For the second year, Fr. Joseph Phuong Ngo, O. Carm., originally from Hay Tay, Vietnam, has celebrated Christmas with the people of Trinidad and Tobago, where he serves in three different parishes. Fr. Joseph explained that it is customary for Trinidadian Catholics to begin celebrating the Christmas season as early as November, as right after New Year’s, preparations begin for the Carnival fete. A highlight of the Christmas celebration is always a large parish dinner, organized by the pastor and supported by the donations of the parishioners and some governmental support. The main parish is St. Paul Roman Catholic Church in Manzanilla, where he celebrated mass on Christmas Eve and the two mission churches are Our Lady of Lourdes in Biche and St. Dominic in Fishing Pond, (each 30-40 minutes away from the main church), where he celebrated masses on Christmas Day. This year’s attendance was excellent!
For the first time, through the generosity of a benefactor, Fr. Joseph had large stars built to awaken people to come to church, and to stand up and live their lives as children of God. The stars ranged in size from 7-15 feet high and could be seen for miles surrounding the three parishes. At the Christmas dinner in Manzanilla, he shared his hopes that the large star in Manzanilla would awaken all members of the church, “Just like the sun awakens all creatures on earth when it rises.”
In addition, Fr. Joseph invited children of all denominations in the area to decorate and enjoy a special Christmas tree just for children, another Trinidadian custom. The Christmas tree celebration had about 130 children in attendance. A wonderful time was had by all, and a lot of good will was built.
Fr. Joseph serves in Trinidad along with Fr. Gerard Tang Choon, O. Carm., a native of Port of Spain, who is the vicar and parish priest at St. Michael’s Parish in Maracas Valley.
A Happy New Year to all from Trinidad!