DAY 3 : June 15
St Lucia clergy in the house
First up was the presentation of Dr Gerald Boodoo of Duquesne University, entitled “The Indigenous and Caribbean Theology: Creating who we are”. His presentation evoked some of the insights/questions of the conference’s first presentation. Who, what, where is the indigenous in the Caribbean? Who self identifies as indigenous? What of diasporic indigeneity? Indigeneity and theology. Dr Boodoo critiqued the United Nations and the International Labour Organisation’s definition of indigenous and wondered if there could be a greater connection of our liturgy with, for example, our hurricane season.
Sr Rose Leon, SJC, a doctoral candidate of the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, used a multi-media presentation, including live dancing by school children, to give us an insight into the integration of bele l’eglize, and the use of kréyol (kwéyòl) in the liturgy in Martinique. With the use of photographs we experienced the different dimensions of bele l’eglize – the cry of the poor; prayer for a happy death, prayer of thanksgiving, the story of the prodigal son told to the rhythm of the tambour/drum.
Her research on Bele l’Eglize evokes the plea “Allow Jesus the chance to be Creole”. This was a presentation that involved the senses, not the least the inherent rhythm Caribbean people carry in their language and movement.
Dr Everard Johnston, of the Theological Institue, Mount St Benedict, used a power point format for his presentation entitled, “Inculturation and Indigenization in a Globalized World: Reflections on a 200-year-old Catholic church in Trinidad”. His paper examined the St Joseph Catholic Church, the oldest church building standing and in continuous use since its construction. Studying features of the building and its furnishings, and alterations made in the course of its 200-year history, raises issues regarding the nature and meaning of inculturation and indigenization of a local (or “particular” – ecclesia particularis) Catholic Church in a globalized world. This presentation gave rise to questions about the restoration of churches (Cathedrals more so?) and who decides what should be kept, what altered and how important are certain furnishings in establishing an authentic history of the place and the people who brought it into being. Echoes again of the first conference presentation.
DAY 4 : June 16
‘Rushing’ in Nassau and dancing in Zambia
Thursday, June 16, our final day of formal presentations in the conference room. We welcomed first time participant and presenter Bahamian Baptist minister, Rev Omar Archer, a doctoral student in Theology at the UWI, Mona. His presentation, “We rushing through the crowd: Doing theology in a Bahamian Context” aimed at developing a contextual Bahamian theology and showing how integral culture is to the development of a Bahamian theology. The title of his paper was in reference to the Bahamian Jonkanoo festival; “rushing” being a word descriptive of engaging in a parade and moving. The other outstanding cultural feature was the oral nature of the Bahamian culture.
Msgr Patrick Anthony (Paba), one of the founding members of the Caribbean Theology conference, host and chief organizer of our St Lucia experience was up next. A former director of the Cardinal Kelvin Felix Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre, and founding director of the Folk Research Centre, St. Lucia, his academic interest is in the relationship between theology and culture, especially literature and theology.
Paba’s audio-visual presentation examined two areas of inculturation in the St Lucian context (1) the church murals of the late Dunstan St Omer and (2) the architecture of the monastic church of Our Lady of the Assumption Monastery, Mount of Prayer, Coubaril, St Lucia, with special focus on the banana tree shaped tabernacle. These cases were compared with the use of the Nyanja language and cultural elements of the Chewa peoples in the Roman Catholic Eucharistic liturgy as well as during a traditional Catholic village wedding in the Mzupadzi region of Chipata, Zambia. The field work for this presentation had been conducted during two trips to Zambia from August – November, 2013 and again during May of 2014 which also included two visits to Malawi in September and October 2013.
Powerful and dynamic women of faith
Joining us again for the final presentations of our conference was Archbishop Rivas O.P., as well as 7th Chapter, a group of faith-filled dynamic Cursillistas of St Benedict’s parish, Castries, led by Dr Martha Isaac, an emeritus professor from the Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature UWI, Cave Hill. Their presentation, “Priceless Treasure: A Eucharistic Project 7th Chapter” was about their first Faith Teaching Project, Priceless Treasure a book which tells a story about the strong faith of a family matriarch and her powerful influence on the spiritual life of her family. The focus and teaching are on the Eucharist, the primary aim being to give children, ages 8 –11 and older, an understanding of the Eucharist and Eucharistic celebrations in the Catholic Church and to help them to understand the strong, positive influence of the presence of Jesus in their lives. This was an inspiring presentation about team work, perseverance at a task and good leadership.
Our 13th and final presenter was Dr Rose Ann Walker, a multidisciplinary scholar and researcher. Theological inquiry remains an existential touchstone for her even as she reaps fulfilment from her position as an Assistant Professor/Programme Leader with the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Her presentation was entitled, “Inculturation as Narrative: the case of Babsie, Go teach My People”. This was a very moving presentation on the life and times of Babsie Bleasdell whose life’s journey can be described as “faith seeking understanding”. Along with Rose Ann, many in the meeting room were moved to tears, if not goose bumps, as we listened to extracts from the book and our presenter’s commentary.
With all the presentations completed and everyone in a relaxed mood, we were treated to a sumptuous barbecue supper on the grounds of the Bishop Gachet building, one of the residences that make up the Cardinal Kelvin Felix Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre.
( Compiled for the Editorial Committee by June Johnston with contributions from Ramon Luzarraga & Bernadette Salandy)
For continuation : cf. FINAL PRESENTATION