Mass marks 25th year of celebrating Caribbean cultures - Catholic Courier
Father Carl Clarke of Montego Bay, Jamaica, delivers the homily during the June 14 Caribbean Mass at Rochester's St. Monica Church. Father Carl Clarke of Montego Bay, Jamaica, delivers the homily during the June 14 Caribbean Mass at Rochester's St. Monica Church.

Mass marks 25th year of celebrating Caribbean cultures

ROCHESTER — Stop. Pay attention. Make connections.

That message from Father Carl Clarke’s homily resonated with Barbara DiFiore when she attended the 25th-annual Diocesan Caribbean Mass on June 14 at St. Monica Church.

And she felt the Holy Spirit brought her to the Mass to reconnect with Father Clarke, with whom she taught a religious education class in his native Jamaica about 25 years ago, said the longtime St. Monica parishioner.

"He has always been a joyful man, and always had that wonderful smile," DiFiore added.

Father Clarke, rector of Blessed Cathedral in Montego Bay, is known as the laughing priest, said Father Ray Fleming, pastor of St. Monica and Emmanual Church of the Deaf, as he welcomed the more than 150 people who attended the Mass.

Since June is national Caribbean-American Heritage Month, the annual Mass is always held the second Sunday of June, explained Elizabeth Johnston, intercultural program specialist for the diocesan Office of Cultural Diversity. The Mass originally was held at the former St. Bridget Church and was moved to St. Monica after St. Bridget was closed. The Mass also has been held at Immaculate Conception Church, she added.

Myrna Barthelemy, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception, said she always has participated in the Caribbean Mass. A Haiti native, she enjoys meeting people from such other Caribbean islands as St. Lucia and Jamaica.

The annual gathering now "is part of our culture," added Barthelemy, who proclaimed the first reading. "We see people from different parishes that we haven’t seen in a while."

Following the Mass, parishioners and visitors joined in fellowship along with trying food from several local restaurants that donated special dishes. The gathering had to be held inside the church instead of outside in the parking lot as planned because of the tropical-like rain and humidity.Caribbean celebration marks 25 years  

"We gather to celebrate … many different cultures," added Father Fleming. "And one of the most beautiful things of the many different cultures is that you can all come together in one room, (which) is a miracle in itself, but it happens because of your deep faith."

That faith, though, can sometimes be overshadowed in the midst of our busy schedules, Father Clarke noted.  

"We’re busy people," he said. "We don’t have time to stop, pay attention and make connections."

But such busyness doesn’t necessarily bring fulfillment, he added, and many people feel a sense of emptiness. They are too busy, though, to look around and make the kind of connections that will raise their spirits, added Father Clarke.

He reflected on this during the last Lenten and Easter season, especially the four solemnities celebrated in the weeks following Easter Sunday, including the feast of Corpus Christi and the feast of the Sacred Heart.

"We had … very, very, very big celebrations," Father Clarke added. "Did we notice? Did it touch our lives? Or did it just go by? … And we just went through the motions."

Instead of focusing on such moments, many people spend their time amassing all kinds of things, he said. But no one can take any of those things with them when they die, he noted.

"Pay attention to the things that God is doing in our hearts, in our lives and in our world," Father Clarke remarked. "The more we pay attention, the more we see what God is doing."

Father Clarke said he learned this lesson himself when he had to continue with business as usual in caring for his parish flock after the death of his mother. But he felt so lonely, he said, as if God had abandoned him.

"It’s amazing that when you are low, you are at your lowest … (that’s when) I started to see the hands of God in a way that I had never experienced before," he said.

He thought about his parish’s religious sisters, including two who were registered nurses, who took care of his mother out of the goodness of their hearts. His mother had the best doctors in Montego Bay caring for her free of charge. Parishioners would pick up her medications, he said.

And in her final days, Father Clarke anointed his mother and heard her last confession.

When he finally stopped to consider all those beautiful individual acts, Father Clarke said he was blown away.

"Our God is an awesome God who promises to take care of all of our needs and of us," he said.


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