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Fr De Verteuil – the Liberator laid to rest

By JANELLE DE SOUZA Friday, January 10 2014

click on pic to zoom in
GREAT TEACHER HAS DEPARTED: Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSP's funeral at St Theresa's RC Church yesterday in Wodbrook. Archbishop Joseph Harris at the back...
GREAT TEACHER HAS DEPARTED: Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSP's funeral at St Theresa's RC Church yesterday in Wodbrook. Archbishop Joseph Harris at the back...

One of the most endearing characteristics of Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp of the Holy Ghost Fathers, was that he liberated many who were held captive by their fears and insecurities, helping them to be the persons they ought to be.

So said Archbishop Joseph Harris yesterday as he delivered the homily at the funeral of de Verteuil at the St Theresa’s RC Church on De Verteuil St, Woodbrook.

Fr de Verteuil, 84, died in his sleep on Sunday morning. He was a priest for 53 years. Among some of his accomplishments, he served as the Provincial Superior of the Trinidad Province of the Holy Ghost Fathers from 1980 to 1992; was the former editor of the Catholic News; former rector of the Regional Seminary at Mt St Benedict; and founded the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre situated at UWI Chaplaincy, Carmody Road, St Augustine.

Harris disclosed that he met de Verteuil in 1965 while he was a young man striving for priesthood. Harris said he was insecure because of his physical problems, especially as a senior priest had discouraged him from continuing, saying that people would not understand his health issues. However de Verteuil encouraged him, and told him to have courage, that he would become a priest if it was God’s will.

“Were it not for Michel pushing me beyond what I thought I was capable of, I would not have done extra studies,” he said.

“Were it not for him, I would not be the person that I am. The spirit of the Lord was truly upon him,” he added.

Harris stated that despite de Verteuil’s shortcomings, he showed it was possible to “make the mission of Jesus alive” as he let people know they were capable of good things, things others told them they could not do.

Harris described de Verteuil as a friend, father and counsellor — a man who loved God and all God’s children. “His love extended to all people, especially those who considered themselves on the margin.

We believe Michel is with the Father enjoying the good things that God prepares for those who love him,” he said.

The Archbishop said as his health deteriorated, de Verteuil accepted his limitations with a smile and without fuss, Harris recalled.

Even when de Verteuil was sick in bed, he continued to encourage those who visited him. Harris thanked God for giving de Verteuil to individuals, and to the church for so many years. “He will be a hard man to replace in the lives of so many,” he said.

Harris added that he hoped de Verteuil’s death was not the first in a line of priests’ death as was Fr Henry Charles’ death in January 2013. Besides Charles, Fr Neil Rodriguez, Fr Andrew Cockburn, Fr Arthur Lai Fook, Msgr Urban Peschier, Fr Hildebrand Greene and Fr Knolly Knox all died in 2013. “I couldn’t take six more priests dying on me like the last time,” he said sadly.

Harris then asked that God look on the Church with mercy and raise up priests of the same calibre.

At the end of the funeral mas, Fr Gregory Augustine, the Chief Celebrant and Provincial Superior of the Holy Ghost Fathers, told the mourners he was not sad, but had a sense of satisfaction to have known and experienced the way de Verteuil dealt with people, and made them feel good.

Silent tears were shed at the funeral, which was followed by the interment at Lapeyrouse Cemetery.

The mood in the church was sombre and respectful as de Verteuil’s friends lined up along the aisle as the procession exited the church to the Holy Ghost Fathers Missionary Song, followed by the coffin.

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