Ja­maica’s Catholics: Down but not out!

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - Glenville Ashby Dr Glenville Ashby is the au­thor of ‘Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to En­light­en­ment’, now avail­able as an au­dio­book. Feed­back: glenvil­leashby@gmail.com or fol­low him on Twit­ter@glenvil­leashby

JA­MAICAN STEPHANIE Kid­dar was born into the Angli­can faith but con­verted to Ro­man Catholi­cism dur­ing her ten­ure at St Gabriel’s Academy in Bal­a­clava, St El­iz­a­beth. She com­pleted grad­u­ate de­grees in Aus­tralia where she served as an ed­u­ca­tor be­fore re­turn­ing home to care for her ail­ing mother and dis­abled sis­ter.

Af­ter their pass­ing in 1999, she sought com­fort in her faith, ce­ment­ing her af­fil­i­a­tion to Saint John the Bap­tist Ro­man Catholic Church. Later, she joined the Le­gion of Mary, an as­so­ci­a­tion of Catholics that orig­i­nated in Dublin, Ire­land.

“The ob­ject of the Le­gion of Mary,” she said, “is to com­bat the ills of the world through prayer and ser­vice.”

Op­er­at­ing un­der the lead­er­ship of the par­ish pri­est or an ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal body, mem­bers are ex­pected to em­u­late Mary through hu­mil­ity, obe­di­ence, per­se­ver­ance and self-sac­ri­fice.

“We must re­flect love in all that we are called to do,” Kid­dar ex­plained.

Du­ties in­clude: evan­ge­lis­ing, vis­it­ing the sick, as­sist­ing the aged or in­ca­pac­i­tated in daily chores, and of­fer­ing spir­i­tual care for those who are phys­i­cally un­able to at­tend Sun­day ser­vice.

As Kid­dar’s faith grew, so did her in­volve­ment in church af­fairs.

“I be­came a lec­tor and was soon drafted as a mem­ber of the Cat­e­ch­esis Min­istry and the Church Coun­cil,” she said.

When the Min­istry of Labour and So­cial Se­cu­rity asked the Stephanie Kid­dar

church to be in­volved in the Na­tional Coun­cil for Se­nior Cit­i­zens, Kid­dar’s role ex­panded, be­com­ing pres­i­dent of the new min­istry that pro­moted a bet­ter life­style for se­niors.

“We worked tire­lessly to en­sure that se­niors were pro­tected against phys­i­cal and emo­tional abuse; we en­cour­aged ac­tive age­ing, par­tic­i­pa­tion in com­mu­ni­ties, and in­ter­gen­er­a­tional ac­tiv­i­ties,” she pointed out.


Af­ter serv­ing two suc­cess­ful terms, Kid­dar mi­grated.

“Since my re­turn in 2012, I have not been fully en­gaged in church work but I am still in­volved with the Le­gion of Mary and do ful­fil my oblig­a­tory prayers and de­vo­tion on a daily ba­sis,” she said.

In 2014, Kid­dar recom­mit­ted her­self to ser­vice, this time in the form of au­thor­ship.

“For the 50th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of Saint John the Bap­tist Ro­man Catholic Church, I un­der­took the am­bi­tious task of pen­ning its his­tory. I knew this would be a chal­lenge be­cause the only avail­able re­source was the older mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion and re­tired priests, bish­ops and arch­bish­ops, many of whom had passed away,” she stated.

She per­se­vered, though, and com­pleted the in­flu­en­tial ‘The His­tory of Saint John the Bap­tist Ro­man Catholic Church’, a pub­li­ca­tion that fol­lowed the ro­man­tic 1995 novel Fun Gryn­d­in­gride, and Bar­bara Is­abel (2001) that chron­i­cled the valiant life of her dis­abled sis­ter.

Kid­dar has ex­pressed con­cern over the marked in­crease in the num­ber of age­ing con­gre­gants along with the dwin­dling at­ten­dance at Mass.

“The church must see to it that mem­bers of the Eucharis­tic Min­istry ad­min­is­ter Holy Com­mu­nion to folks who are no longer able to at­tend Mass. We must go to them if nec­es­sary,” she said.

She refers to mem­bers of the Women’s League, the Le­gion of Mary and her prayer group that make fre­quent vis­its to the age­ing and sick.

“We of­fer com­pan­ion­ship to the lonely and de­pressed and those need­ing le­gal aid,” she said.

Poverty still re­mains a nag­ging is­sue na­tion­ally. The church, she said, has ably re­sponded with its outreach pro­gramme.

Re­gard­ing an­other of the church’s achieve­ments, Kid­dar cited the es­tab­lish­ment of the Saint John the Bap­tist Kin­derPrepara­tory School, the Al­tar Servers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, the Cat­e­ch­esis Min­istry, and the Catholic Youth Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“This guar­an­tees faith for­ma­tion and the con­tin­u­a­tion and growth of Catholic teach­ing,” she said.


Still, Kid­dar con­ceded that young peo­ple are mov­ing away from church tra­di­tion and “are more eas­ily drawn to any­thing that moves them. For ex­am­ple, while sea­soned church mem­bers re­flect on hymns and prayers, young mem­bers heartily re­spond to the in­fec­tious­ness of gospel move­ment.”

The re­tired ed­u­ca­tor be­lieves that dis­af­fec­tion among youth can be dis­pelled through a struc­tured ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal pol­icy. She also ar­gued for kind­ness and un­der­stand­ing to­wards the young gen­er­a­tion.

“When they get to the point where God is seen as the Almighty Cre­ator of all things and de­serv­ing of rev­er­ence, then a change in at­ti­tude should be forth­com­ing,” she shared.

Con­cern­ing the tor­rid sex scan­dal that rocked the Catholic Church in the last decade, Kid­dar is un­am­bigu­ous.

“I am dis­sat­is­fied that a firmer and un­com­pro­mis­ing stand against per­pe­tra­tors was not adopted by au­thor­i­ties. How­ever, at no time did these scan­dals af­fect my faith in the church,” she said.

Kid­dar holds that re­li­gion is a build­ing block of a na­tion, an es­sen­tial com­po­nent in the full in­te­gra­tion of the in­di­vid­ual into so­ci­ety.

“Whether you choose Bud­dhism, Chris­tian­ity, Is­lam, Ju­daism, or Shinto, your mo­tive is to fol­low its teach­ings so that your jour­ney through life is made that much eas­ier. Catholics have cho­sen Christ as their leader and, there­fore, fol­low His teach­ings. Not many of us will suc­ceed in ac­quir­ing ev­ery goal we set, but we must try and live ac­cord­ing to His in­struc­tions to im­prove our lives and so­ci­ety as a whole,” she noted.

Al­though un­apolo­get­i­cally Catholic, Kid­dar em­braces in­ter­faith dia­logue as a medium to­wards so­cial tol­er­ance and heal­ing.

“Many bat­tles could have been avoided in com­mu­ni­ties if more dis­cus­sions were held among dif­fer­ent de­nom­i­na­tions,” she opined. “Here, in Ja­maica, with a largely Chris­tian pop­u­la­tion, an­tag­o­nism re­sult­ing from re­li­gious con­flicts is min­i­mal. There are many in­stances where rep­re­sen­ta­tives from var­i­ous de­nom­i­na­tions meet to de­lib­er­ate on is­sues af­fect­ing the Ja­maican so­ci­ety. In fact, the prayer break­fast in church cir­cles has been used to ad­dress a num­ber of so­cial is­sues, in­clud­ing crime.”

Kid­dar is op­ti­mistic that the church will as­sume the au­gust po­si­tion it once held.

“My par­ish is rich in as­pi­ra­tions,” she said, iden­ti­fy­ing the re­cent or­di­na­tion of priests as a har­bin­ger of good tid­ings. “We are in­tent on in­creas­ing our mem­ber­ship, and parish­ioners have a de­sire to im­prove the over­all func­tion of the church and to evan­ge­lise on an even larger scale.”



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