“In the school community, faith is built on the foundation of love and sustained through service and teamwork.”
These were the profound words of Fr Steve Duncan, parish priest of St Joseph, Scarborough and Vicar for Tobago. He uttered these words when he preached to the teachers of St Gabriel’s Girls’ RC School who journeyed to Tobago on Friday, March 15, for their Lenten retreat.
Some teachers journeyed there from the evening before, and the rest, including some retired teachers, flew across early Friday morning. After a sumptuous breakfast at the presbytery, the ladies in the forest green and white polos were ready to embrace the day’s proceedings.
According to Fr Duncan, the theme, Building and Sustaining the Faith for Catholic Teachers, requires us, as Catholic teachers, to build a faith community at our school. Acts 1:13,14 highlights the early Christian community, where Mary was present and active, as a model community. Thus, the role of Mary in establishing a worthy faith community then and today is critical.
Cognizant of the hardships and trials we face daily, Fr Steve reminded us that, as Catholic teachers in our school faith community, we must all be rooted in the Cross. Our divine mandate means that we must “give ourselves away so Jesus can use us”. He emphasised the importance of love in the faith community. He identified love as not just an action, but as a lifestyle necessary in living the faith.
After pausing to enjoy lunch, we resumed the afternoon session by engaging in discussion groups based on four pillars of a strong faith community – love, service, teamwork and school community. During the lively celebration of Holy Mass, we presented a summary of our ideas as we move forward. In his homily, Fr Steve exhorted us to support each other in prayer in a personal way, just as we ask Mary to pray for us, “now and at the hour of our death”.
All in all, it was a truly Spirit-filled and inspiring day for us. The clean Tobago air, Fr Steve’s message and Holy Mass all helped to relax and reinvigorate us. There was much laughter and camraderie and those who stayed on for the weekend can testify to having much fun. We owe a depth of gratitude to Fr Steve, his administrative retreat team and support staff in Tobago and our own team – our principal, Janet Chinnia, and our vice principal, Tabita Auguste. Special thanks to Hyacinth Joseph for the beautiful music and our drivers. May a multitude of blessings be poured upon you, now and forever. – Tricia Matthews-De Bique, teacher, Std 5