Remembered for his witty comments and anecdotal stories, the life of Grenada’s third Bishop, Bishop Sydney Anicetus Charles was celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception last Friday.
His mass of Christian Burial was held in the presence of Governor General, Dame Cecile La Grenade, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and governmental officials.
The body of the popular Bishop was entombed in the Cathedral Crypt below his predecessor Bishop Justin Field, OP, who died in 1969, and above his successor Bishop Vincent Darius OP, who died in 2016.
The funeral service was presided by current Bishop Clyde Martin Harvey who in welcoming the congregation said: “We have come to give thanks for a wonderful human being, a son of parents who must be well pleased, even in his dying.”
In delivering the homily, Bishop Harvey who like Bishop Charles is a Trinidadian, reminded the congregation that one must first bring their truth to God before their death as the fallen Catholic cleric did.
“Today we come to place before God the truth of Sydney Charles as we have seen only a glimpse of it in his life and ministry. We do so humbly because only God knows the fullness of that truth – we do so gratefully because the glimpses we have seen, including those we counted yesterday evening, fill us with joy”, he said.
“…This is not only about Bishop Sydney, it is about all of us. Every funeral that we come to…the question that each and every one of us has to ask, from the Governor General, down to the sacristan…what is my truth. If I were to walk out of this church into the valley of death, what is the truth that I bring before my God?”, he questioned.
Bishop Harvey went on: “We have to be able to face that question if we are truly Christians. If we run away from it, don’t expect God to run away and I have known too many situations in which he has faced people with their truth and they have preferred to continue suffering, rather than confront it so that they might die in peace”.
The newly anointed leader of the Catholic faithful in Grenada believes that Bishop Sydney Charles died in peace.
“Uncle Sydney confronted that truth throughout his life…One of the things that I think would remain with me… is that in so many people’s lives, there are those moments in situations of doubts where you are not sure whether you’ve done the right thing. I see that fairly regularly and whether it is your own death or the death of someone else, the grief that you feel and the pain that you feel is because there is some area of darkness where you are not sure what you’ve done.
“… I was very concerned, when one day Bishop Sydney said to me…he said hide the responsibility…it took me a few weeks to realise that he was still carrying a sense of responsibility of the burdens of his office – while he was Bishop, especially in those revolutionary years and that he had to make his peace with God about what he had done. The lesson in that for us is we always must ask ourselves, don’t wait until the end.
Bishop Sydney Charles started his service in Grenada in 1975 and remained the Bishop until his retirement in 2002.
He often joked during the tense period of the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution of the leftwing New Jewel Movement (NJM) that the island had two Bishop – he as leader of the Catholic church and Marxist leader, the late Maurice Bishop.
Documents discovered after the collapse of Grenada’s revolutionary experiment indicate that Bishop’s People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) took objection to the statement out of concern that the Catholic Bishop might be seeking to challenge the supremacy of the left-leaning regime.
Bishop Charles chose to become a Grenadian Citizen after stepping down and remained in the country after his retirement at his home at Morne Jaloux, St. George.
He did not retire for long as he was often seen celebrating mass at Catholic churches throughout Grenada in the face of a shortage of priests on the island.
He was active up to the age of 91 when he fell ill.
Bishop Charles died at the St. George’s General Hospital on September 4 at the age of 92.