12th Annual Conference

DATE:                   May 30th – June 03rd, 2005

VENUE:                Paramaribo, Suriname

THEME:                “Being Church in a Plural Society”



Anthony, Patrick     Eucharistic Symbols in Derek Walcott’s “The Prodigal”
Charles, Henry  Ethics and Public Policy in a Plural Society
Geofroy, Stephen  Exploring the Epistemic Dimensions of the Culture of Unresponsibility
Gordon, J. & Moise, Curtis  Carnival and the Church: Testing Plurality, Forging Hybridity
Perkins, Anna   En/Gendering Church in a Plural Society
Schade, Martin  The Necessity of Understanding the Self within the Church in Plural Society
Sirju, Martin Religious Double-belonging in Trinidad
Sjak-Shie, Peter  Catholic Education in a Plural Society
Walker, Rose-Ann Poetry as a Medium for being Church in a Plural Society: Two Articulations
Wielzen, Duncan   Popular Religiosity in a Plural Society
Wyke, Linda  Walking the Christ Journey



Popular Religiosity in a Plural Society by Duncan Wielzen

Popular religiosity concerns a reality which is part of the living tradition of the Church. Throughout the Church’s history, people have employed various ways to express the mystery of their Christian faith. Most times these ways corresponded with the Church’s prescriptions and teachings, but there have also been moments when they have deviated in various degrees from the Church’s teaching. Nonetheless, popular piety and devotion, as derived forms of popular religiosity, remain a source of spiritual life and nourishment. The history of Western Christian spirituality would be impoverished without the Rosary or the Way of the Cross.

There are also forms of popular religiosity which are not embodied in a particular systematic theology. We can perceive these forms in behavioral patterns, norms, attitudes to life, religious convictions, etc. of a people. Examples are the funeral wakes in Suriname, known as dede?oso and other rituals concerning death and dying.

The central question of this presentation is twofold: is there a correlation between these popular religious elements and a plural society ? how does the concept of plurality shape these elements into a popular religious way of life?

In an attempt to answer this twofold question we will analyze Afro?Surinamese Christianity as a form of popular religiosity from the context of plurality and cultural diversity. In sum we may assert that plural societies bring forth religious rituals that are intrinsically plural in nature.

Duncan Wielzen (b. 1968) is a PhD candidate at the Catholic University of Leuven He has studied theology at the Regional Seminary St. John Vianney and the Ugandan Martyrs *in Trinidad, and at the Catholic University of Nijmegen (The Netherlands). He was a pastoral worker for 5 years in a parish in Amsterdam and for the last three years has been working as a Staff member at the Centre for Faith, Culture and Communications of the Diocese of Paramaribo. He contributed papers to the annual Caribbean Theology Conference Doing Catholic Theology in the Caribbean Today, and has published earlier on Surinamese popular religiosity. His email: duncanrw@hotmail.com

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by Patrick Anthony

Last year Derek Walcott published The Prodigal, which he described as “what will be your last book” (p. 99). As the biblical theme of the title suggests, the once Fortunate Traveller or world wanderer (Omeros) now longs for home. The Prodigal is a journey through physical and mental landscapes from Boston to Zermatt to Milan to Genoa to Guadalajara (the list goes on), with the poet feeling himself at home everywhere and nowhere.

This paper will explore the rich metaphors which speak of death, dying, regeneration and the whispered hope of resurrection, “that line of light that shines from the other shore”(p.105). Beginning with the earth/ground/death colour “ochre” we shall journey through many allusions to the haunting sense of death and dying: “an ochre canal” (p.3), “ochre scarps”(p.15), “ochre castle” (p.17), “ochre, grey stone”(p.28), “ochre walls of Parma”(p.33), “I hear the dead sighing that they are still too cold in the ochre earth”(p.54) “dove?calling drought … all briary and ochre”(p.59), in the ochre quiet leaves”(p.60); climaxing “in the country of the ochre afternoon … when I thought we were immortal … in the ochre country of the afternoon”(64).

Returning to Walcott’s fascination with Catholic liturgical symbols we shall analyse his use of Eucharistic imagery in reference to the frangipani, which according to the poet, “frangere panem/to break bread, flower?flour” (p.63). The flower becomes a “wafer”… “petal on the sky’s open palate at early mass”(p.63) “every morning but here most on this Sunday” (p.64) where he longs “for the communion of breakfast” (ibid.)… “frangere panem, the pain that I break and eat/ flower and flour, pain and pain/ bright Easter coming, like the sea’s white communion” (ibid.).

Patrick A.B. Anthony is director of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre, Saint Lucia and editor of the archdiocesan monthly newspaper, the Catholic Chronicle. He is a founding member of the Conference on Catholic Theology in the Caribbean Today.

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Peter Sjak-Shie

This presentation is limited to the education, which is given at schools. This education is given in a plural society. From the start (1857) the Catholic schools, which were founded to support the education given by Catholic parents, were being attended by some non?Christians. Later on Catholic schools were founded in areas, which for the vast majority were inhabited by non-Christians. There the schools functioned as missionary instruments.

The different ethnic groups were in the beginning invisible for each other. That situation altered after World War 11. The search for a new definition of their identity lived in all the different ethnic groups. This search affected the Church as well (‘Surinamese Church); and also the Catholic schools. In a later period, the call for ‘contextualization’ was heard; the ethnic plurality at the Catholic schools was being taken seriously. At Catholic schools, information about non?Christian religions in Suriname was beginning to be given. This accelerated the discussion about the identity of the Catholic schools.

Formerly the identity of the Catholic schools was a static conception, fitting in an image of the Church as a societas perfecta. We have an other notion of identity now: ‘Identities change, shift, grow and adapt constantly to the context in which the group or the person is. Identity is a constant process of (self) realization. Every image, every well?defined form of identity is only a snapshot of the continuing process. That makes (temporal) identity not unrealistic or false, it is rather a temporal share of an evolution. The process is the whole, not the snapshot’ (Verstraete&Pinxten). In this process, the Catholic schools have a diaconical function towards the children, in a dialogical atmosphere between the different religions and cultures, which they represent. ‘Me Catholic schools lay a heavy accent on the vision of life (‘Levensbeschouwing), underlying the concrete life at the schools. This vision of life is concretely ‘translated’ into the school culture, which characterizes the different schools individually. The implicit vision of life, which is materialized in the daily life of the school, is presented explicitly in l.catechesis, in 2. learning how to handle basic questions in human life, and in 3. value education.

Identity is a constant process in which the schools in their different contexts reflect constantly on their concrete situation, in the light of the Catholic?Christian tradition, cultivating the two basic values in that tradition: Love of ones neighbor and renunciation of every desire to gain status. With all this the school is aware of the sacramentality of reality, holds in esteem the holy persons from the past and the present, and is creative in finding symbols and rituals, traditional ones and new ones, inspired by the Catholic tradition and whatever religion which is represented by our children at school, in order to express the life of this school in.

Peter Sjak-Shie was born in Paramaribo, Suriname (1941), studied systematic theology, exegesis of the New Testament and history of modern philosophy at the Catholic university of Nijmegen (The Netherlands), and specialized in religious teaching. For several years, he taught religious education at secondary schools and philosophy at other institutes in The Netherlands. Since 1978, he teaches at the Catechetical Center of the Diocese of Paramaribo, and at the Moravian Theological Seminary in Suriname, and functions as the director of Youth Catechesis in the Diocese of Paramaribo.

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Jamaican theologian Theresa Lowe Ching challenges Caribbean Christians to recognise that we are especially equipped by our experiences and specific circumstances and must be committed enough to facilitate the development of appropriate strategies for giving concrete expression to the values and attitudes of the alternate vision which the world [and Church] desperately needs. The specific circumstances of the Caribbean to which Lowe Ching refers have been variously described. Kortright Davis, an Antiguan Anglican theologian, highlights the impact of Euro?American colonisation, which led to persistent poverty, cultural alienation and dependency being endemic factors in the region. Tbis points to a search for true emancipation in the region?Emancipation still comin’?and places the primary focus on the experience of the majority black population whose ancestors were torn from their native land, cut off from ancestral ties and cultural roots and, nevertheless, survived the most inhuman conditions. Similarly, Trinidadian theologian Gerald Boodoo maintains that the specific nature of the Caribbean is rooted in its existence as a “forced context” and a situation of dislocation. This reality of dislocation, particularly forced dislocation, spawns complex relationships and forces people to inhabit multiple worlds and religions, often at the same time. Grappling with such circumstances has made Caribbean people a “strong people, people who are able to live in increasingly pluralist societies.” Boodoo crowns his assessment with the statement that: “in increasingly more ways the rest of the world is becoming more like how we already are” and in so doing he extends the logic of Lowe Ching’s challenge.

Boodoo’s attention to plurality highlights the importance of other voices ‘in the formation of a Caribbean identity without denying the primary place of the African experience in shaping it and the black experience as an important point of reference in the search for true emancipation. Even as Boodoo’s analysis appears to emphasize the discontinuities and brokenness in the experiences of the Caribbean people, his argumentation around a theological method that is open to the experience of dislocation, confrontation, complexity and plurality is important for the attention that it places on the forging of our identity as Church in a process of encounter and engagement that takes seriously the brokenness *in our lives and in the lives of others. In order to do this effectively, i.e., to engender a true Church, it is important to en?gender the Church by paying close attention to the lives of those who are voiceless and suffer brokenness both within and outside of ecclesial walls, particularly, women. In so doing the Church can be truly Trinitarian in form and Marian in spirit. Lowe Ching in particular posits that the lack of change in the post?Vatican II Church is the result of the curtailing of women’s creativity and potential in both Caribbean Church and society. She asks: “Is the freeing of women’s potential perhaps the missing link that has prevented, up until now, a real transformation in our ecclesial and societal structures?” The Church’s call to embrace its Trinitarian form in the plurality of the world, incorporating more fully the often?ignored world of women, reverberates in the voices of Caribbean women and men as they talk back.

Anna Kasafi Perkins, PhD: Anna is the Dean of Studies /Lecturer at St. Michael’s Theological College, Jamaica. She also is the editor of Groundings, the bi-annual journal on Catholic Caribbean reflections published by St. Michael’s. She recently completed her doctoral studies in Theological Ethics at “the University that is Boston College”. Her dissertation examined the life and work of Jamaica’s late Prime Minister Michael Manley, with particular attention to his idea of equality” (“Reclaiming Equality: Jamaica’s Michael Manley and Catholic Social Teaching in Dialogue”). Her previous studies were at St. Michael’s Seminary and UWI, Mona (BA) and the University of Cambridge, England (MPhil.). She has a keen interest in the relationship between faith and political life.

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BEING CHURCH IN A PLURAL SOCIETY Carnival and the Church: Testing Plurality, Forging Hybridity by Jason Gordon and Curtis Moise

(Curtis Moise, a seminarian from Barbados has done his BA paper on Gonzales.  Fr. Jason Gordon proposed to him to do the research project on Gonzales.  He will present the following paper with Curtis taking the lead as a research in progress.)

This year, 2005, Carnival Sunday, the readings of the church was a call to be salt and light (Matthew 5). This poses a serious problem of praxis to the Trinidad Church. If we had a gathering of a thousand Catholics and we asked what it means to be salt and light in Carnival, the answers will filter into three or four basic positions with some nuances. One camp would answer, being salt and light means leaving the festival alone. It is a pagan festival, it is past redemption, it is a display of raw sexuality that is shameful at best, sinful at worst. A second camp will say the carnival has its problems but these should not keep Christians out of it. Christians should form their own band and be part of the carnival as a witness to the power of the gospel to transform culture. A third group would say Christians should be part of carnival as it is. They should be salt in the (melting) pot adding flavor by their witness and behaviour.

The plurality of the society is not simply the plethora of ethnic arid religious groupings. It is also in the ideology operating across and within these groupings. It is my thesis in this paper that carnival tests the health of our plurality. But it does more than that. It also forges hybridity.  For the sake of this paper, plurality is the co?existence of difference, while hybridity is the engagement of difference in birthing a new culture.

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The concept of ‘unresponsibility’, like its favourable counterpart ‘responsibility, is coined with a collection of attributes in mind.  In the course of this paper I explore some of these such as the proletarian nature of Caribbean society, victimhood, half?education and authoritarianism with attention focused on the epistemic dimensions lying at the heart of the malaise.  In considering to what extent this is true of Caribbean people in general I will raise the somewhat controversial feature of ‘episternic sovereignty’ and examine some of the ways which seem to point the way toward the healing of the perceived knowledge wound and the resulting Caribbean culture pathology.

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Faith and participation in the Church necessitates an understanding of the Self. This paper will examine the Self from a psychological, philosophical and theological perspective. It will reflect on the importance of critical thinking in a Plural Society, examining important aspects such as science and religion, faith and reason, sexuality, technology, the formed conscience and dissent in the Church. Being Church in a plural society today cannot allow us to fall victim to scientific, religious nor sexual scandals of out past. Gaudium et Spes, paragraph 16 states that dignity depends on freedom to obey one’s conscience, and that one’s conscience is one’s sanctuary. The statement, “Know Thyself,” is more imperative today than ever before.

Martin Schade (Ph.D. candidate, S.T.L, Th.M, M.Div., M.A./Phil., B.A/Psyc.) is a teacher, counsellor and an all?denominational minister of religion. He was born in Tokyo, Japan by American parents and came to Jamaica in 1982. He has since become a proud naturalised Jamaican. Martin was Head Chaplain and Vice Principle of Religious Affairs at St. George’s College, founder and Executive Director of the Jesuit Youth Ministry, has lectured at St. Michael’s Seminary /Theological. Centre, United Theological College and U.W.I. He has also conceptualised and produced a musical C.D. called Riddim of Creation, which reflects how God is working in all of creation and how we all must start a new riddim in understanding God in the world. Martin is a full?time lecturer and does counselling in the Liberal Studies Department at the University of Technology, Jamaica. He teaches Psychology, Human Sexuality, Ethics, Philosophy and Comparative Religions. He is presently finishing a Ph.D. in Philosophy at U.W.I. Mona where he will write his dissertation on Dialectical Incarnation: God is Love and the Totality of Reality. He ministers within Unity of Jamaica and the Inter?religious International Federation for World Peace, trying to break down the division between religions, not only within Christianity, but all world religions, for, as he says, there is ONE God, Creator of all that is.

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WALKING  THE CHRIST JOURNEY Coming Home to Christ ? Living in Christ by Linda Wyke

A parish seeking to bring parishioners into a deeper understanding of their Baptism as priest, prophet and king, leading to transformation for service. The Goal?to transform the parish into a ministering community standing on four pillars of Communion, new Creation, stewardship and Eucharist.

a) a description of the process?the  experience

b) The stages and steps???catechesis?prayer and liturgical expression?reflection

c) Analysis of the process and the results?the implications??the future?

Linda Wyke (b. 1944): Education: BA Economics and Spanish1969 UWI; Post Graduate Diploma in Management Studies (University of Glasgow, Scotland); Med Boston College. Worked as Econornist in the Civil Service for 14 years. Is presently involved in Catechesis, Pastoral Ministry, Spiritual Direction, Retreats. She has the Archdiocesan Director of Religious Education in the Archdiocese of Port?of?Spain for 8 years now. She is the mother of a 32 year old daughter.

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With emphasis on the Church as herald of God’s Word and community of Christian faith, this paper reflects on the theological implications of poems recently published by Marie Ursula Raymond’ and Jennifer Rahim  respectively, two Trinidadian women who are practising Catholics. Eschewing such labels as “Catholic poetry”, “Christian poetry” and “religious poetry”, the reflection proceeds from the notion of poetry’s revolutionary potential as illuminated by the assertion that poetry is, “in fact, the most rebellious and unconventional of forms, constantly seeking new breakwaters and unearthing strange harmonies .”Accordingly, this paper contends that, as cultural expressions of lived experience, the poems of Raymond and Rahim represent ways of speaking about God that bring the concept of being church in a plural society into sharp relief. The following questions therefore highlight the central concerns of this paper: how do the poems of Raymond and Rahim utilize imagery, symbolism and theme to reveal the transcendent? How can this revelation be used for evangelization and catechesis in a plural society?

1.      Marie Ursula Raymond, Anointer, anointed?poems on the priesthood in the Caribbean (San Juan:  Lexicon Trinidad Ltd: 2003). 2.      Jennifer Rahim, Between the Fence and the Forest (Leeds; Peepal Tree Press Ltd: 2002). 3.      Ramabai Espinet, “Introduction,” Creation Fire. a CAFRA anthology of Caribbean  women’s poetry, edited by Ramabai Espinet(Toronto: Sister Vision, 1990),xxi.

S. Rose-Ann Walker: M.A.English; provides instruction in Caribbean Literature and Language Expression at the Regional Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs, Mount St. Benedict, Trinidad. She is a Lay Minister, a Lay Dominican and a part?time Lecturer in the Department of Liberal Arts, The University of West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine.