On Saturday, June 13, Msgr. William John-Lewis convened a virtual Encounter of the ABP representatives of the various (arch)dioceses of the Caribbean region. The meeting, the first of its kind, was attended by the representatives of the archdioceses of Port of Spain, (Trinidad), and Kingston, (Jamaica), the dioceses of Paramaribo (Suriname), Belize City and Belmopan (Belize), St. George’s-in-Grenada (Grenada), Mandeville (Jamaica), and Roseau (Dominica).
ABP, Animacion Biblica de la Pastoral, Biblical Animation of All Pastoral Life, was adopted by the Antilles Episcopal Conference in early 2011 in response to Pope Benedict XVI in the Post Synodal Exhortation on the Word of God in the Life of the Church, 2010, where he states:“The Synod called for a particular pastoral commitment to emphasizing the centrality of the word of God in the Church’s life, and recommended a greater “biblical apostolate”, not alongside other forms of pastoral work, but as a means of letting the Bible inspire all pastoral work”.
Msgr. John-Lewis invited the participants to introduce themselves and give some information regarding their involvement in ABP in their respective dioceses. Then followed lectio divina on the Gospel of John 6: 51-58.
Then the Coordinator of the Caribbean Region of the Catholic Biblical Federation (CBF or FEBICLAC), gave a brief presentation on his role in promoting the Sacred Scriptures in the region. Msgr. explained that FEBICLAC, the Catholic Biblical Federation of Latin America and the Caribbean was divided into four sections—the South Cone (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Urugay), the Andean Zone (Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela), Central America and Mexico (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Panama) and The Caribbean (Antigua, Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Cayenne, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago).
The main topic for discussion was the continuing celebration of the Year of the Word of God which began on the First Sunday of Advent last year and ends on September 30 this year, the Feast of St. Jerome. It was meant to be an opportunity to share best practices and challenges; and to begin to look as the conclusion of this special year.
Following is a summary of the reports from the participants:
Dominica (Diocese of Roseau): Sr. Lorraine Royer, ICM, co-director of the Diocesan Pastoral Center . The Pastoral Center team has offered courses on papal documents, Dei Verbum; Verbum Domini, the Concluding Document of the Synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church; Overviews of various sections of Sacred Scripture including the Pentateuch, the Prophetic Literature, the Wisdom Literature, the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. The last overview on the Pauline Corpus, the Catholic Epistles and Revelation has not taken place due the onset of the Coranavirus epidemic. In addition, they have produced programmes based these courses to be aired on Dominica Catholic Radio, and during the days of Covid-19 an attempt was made to provide some of the programmes on Facebook live. The Year of the Word of God was launched during the diocesan celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King, the Sunday preceding the official beginning of the Year. The entire diocese was assembled for the Solemnity and at the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word, the Bible was brought up in procession to the fanfare of drums and preceded by dancers. Then followed the enthronement of the Word.
The observance of the Year of the Word of God included the blessing of Bibles and enthronement of Bibles in all the Churches of the diocese and in families. Lectio divina continues to be taught and encouraged at the beginning of all pastoral activities and meetings.
There are no definite plans for the conclusion of the Year on the Feast of St. Jerome, September 30, 2020
Jamaica (Archdiocese of Kingston): Fr. Thomas Dynetius. In the Archdiocese Kingston, there was not much activity. A series of courses on the Bible had been planned but could not be offered due to the onset of the coronavirus. Hopefully, the courses will be offered in September. However, there were other events such as ABP healing retreats in the school.
Suriname (Diocese of Paramaribo): Gerda Misidjang. In the diocese of Paramaribo, the Bishop asked all priests to do the enthronement of the Word in their parishes; there was the re-commissioning of lectors and ministers of the Word; lectio divina continues to be encouraged. There had been plans to invite instructors from the Bible Institute in Trinidad to address the Youth, but the event had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
The greatest challenge faced in the diocese is the question of language. The Bibles available are in English while the official language of the Country is Dutch. There is the need to access bibles written in Dutch. In addition to Dutch, there are many other languages and dialects spoken in the Country.
The Youth find lectio divina a very good tool, because it does not entail giving an explanation of the Word, but rather allowing the Word touch one’s heart and then responding to it.
At this point, Msgr. John-Lewis mentioned that one of the aims of the Biblical Federation is the dissemination of the Word of God in as many languages as possible. He noted that the Bible had been translated in Jamaican Patwa.
Jamaica (Diocese of Mandeville) Fr. Roy : In the diocese of Mandeville, there was a course for lay leadership attended by 40-60 members. It consisted of advanced catechism, liturgy, lectio divina. The plans to continue were thwarted by the advent of Covid-19. It was noted that the people are hungering for the Word of God.
Fr. Roy, who comes to the diocese from year of teaching Sacred Scripture in Nairobi, Kenya, is excited about the catechetical process as well as participating in this meeting. He hold and SSL degree from Rome, and is experienced in designing courses in Sacred Scripture.
Belize (Diocese of Belize and Belmopan) Luciano Cuellar: Luciano was appointed to the Board of St. Ignatius High School a year ago where a large percentage of the students are not Catholic. There is a need for basic instruction in the faith. He has developed 15 mini-presentations on the faith with Sacred Scripture ending with lectio.
Trinidad and Tobago (Archdiocese of Port of Spain). Peter Timothy. In the archdiocese of Port of Spain, there exists a Bible Institute operated by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. On the Day of the Word, the Archbishop collaborated with Bible Institute celebrating a Bible fair on Sunday of Word. Of note was the vibrant representation and participation in various workshops of the young people. Since the liturgical year A deals with the Gospel of Matthew, Fr. Arnold Francis was invited to produce a DVD on the gospel of Matthew. This would be disseminated to the parishes. It did not take place because of the onset of Covid-19.
The parish of Toco studied the Gospel of Matthew. Lectio divina is beng encouraged integrating the bible into every aspect of Catholic life. As part of the renewal of the spiritual life of the Archdiocese, every Catholic was given a copy of Matthew Kelly’s Four Sign of a Dynamic Catholic.
Peter offered to share with the group the books used at the Bible Institute where he is an instructor. The Institute has begun classes in Tobago.
Grenada (Diocese of St. George’s-in-Grenada) David Hopkin. There had not been much ABP activity in the diocese except the observance of the Sunday of the Word of God. He is impressed with the ideas shared at this meeting; especially with the idea of a symposium on the Bible.
Before concluding, Peter offered to disseminate information on the Bible fair.
Msgr. John-Lewis invited ideas on the Closing of the Year of the Word of God. Following are some of the ideas mentioned:
- (Peter) Explain who St. Jerome was, his contribution to Biblical Studies
- (Sr. Lorraine Use the quotations from St. Jerome as a way of reinforcing the love for and understanding of the importance of Sacred Scripture.
- (David) Develop a Sunday School pdf page for the parish; links with videos on Children’s level.
Next meeting: It was agreed that such a meeting is very useful and should be continued every two months with an agenda circulated prior to the meeting. The next meeting is scheduled for a date in August preferable on a weekday (Wednesday to Friday), evening beginning at 6pm Dominica time. Information will be forwarded to the members in due time.
Fr. Roy was invited to close the meeting with a prayer.