Grieving daughter says CCC showed no respect for dead father!
FToni Nicholas or many Christians, Catholics in particular, November is the “Month of the dead”—and sacred. On November 2, “All Souls’ Day”, the faithful visit cemeteries to pray for their dearly departed and to place lighted candles at their gravesites. Prior to that is “All Saints’ Day” on November 1.
Saint Lucia also commemorates Remembrance Day in November, to honour war victims. Also in November the cassocked lead their flock in meditation on the mystery of the Communion of Saints—something to do with the departed faithful who have already arrived in Heaven; those still expiating their sins in Purgatory, as well as the faithful still among the living.
According to Catholic catechism: “In this wonderful exchange, the holiness of one profits others well beyond the harm that the sin of one could cause others. Thus recourse to the communion of saints lets the contrite sinner be more promptly and efficaciously purified of the punishments for sin.”
Which brings me to the question of recourse for the desecration of the resting place of those souls. Lately there seems to be quite a lot of this going on, which is not to say it’s anything new. Decades ago the calypsonian Mighty Mighty captured the theme du jour in “Making Bread on de Dead.”
The song was inspired by a particular Anglican priest who often dared his congregation to challenge him. In a most controversial move, he had sold a portion of the church cemetery for commercial purposes, without protest.
However, much has been said about the desecration of the Hospital Road cemetery in Castries, where the dead shared their resting place with squatters. At the Choc cemetery graves are often dug months after a burial to make room for new occupants. For the Castries City Council, under whose purview the cemetery falls, it’s just business.
It was brought to our attention this week that at least five tombs at the Choc Cemetery were desecrated by road workers in the process of construction of an access there. By all accounts, following the completion of the road the broken tombs were left unrepaired.
One of the aggrieved is Michelle Callender, a long-time employee of the STAR. On May 13 this year she and her family laid Michelle’s father to rest in a tomb for which they paid $8,050. An additional $300 was paid to the Castries City Council to have it cast.
Last week a friend notified the Callender family that the tomb had been damaged. “My niece then called my sister on Sunday to inform her, and my sister in turn told me about the situation,” Michelle recalled. “On Monday morning I called CCC to find out whom I should speak to about the situation. I was given a number to call and directed to speak to Arthur, the cemetery’s manager.” It took several failed attempts before Michelle finally contacted him. “I was told by Arthur that he was aware of the damage to the tomb, but the CCC was not responsible. He blamed the road contractor. He added that the CCC had been encountering difficulty in its attempts to reach him.”
Arthur gave Michelle a number that he said was the contractor’s.
Although quite angry and disgusted by the apparent lack of interest on the part of the CCC representative, Callender tried to reach the contractor via the number Arthur had provided.
“When I finally got him, he sounded most annoyed that I was calling about the tomb,” Michelle told me. “He said there was nothing he could do until next week or so.” A frustrated Callender again contacted the cemetery’s manager to inform him of what the contractor had said.
On Monday, Michelle Callender visited the grave site. “I was absolutely shocked at what I saw,” she said. “There was a huge hole in the tomb, slabs were missing and the inside was full of mud and debris. My heart sank. I cannot put in words the pain and anger I experienced. This was supposed to be my dad’s final resting place. It was our final act on behalf of a father that I loved dearly. What kind of human being would treat another person’s tomb in such a callous fashion?”
As media conscious as she is, Callender contacted DBS. After her interview aired, “a gentleman contacted me to say his boss had asked him to repair the tomb. So I said okay, insisting that he remove the mud and debris in the process.” She was about to leave when a CHOICE TV representative arrived at the scene and asked for an interview. At this point, said Callender, “the individual charged with fixing the tomb became agitated. He started carrying on and asking why I was still complaining after they had promised to fix the tomb.” Arthur showed up, but said nothing. However, that same evening during an interview on CHOICE News Now, he was heard saying he saw no reason Michelle Callender should have reacted as she had. Evidently Arthur is more accustomed to dealing with people who behave like sheep in circumstances that call for wolf behavior.
The tomb has since been resealed. But Michelle Callender has declared her intention to demand an apology from the Mayor of Castries for all she has been through and on behalf of her father who is in no position to stand up for his rights.
“What people don’t get,” she said finally, “is that even the dead deserve respect. We live in a civilized Christian society that talks the good talk but neglects to walk the walk. It’s bad enough that people are treated as if we did not have the right to complain, but our attitude to the dead is even worse!”
A distraught Michelle Callender inspects her father’s gravesite.
(Photo courtesy Pete Ninvalle/Stluciatimes.com)
The damaged tomb that originally cost the family nearly EC$10,000.