Priests’ deaths hurting Church
By CECILY ASSON Tuesday, February 26 2013
ARCHBISHOP of Port-of-Spain Joseph Harris has said the local Catholic Church has been “hit hard and is much poorer” following the deaths of four active priests within the last two months.
Speaking on Sunday at a South Catholic Youth Rally at the St Dominic RC Church in Penal, Archbishop Harris urged several hundred youths in attendance to serve God through service to man. He urged the youths, that just as priests Frs Henry Charles, 69, Neil Rodriguez, 79, Andrew Cockburn, 87, and Phillip Howard, 66, gave of themselves in the service of the Church for decades, they must do the same.
“You too have to be a committed disciple, willing because of love of God and love of neighbours, willing to put the gift and talents that God has given us to the service of others so that this land of ours in which we live can be a much better land than it is now,” Archbishop Harris said.
The local church today is still reeling, he said, from the deaths of the four priests who Harris said were each very talented in their own way.
“Over the past two months, we have lost four priests from this Archdiocese. Each of them brought to the church gifts and talents which were essential for the progress of the church.” Fr Howard died on December 4, 2012 from a massive heart attack. Fr Charles also suffered a massive heart attack on January 15 while at his office at St Mary’s RC Church in St James. Fr Rodriguez who was ailing for some time, died on February 1 while Fr Cockburn died last week Friday.
“Fr Phillip Howard had a special gift for working with young people, especially young people with problems. He had a special gift for them. He was as blunt as he could be. He told you things directly to your face and young people loved him. That gift is no longer with us. “Fr Henry Charles...academic, student, brilliant man, great at forming people. Priests formed by him were known to be good men. That gift is no longer with us.
“Fr Neil Rodriguez, one of the most creative minds in the priesthood. He had lots of talent in ministering to the people. And two days ago, Fr Andrew Cockburn went on to his Father. One of the best at hearing confessions. A man of tremendous compassion. These two gifts are no longer with us,” Harris said.
He urged the youths to come forward and give of themselves to the church. “But you my dear young people, you have gifts and talents also and those gifts and talents you have to bring and put at the service of God’s people. In whatever form, you have to bring your gifts and talents also because our church will go nowhere unless your gifts and talents are placed at the service of the church and at the service of others in the church.
Harris stressed that there was no need for them to “become a priest or nun.” Harris said God calls “each one of us” and it must never be said “God called” and you did not answer. And do not say that you are not capable, Harris added.