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A time for mercy

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, October 02, 2017

Well do I remember that day some 20 years ago when we arrived at Alpha Boys' School to pick up one of their school-leavers who would be working for us. We met in the office of the legendary Sister Mary Ignatius, a Jamaican Sister of Mercy. As she showed me the new clothes she had put together for the young man and blessed him before his departure, we saw tears in her eyes. She was the mother who had nurtured him and now he was leaving home. That young man has now moved up in his job as a technician and is a responsible family man.

Graduates of Alpha Boys' School continue to laud Sister Ignatius who brought out the best in them.

This is the mercy that Jamaica needs today, the mercy that will so nurture our young people that they will have the confidence to take the right road in their lives. The great thing about mercy is that every single one of us can afford to give it. Mercy is mentorship of a child, free tutoring of a student, a listening ear for a confused teenager, a visit to a lonely elder, community outreach, and hurricane relief.

Jamaican Jessie Ripoll, who founded Alpha in 1880, later became a Sister of Mercy, a religious order which celebrates Mercy Day worldwide on September 24. To honour their work in Jamaica and to promote works of mercy, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen declared last year that the week in which September 24 falls should be observed as Mercy Week in Jamaica. He graciously welcomed members of the Mercy community at King's House last Tuesday.

The events planned over the past week by Sister Theresa Lowe Ching and her committee included a seminar with the theme, 'The Wager of Faith: Choosing to Believe in a Scientific Age'. The main presenter was Jamaica's Nobel Laureate Professor Anthony Chen, while The University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer Dr Leith Dunn spoke on 'Moral Responsibility & Issues of Gender, Climate Change and Disaster Management'.

There was respect in the room as each member of an interfaith panel revealed the commonalities of all religions: Rev Marvia Lawes, Baptist minister; Sheik Musa Tijani, head of the Islamic Council of Jamaica; Dr Clinton Hutton, UWI lecturer and Rastafarian artist; Ainsley Henriques, honorary consul for Israel; and Rev Peter McIsaac, Jesuit director and lecturer at St Michael's Theological College. Each in turn affirmed their tolerance of others' beliefs.

Another Mercy Week highlight was the 'Hello World' event hosted by the alumnae for students of upper sixth form at my alma mater, Convent of Mercy Academy 'Alpha'. We broke bread with the students and listened to their plans. Ashley Kelly, who came to Alpha from Titchfield High, plans to study law; Ashley Small is keen on a career in nursing and hopes to advance to graduate studies in this field. And, Abigail Chin is a future architect. They inspired us with their confidence and optimism.


Outreach to Dominican students

This spirit of mercy was expressed, coincidentally, at a courtesy call to Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid by members of the Kingston & St Andrew Development Foundation, led by Custos Rotulorum of Kingston Steadman Fuller, last week. Board director Joylene Griffiths disclosed that the Ardenne High Parent-Teacher Association was spearheading a programme to place fifth and sixth formers from the hurricane-damaged island of Dominica in various high schools so they could continue their studies in preparation for Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations. Boarding at schools and tertiary institutions was being arranged and parent-teachers' associations will be raising funds to support the effort. What a compassionate and timely act.


CCRP Living Legacy Awards

Last week was also Seniors' Week and the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons held its Living Legacy Awards event at which Jamaicans from many walks of life were honoured. They were St John Ambulance Head of Nursing Marie Clemetson, lecturer/composer Noel Dexter, international sports organiser Michael Fennell, broadcaster and actress Leonie Forbes, volunteers and educators Cecile and Norman Jarrett, lecturer and human rights activist Horace Levy, lecturer and former Poet Laureate Professor Mervyn Morris, retired Jamaica Defence Force Chief of Staff Major General Robert Neish, St John Ambulance volunteer and instructor Clembert Powell, and National Dance Theatre Company founding member and dance instructor Patricia “Patsy” Ricketts.

We were bowled over by the untiring efforts of these excellent Jamaicans. In his reply on behalf of the awardees, Mike Fennell also paid tribute to the many other generous Jamaicans who may never gain similar recognition.


CAFFE celebrates 20 years

Director Grace Baston led the Litany of Thanksgiving at St Luke's Church, Cross Roads, recently for the 20th anniversary of Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) founded by the late Father Jim Webb. The priest resolved to start CAFFE after he arrived at a polling station in Kingston's inner city and was told, “Fadah, yuh vote already.”

Father Jim called up a group of us for a meeting at the Roman Catholic Chancery, hosted by then Archbishop Edgerton Clarke. It was great to get together with fellow founding members Archbishop Emeritus Clarke, founding Chairman Dr Alfred Sangster, Dr Blossom O'Meally-Nelson, and Anton Thompson, who still serves as a director and treasurer. Other members of the hard-working civic organisation are Nancy Anderson, director and secretary, and Mario Samms, supervisor.

Being a consultant to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), I recused myself from CAFFE, but had the pleasure of organising a meeting between Dr Sangster and then Director of Elections Danville Walker who heartily welcomed the formation of the election-monitoring body. Chairman of the ECJ, Dorothy Pine-McLarty has also praised the work of CAFFE, and participated in the anniversary celebrations.

CAFFE Chairman Dr Lloyd Barnett used the occasion to pay tribute to Archbishop Emeritus Clarke, who was celebrating his 50th anniversary as a bishop. In his response, Archbishop Clarke reminded us that “Jamaicans are a people of dignity”, and called for respect to be given from the cradle. He said it was respect that helps people “to become fully human… so make that a priority in your lives”. He said that respect can only come from honesty. “We must learn to be truthful to ourselves and truthful to each other,” he declared.


By-election fever in St Mary SE

The Jamaica Labour Party and People's National Party have fielded two accomplished candidates in Dr Norman Dunn and Dr Shane Alexis for the upcoming contest in St Mary South Eastern. Just as I have learned how to wear my orange with green, and vice versa, I will refrain from any partisan expression. The most important thing is that the party faithfuls listen to the call for dignity and respect from CAFFE and keep the peace.