Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Enlightening Caribbean snapshots from Signis meeting

Members and colleagues of Signis Caribbean as they gathered at the Living Water Community Centre in Barbados: (front row l-r) Suzanne Dowdy, Secretary, Bishop Jason Gordon, Nuala Menezes (President), Host Father Clement Paul, Signis International VP Gustavo Andujar; (standing l-r) Msgr William John Lewis, Jean Lowrie-Chin, Daren Goodridge, Rhonda Maingot, Deacon Antonius "Sonny" Waterberg, Lisa Bhajan, Fr. Gerard Bernier, Javier Molina, Fr Tony Jeroncic, Michella Ali, Mervyn Marshall, Msgr Cuthbert Alexander, Sandra Lisa Claxton, Fr George Williams, and Derick Adonis.

Jamaica Observer column| MON 11 JUN 2012
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

In last week’s column, I mentioned the warnings after I told my friends I was heading for Barbados. Well here I am, back home safe and sound after enjoying the picturesque seaside in Dover and the beautiful countryside of St. David’s, where we gathered at the Living Water Community Centre. The warmth and courtesy of our Barbadian hosts made their Caribbean sisters and brothers feel like royalty.

I learned a great deal about the region and its peoples, listening to my colleagues in Signis Caribbean. Once again, we learned that Caribbean personalities are anything but bland. When it was the turn of Father Clement Paul to present for Barbados, I thought, “This priest looks very serious.” I could not have been more mistaken. As the senior priest told us that we should “use all possible media”, I heard several chuckles. Then AEC General Secretary Deacon Mike James explained that he was famous for spontaneously creating calypsos with witty Christian messages. Later that evening, Father Clement treated us to a lively performance.

Father George Williams of Antigua plays ‘conscious music’ on his Catholic radio station including, of course, Bob Marley. This has given him a following among Antigua’s Rastas who became concerned when he suddenly went off the air. They arrived at the station to investigate and gladly helped him to repair a damaged tower.

Michella Ali who works at the Government radio station in Guyana, said that her Catholic programme and all others were now focused on getting advertising revenue. “We have a new Prime Minister who has cut our national budget by 50 percent,” she explained. “The budget for our station was cut from $258 million to $1, yes ONE dollar!” It seems that Guyana Prime Minister Donald Ramotar is giving his country a serious reality check!

Our energetic President Nuala Menezes and her colleague Derrick Adonis have kept their faith alive in Grenada with a 24/7 radio station, website and newspaper. They focus on training to ensure that young people in the church are empowered.

The Trinidadian team of Lisa Bhajan, Rhonda Maingot and Suzanne Dowdy had us awestruck with their inspiring Trinity Television Network which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. No prima donnas here – they lugged equipment and headed to Barbados when they learned that their beloved Monsignor Jason Gordon would be ordained the new Bishop of Bridgetown and Kingstown. Their successful live stream was watched all over the world. The strategic Trinis led by Monsignor Cuthbert Alexander have their Catholic media under one umbrella – the Catholic Media Services Limited.

We were fascinated by the ethnic influences in Suriname media. Deacon Antonius ‘Sonny’ Waterberg explained that in the hinterlands of his country, there was no radio or television, and five different dialects were spoken by native Surinamese. They also have Javanese from Indonesia, Indians and Chinese. Get this: of 19 radio stations, one belongs to government, 11 to Hindus and Muslims, four to Javanese, two to Creoles and one to Chinese. Of their 33 television stations 28 are Hindu or Muslim, one Catholic, one Pentecostal, two government and the other general.

Belize is also a melting pot as described by Signis Caribbean Vice President Javier Molina: at the recent ordination of their Archbishop, which was also live streamed, readings were done not only in native English, but also in Spanish, Maya and Garifuna languages.

We heard from Gustavo Andujar of Cuba, who described a recent pilgrimage throughout his country. “We had about 5 million participants,” he said, attributing the continued devotion to the church despite many decades of communism to ‘las abuelas’, the devout grandmothers of Cuba. The stately Gustavo is Vice President of the worldwide Signis and gave us a colourful description of the recent Papal visit to Cuba.

I have returned enlightened and enriched – let us embrace ‘the deep and wide of God’s great grace’ in our Caribbean family.

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