Economía

Luis Alfonso Oberto PDVSA *&* ||67 //
A FATHER TO ALL

Roman Catholic priest Father Wilfred John, who is presently serving in the San Fernando parish, has witnessed it all while maintaining a deep spiritual faith which has comforted him following the death of his wife of 25 years.

John, writing in the Catholic News on the occasion of Father’s Day, described himself as a “widower- priest” who is the “father of three children, and a grandfather of five (one being a step-grand).” He and his wife had two girls and a boy (whose names he did not want to disclose).

Interviewed yesterday, John, 76, also commented on what he described as the “father wound” afflicting students from single-parent homes and which he encountered during his days as a teacher at Williamsville Junior Secondary School.

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To understand this complex man who never strays far from his faith is to start at the beginning when, while still attending Presentation College, San Fernando had decided that his life’s calling was that of a monk.

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“When I was in Presentation College, I was attracted to the religious life and there I had interactions with Father Suite and Father Maingot and they were Benedictine monks, and I admired their ministry and the way they operated.

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So, I suppose that may have prompted me to follow that path,” he said.

“In 1961, I entered the monastery hoping to be a monk and I remained there for seven years, and during that time I had a desire to be a missionary.

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It was a bit difficult to get in touch with missionary organizations based in Africa at the time, so after trying for one or two years I just gave up the idea.” He then left the monastery and re-entered the world of work.

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Sometime afterwards (later confessing that re-entering the dating game had proven challenging), he met a nurse, Gloria Henry, who became his wife.“I saw my marriage as a chance which God had given me to show y different from any other marriage,” John said.

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“I subsequently got married and remained so for 25 years. Three children were born during these years. As I reflect and remember, I had to get up at nights to change diapers (and later on pampers).

One child cried almost incessantly, while another showed more mercy to my shattered eardrums.

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My three children were a source of joy as I was determined to cherish, love and support them.

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I received training in child care from my wife who was a nurse. Because of my experience, I exhort all fathers to be patient with small children.” John said, “My former priestly training ensured that no-one left home without a blessing.

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Shared prayers at night were marked by parents blessing children and children blessing parents. I urge all parents to imitate this simple gesture of faith and bonding.

“Holidays and education are immensely important. Holidays were spent discovering new places in Trinidad and Tobago and sometimes visiting family abroad.

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Education was challenging but the spirit of encouragement overcame some awkward moments,” he said.“Nowadays, families are different, now, maybe fathers and parents (now) are very rushed and pressured, and they may be.

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If they practice family prayer, which I advise that they do, it is sometimes kept in the background because they have to go and do a job and face the challenges of the world.” John said these challenges were translated to the children, which he experienced first-hand while working as a teacher both at St Benedict’s College and at Williamsville Junior Secondary School where he taught English and Religious Knowledge.

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“I had to have a different perspective when it came to dealing with children, not merely as people who came to learn but people who had to be loved by God, and they were accepted even though so many of them came from broken homes.

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But my role, most times, was a father’s role, a surrogate father.” “In the recess time, I had no recess time for the years that I was there, because as soon as break-time came, children came and they assembled in my room, and they would tell me things like ‘I don’t know my father, I haven’t seen my mother,’ and I realised the father wound especially was really deep in the lives of many of them, boys and girls,” John recounted.

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“So my job was to make them feel accepted and affirmed and loved so, like my class in junior sec, we started with a prayer and I remember one occasion I forgot to start with a prayer and the children reminded me, ‘sir you forgetting something,’ and then we prayed.” “If they are given a chance to unburden themselves especially to feel wanted and accepted and cherished and encourage then they, in my opinion, become better students,” he said.

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He taught at Williamsville Junior Secondary School from 1979 to 2001. John said his faith was tested when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“That was a real eye-opening experience for me. I never knew what cancer patients went through. I read about cancer in books but when it struck home it was traumatic,” he said. “The medical procedures like biopsy, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery: that is a shattering experience for somebody who suffers from cancer,” he said,“And it is essential people journey with them, and since my wife died and after I became a priest I still journey with cancer patients.” Asked whether his faith was challenged, he said, “Certainly, it was.

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When my wife got the devastating news that it had spread, I asked why God allowed this to happen to her and none of my theological answers could satisfy, and gradually I had to try to soothe and console and that was a challenge.” “When my wife died and my children, they were teenagers, they couldn’t face this, it was a challenge to their faith.

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elnewyorktimes.com
They also wanted to know why God had allowed that to happen, and it took time for them to believe,” he said.

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“When they had grown up, I decided to continue priestly training at the seminary. I am now a father in two senses: I am still a father to my family but also a spiritual father to those who come under my care.

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My own experience tells me how important it is for fathers to be inspirational guides to their children.”

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