), Helen, Patricia and Michael. The Pantins’ matriarch Agnes was a “very religious woman” who took them to mass regularly at St Patrick’s RC Church, Maraval.  The family remained steeped in Roman Catholicism. Rosa answered the call to join the nunnery with the Sisters of Cluny at St Joseph’s Convent. Commenting on their calling, Clive Pantin said: “It was a gift from God.  We enjoyed every minute of it. That was important. If you go into a job and you have reservations about it, don’t do it. You are not going to succeed.” Indeed, the Pantin clan have been a blessing. 

Thank You Father Gerry, for all that you have done for this Nation, for it's people, for God. Rest in Peace!


Saturday, 7 June 2014

Hey you ! married couple.... Get a kid, not a pet.

Catholic News Agency - Pope Francis' message to married couples by Jennifer Manning

Pope Francis’ comments in his June 2 homily—the one in which he urged married couples to have children instead of pets—have stirred up controversy, which at this point, should strike no one as surprising. He is a Pope who challenges the “comfortable,” or, in this case, challenges the “culture of well-being.”

 In his homily, Pope Francis warned married couples that the “culture of well-being” tells them that it is better not to have children; he cautioned against the temptation to forsake having children for the lure of material goods. Lest anyone think that this is a non-issue, Time magazine ran a cover article in August 2013 about “The Childfree Life: Having it All without Having Children,” complete with a glamorous cover photo of a beautiful young couple sunbathing on a beach—alone, no kids, no sand toys or sand castles in sight.  At a time when birthrates are declining to record lows, this issue is a pertinent one.

We have become a society that does not value the life of children.  No, perhaps that is too harsh.  We value the life of children when we plan for children, when children fit into our blueprint for life. We see this issue of control perhaps most clearly in the tragedy of abortion (as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta lamented, “It is a poverty that a child must die so that you may live as you wish”) but the battle rages much more subtly, as well.  Yesterday a friend shared a blog post titled “To the lady ashamed of being pregnant with her fourth.”
In this post the author describes her encounter with a pregnant woman in an elevator, who, after sharing that she was pregnant with her fourth child, was relieved when her elevator companion congratulated her instead of expressing her condolences.   She also shared how often people had asked her if this baby was “planned.”

My husband and I are expecting our first child, and one of the most surprising elements of my pregnancy so far has been the number of people who have, point-blank, asked me if this baby was “planned.”  The first few times it happened, I was floored, and truly did not know how to respond to such a question.  Since reading the above blog post yesterday, I’ve decided I will borrow the author’s answer to this discourteous question, “Yes, God planned for this child from time immemorial, and I will do my best with this life that is entrusted to me.”  Because isn’t that what Christ does when He blesses us with a child—He entrusts the life of this precious little one to us?

And what is so wrong with an unplanned pregnancy, anyway?  Many of the great figures of Judaism and Christianity were “unplanned” pregnancies. Isaac, son of Abraham and Sarah, Samuel, son of Elkanah and Hannah, John the Baptist, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah—all were “unplanned.” The birth of Christ himself was “unplanned.”  Imagine how differently the story of the Visitation would read if Elizabeth had greeted Mary with, “My dear cousin! Was this pregnancy planned?”  Instead of “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42).  Yet our society does not always greet pregnancy with such joy.

The Catholic Church goes so far as to teach that one of the purposes of marriage is to have and to raise children. Ever been to a Catholic wedding?  Try counting the many references to “being fruitful” and to children. The theology of it all is downright beautiful.  Just as Christ’s love bears fruit in the Church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, and Holy Orders—as Pope Francis reminded us in his homily—so too should the love of a married couple bear fruit. 

Sometimes, tragically, a couple is unable to bear children, and in this case the fruitfulness of the couple is expressed in other ways.  And the Church isn’t saying to have as many children as is humanly possible. But to deliberately thwart the fruitfulness that is part of the essence of marriage is an affront to the sacrament itself.

When we deliberately deprive sex of one of its purposes—namely, to create life—we utter a resounding “no” to God.  We have been made to love, and our love is made to bear fruit.  When we remove the procreative element from sex, we take away the mutual responsibility and privilege that a couple shares with each other and with God.

But we don’t care anymore.  We don’t want what we can’t control. We don’t want to let go and let God, we want to let go and let the Pill. We choose the path of comfort and control—why?

Flannery O’Connor once wrote, “They think that faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it’s the
cross.”  That, in a nutshell, is what is going on in our world today.  We don’t want the cross anymore. We reject the cross. We want the comfort of faith, we want to know that Christ loves us and forgives us no matter what—and he does.  But Christ calls us to take up our crosses and follow him.  Just a few weeks ago Christ reminded us in the Gospel of John, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Ever thought about the very first commandment listed in the Bible?  Its Genesis 1:28—Be fruitful and multiply.