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Servol’s Fr Gerard Pantin dies at 85

By Rachael Espinet Tuesday, June 24 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Roman Catholic priest Father Gerard Pantin,...
Roman Catholic priest Father Gerard Pantin,...

Roman Catholic priest Father Gerard Pantin, who devoted his life to the service of the young people of Laventille and the nation, passed away yesterday at age 85.

A member of the Holy Ghost order, Fr Pantin, more popularly known as Gerry, died at Spiritan House at about 9 am. A recipient of the nation’s highest award the Trinity Cross, now known as the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Fr Pantin founded Service Volunteered for All (Servol) which now operates as a school in Beetham Gardens, Port-of-Spain.

Fr Pantin was lauded by many as a great and brave man who worked tirelessly for the young people of Trinidad.

Archbishop Joseph Harris described Fr Pantin as a holy and brilliant man.

“Father Pantin made a great contribution to Trinidad and Tobago and to the young people of the country, especially the young people who seem to have had no future. His contribution was great,” Archbishop Harris said.

The Archbishop said Fr Pantin was a great biology teacher at St Mary’s College, and during the Black Power Movement of the 1970s he decided to give it all up to “help those who had no hope.”

“The brilliance is that he never went to tell people what they needed, but had a dialogue with them. Through that dialogue he was able to help them. His contribution was very great. The nation would have been poorer without him and his contributions,” Harris said.

According to the history of Servol on its website, in the 1970s Fr Pantin went into the Laventille area to find out how he could assist the people with the various problems they faced.

Instead of going into the community to provide guidance, Fr Pantin approached people in the Laventille community and asked how he could help.

Fr Pantin once said he was greeted with “colourful language” from the people he wanted to help, but eventually they came around when they realised he was sincere in his offer to assist the community. Fr Pantin was advised by the community leaders in Laventille to work with the teenagers who would be more responsive.

Fr Pantin once went on record stating: “That was the foundation for Servol. Listen to people. Don’t just jump in with your preconceived ideas?”

In Trinidad and Tobago, Servol has more than 160 early childhood centres, dozens of skills training stations, and a La Romaine centre that prepares adolescents for jobs in the petroleum industry.

However, Servol’s successful adolescent development programme (ADP) is lauded as one of Fr Pantin’s greatest idea. The ADP is a three-month-long intensive course that addresses teens’ self- esteem, sexuality and family life awareness.

The course has been adopted in a number of Caribbean nations and has even reached South Africa, Israel and Ireland. Servol’s work was even lauded by UNESCO. Over the years Servol has served more than 87,000 of the country’s young people.

Olderton Josiah, a teacher at Servol for 30 years, described Fr Pantin as one of the greatest men he ever knew. Josiah said he had many fond memories of Fr Pantin doing brilliant deeds for the students, but recalls one incident when he just began teaching in Servol in 1984 of a young boy who was disrupting Fr Pantin’s class.

The priest allowed it for a period of time. Eventually Fr Pantin called the boy to the front of the class and asked him to sit with him.

After a while of sitting in front of the class Fr Pantin asked the boy a question, and reluctantly he gave the answer. Josiah said Fr Pantin took what little the boy said, wrote it on the board, commended him for his answer and then added to it. The next day, the boy sat up front with Fr Pantin again, and when the priest asked a question, his hand was the first to go up.

“Every week he turned out to class, sit up in the front with Father and he would participate.

You know that boy was the best in that adolescent development programme that year. I looked at that and took that to my class. That man was a great man,” Josiah said.

Fr Pantin was one of ten children and his siblings include the late Archbishop Anthony Pantin, Cluny Sister at St Joseph Convent Rosa Pantin, and former Education Minister Clive Pantin.

Fr Pantin is the third Holy Ghost Priest to die this year. Funeral arrangements are yet to be finalised.

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