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Archbishop Dufour goes back into the field

Sunday, November 29, 2020

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Former Roman Catholic bishop of the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Montego Bay, the Most Rev Charles Henry Dufour, who has retired as the archbishop emeritus of Kingston, was back in the field carrying out priestly duties in Above Rocks, St Catherine, recently.

Archbishop Dufour, who turned 80 on April 25 this year, said: “I attended the St Mary's Church in Above Rocks recently where I assisted with priestly duties and I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“God sent me to serve the people and as long as he permits me to, I will continue to do his will,” Dufour stressed.

Archbishop Charles, as he is fraternally called, officially retired from priestly duties on September 18, after serving for 50 years in the priesthood.

He had served the Diocese of Montego Bay, which covers Trelawny, St James, Hanover and Westmoreland, for 15 years before he was transferred to Kingston.

“Although I have retired as an archbishop, I have not retired from priestly duties. You just never do,” said Dufour.

“I will also assist with charitable projects on an as-needs basis, but not to take on management positions,” he affirmed.

He served as the apostolic administrator in the Mandeville Diocese for four and half years before he was succeeded by Guyanese-born Bishop John Persaud, who, as part of his responsibilities, will have direct oversight responsibilities for the churches and charitable organisations that fall under the umbrella of the Mandeville Diocese, which include the parishes of Clarendon and St Elizabeth.

Dufour, who was also appointed the sixth archbishop of Kingston on April 19, 2011, served as head of the Kingston Diocese for four years and now proudly wears the life-long title as archbishop Emeritus of Kingston.

Golden jubilee celebrations were held in Kingston on August 9 and on September 6 in Montego Bay to celebrate Archbishop Dufour's 50th anniversary of priestly ordination – signalling the commencement of his official retirement.

At his thanksgiving mass at the Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Montego Bay, Bishop Persaud expressed confidence that his predecessor, “having sent to serve by the creator, would continue to serve the Jamaican people in whatever capacity he deems necessary”.

Rev Father Carl Clarke, who had delivered the homily at the thanksgiving mass, expressed similar sentiments.

During his tenure as a young priest serving in Kingston, Dufour often ministered to female and male inmates at the island's correctional facilities. The experiences garnered there have served as lessons for life.

“I spoke to dozens of male and female prisoners over many years. Whenever I got to know them well enough, I always asked, 'Why are you here?' The answers were similar: 'I have no father,' ” he recalled.

Archbishop Dufour said the greatest problem facing Jamaica today is the lack of family life.

“When young men are grown up in a situation where there is no father in the home, they can become easily drawn into gangs. When we start having stronger family lives, a lot of the problems we have in this country will vanish,” he asserted.

He believes that crime-fighting measures implemented by successive governments will never solve crime permanently, until and unless more fathers take their children's responsibility seriously.

Archbishop Dufour has had several accolades bestowed on him for his unwavering service to Jamaicans and humanity as a whole. These include the Prime Minister's Medal of Appreciation — 1983; the Order of Distinction, Commander Class — 2006; the World Federation of Consuls Medal of Appreciation; Shepherd's Award from the Franciscan University of Stubenville, Ohio, USA; the Order of Jamaica; the Caribbean and African Faith-based Leadership Award for Distinguished Leadership in Ministry, Humanitarian Services and Community Development in Jamaica, the Caribbean and the USA, among others.

Meantime, congratulatory messages have been sent to Archbishop Dufour from Pope Francis, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples based at The Vatican, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, among other officials.

During his tenure, Archbishop Dufour was instrumental in establishing, or played an integral role in, a number of charitable projects across the dioceses in sections of western Jamaica, St Ann and Mandeville. These include the Good Shepherd Foundation (GSF); the Mustard Seed Children's Home situated in Moore Park, St James, on lands donated by retired businessman Winston Dear — a facility which caters to the needs of abandoned children who are physically and mentally challenged; the Widow's Mite in Murray Mount, St Ann, the Holy Spirit Community Centre and Clinic in Maggotty, St Elizabeth; and the Hope Teaching Clinic in Montego Bay.

The GSF primarily offers assistance to individuals in the areas of health, education and welfare, while the Hope Teaching Clinic in Montego Bay — an arm of the GSF— along with the Holy Spirit Clinic, administered to more than a combined 70,000 patients in 2018, Dufour said.

Archbishop Dufour added that without the kind and unselfish gestures of many benefactors locally and overseas, none of the projects would have been made possible. And for that he is forever grateful.