The relevance of the Priestly Ministry in a society that is plagued with social ills was underscored by Bishop of the Diocese of St. George’s-In-Grenada, His Lordship Vincent Darius as three of his priests celebrated anniversaries of their priestly ordination.
The spotlight fell on Bishop Emeritus Sydney Charles of Trinidad and Tobago who has served the priesthood for 60 years, St. Lucian born Monsignor Cyril LaMontagne who has given 50 years of service, and Fr. Tommy Barret, an Irish priest of 50 years.
All three men of the flock have given a total of 160 years of service to the priestly ministry.
During a Thanksgiving Mass held in their honor at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in St. George’s, Bishop Darius indicated that this is a happy moment in the life of the Church as it celebrates the gift of the priesthood.
The Bishop told the congregation that the essence of the priesthood is to give God glory, and that ministry does not call for self-serving.
He said each of the honore has left a legacy behind them, noting that one of the ills of society is that too often people focus on the weakness of others, and disregard the good which that person would have done.
He indicated that there is no one who does not have human weaknesses.
Bishop Darius spoke of Bishop Charles, Msg LaMontagne and Fr. Tommy having served well, and that they have touched the lives of many people.
He recalled that when Bishop Charles came to Grenada in 1975 to take up his appointment as Bishop of the Diocese it was during turbulent times politically, “but he knew somebody was in that boat with him.”
He recalled that Msg LaMontagne was the first black man to be ordained a priest in the local diocese and he had to paddle his canoe ,while Fr. Tommy never wanted to be a priest.
“These men, they understand what Christ says that if you come on to me you will feel the strength of the strong current but shall not be drowned. You will feel the heat of the burning flame, but you shall suffer no harm,” he said.
The Roman Catholic Bishop urged his congregation to not only celebrate the achievements of the three priests, but must ask themselves what is the celebration saying to them.
He said the celebration calls for self examination and self evaluation of the lives of everyone.
Bishop Darius also used the occasion to make a clarion call for vocations to the priesthood.
“We like to celebrate people’s ordination, we like to celebrate people’s achievements. How about celebrating your own child’s ordination?” he asked.
From among the priests who are serving in the Diocese of St. George’s-in Grenada, the locals are outnumbered by the missionary priests, many of whom come from Ireland.
According to Bishop Darius, the diocese cannot claim to be a local Church, a fully developed local Church until it can produce it own vocations.
Recently, Fr. Clifton Harris was dispatched by the local clergy to Nigeria to try and recruit a number of priests to address a shortage of clergymen.
THE NEW TODAY understand that Nigerian priests are weary of serving in Grenada due to the treatment meted out to some of them in recent times.
Bishop Charles was ordained a priest on March 7th 1964, and on November 18th 1974 was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of St. George’s-in-Grenada and was subsequently ordained Bishop on January 25, 1975.
He succeeded Bishop Patrick Webster who was the second Bishop of the local diocese.
Bishop Charles was instrumental in the formation of the New Life Organisation (NEWLO) after the collapse of the 1979-1983 Grenada Revolution.
Msg LaMontagne had a deep desire to become a priest at a young age, and at 21 began his studies for the priesthood in Martinique with the Holy Ghost Father’s, and went on to further his studies in Canada for nine years.
Upon completion of his studies, Bishop Justin Fields, the first Bishop in Grenada invited him to the local diocese where he was ordained a priest on August 9th 1964.
He was appointed Vicar-General by Bishop Charles in October 1976. Msg. La Montagne was honoured by the Holy Father in September 1982 with the title of Monsignor and was reappointed Vicar-General by Bishop Darius in 2003 until his retirement in 2012.
He was also honoured by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and was awarded the title Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1996.
Fr. Tommy pursued Engineering before being ordained a Kiltegan father in 1964.
His first missionary posting was in Nigeria where he spent three years and then transferred to Kenya where he worked as a Principal of a secondary school, and then a Polytechnic school where he taught Auto-mechanic and Metal Work.
Fr. Tommy came to Grenada in 1999 and was immediately placed in Carriacou until 2005.
He is currently teaching the technique of working with stained glass windows at the Development Center at the Blessed Sacrament parish in Grand Anse.