Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Monsignor Richard Albert: a lasting legacy of faith

Observer column for MON 14 Dec 2015
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Almost every day since the passing of Monsignor Richard Albert, we learn of even more contributions he made to church and various Jamaican communities.  Here was a man who walked with the poorest and the richest of the Jamaican society, ministering to all with love and understanding.  He personified that rare combination of pastoral dynamism and managerial excellence.  No wonder then, that when the late Pope John Paul II made the only Papal visit ever to Jamaica in 1993, Monsignor Albert was at the helm of planning an inspiring itinerary for the Pope. 

I learned over the weekend from Dr Las Newman’s letter to the press, that 35 years ago, Monsignor Albert had served as treasurer of the original National Leadership Prayer Breakfast Committee, obtaining sponsorship and initiating the annual charity offering that has channeled millions of dollars to worthy causes.

As our pastor at Stella Maris, Monsignor Albert emphasised stewardship, reminding us that everyone had something to offer: time, talent or treasure – preferably a combination of all.  Under his leadership, we saw the mushrooming of ministries and discovered that we all had so much more to give than we had imagined.  It was Peter Mais who looked at the model of the St. Patrick’s Foundation and with Monsignor Richard Albert, created the Stella Maris Foundation, which I was honoured to chair for many years. 
Honouring Monsignor Richard Albert for creation of Stella Maris Foundation - I served as Chairman for ten years. 
That Foundation became an oasis for Grant’s Pen residents, and as they embraced our motto, ‘Doing What Love Requires’, political tensions eased and hopeless young people were able to get skills training as the Foundation partnered with HEART-NTA to make them employable.

Even as he pastored his Parish, Monsignor remained ever faithful to the Riverton and Waterhouse communities where his St. Patrick’s Foundation continued to expand, and to the St. Monica’s Home for the Elderly where he ministered to those abandoned by their families.  He also worked along with the Sisters of Charity, and would share stories of their simple, selfless and happy lives. 

As if that were not enough, Monsignor Albert looked at the modest backyard of the Stella Maris Church and decided that we should build a pastoral centre.  It was miraculous to watch this beautiful complex emerge, week after week, as he listed outstanding items in the church bulletin: depending on your means, you could donate a roof or a hinge. He urged us to be generous with his famous line: “I have never seen a Brinks truck behind a hearse – you can’t take it with you!”

One day, as the building was going up, a ‘don’ from Grant’s Pen rode in on his motorbike and demanded ‘ten envelope every Friday’.  When Monsignor explained that he was barely meeting budget and could not accommodate him, the thug said he would shoot him and use his body used to block the road.  The pastor resolutely ignored him - such was his courage. Last Friday, we were in that same Pastoral Centre courtyard, beautifully lit, enjoying the music the Stella Maris steel band, yet another of Monsignor’s initiatives! 

Our pastor encouraged a strong prayer life, and reminded our Sunday school children that “Your best friend is Jesus.”  He also started an adoration roster where we committed to one hour of silent prayer per week in the little chapel, a part of the Pastoral Centre.

The Jamaicans he engaged will never forget this good man who loved unreservedly and worked tirelessly.  We will say farewell at two services to be held at the Stella Maris Church: The Vigil on Tuesday 15 December  at 6 pm – he will lay in state from 4.35 pm; and the Funeral Mass at 10 am Wednesday, December 16. Rest in Peace, good and faithful servant, Monsignor Richard Albert.

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