Saturday, December 16, 2017



This is  what they looked like when I sent them off. 

Our nine boxes of toys, candy and clothes for the kids in two orphanages down here have still not arrived! They were sent on November 4 to Amerijet International, an airline shipping company in Miami that we have used several times before! We are missing ten mattresses for the guest rooms at the Pastoral Centre and thirty picture frames as well. 

It seems that many others down here are experiencing the same problem - a delay in shipment arrivals for Christmas. 

We can only hope they come next week in time for Christmas even though I will not have the honor and joy of handing them out personally! 

The only good thing - the kids do not know they are getting these toys, so they will be happy even if it is after Christmas! 

Me? I'm not at all happy about this situation! I have made many calls and had several sleepless nights in the last few weeks over this situation.
I even paid a visit to the local Amerijet office this week and talked to the head man to no avail. 
Many of us worked hard and long on this project, but these kinds of things seem to be a normal part of Caribbean life. Things never seem to come easy for so many people down here!

I haven't been this aggravated for a very, very long time and as each day passes it gets worse!

Lord, I need patience and I need it now!



Friday night a group of us took Bishop County out for his birthday. 

Bernadette, Ewansie, Desmond, Bishop County and myself. 
You can see the candles burning on his cake in front of him! 
He was born in the country of Trinidad and Tobago. He belongs to the religious community called "the Spiritans."  (Holy Ghost Fathers). 

Thursday, December 14, 2017



Des, Pastoral Centre Manager, and I went to a local barbershop so he could get a haircut for the party. 
The barber in the  back with the Santa hat and I had a
public discussion about American politics. He knows more than most Americans. He had the TV on to the news from the US. 

Des and I bought some Brown Forman products for the big party tonight at the local liquor store. 

"One person's loss is another person's gain?" 
St. Vincent is not a big cruise ship destination, but because some of the other islands were devastated by the hurricanes, they need new ports to visit. I think this is a British Cruise Line. 

Diocese of Kingstown Pastoral Centre

After having to delay it from September because of the hurricanes, we have finally arrived at the new dedication day that was set for December 14. It will be followed by a Christmas party for the priests, Sisters, Deacons and their wives and the Pastoral staff. 

Original artist's sketch by Tim Schoembachler

Original artist's sketch with doors opened for maximum seating overflowing into the living room.

First beam going in for the sliding glass doors to create a wall.

The Brown Forman chairs were a major addition to the chapel.

The chapel furniture when it was first being moved in.

All set up in the overflow configuration for the dedication crowd. Notice the small brass donor plaque on the left outside the doors. Many people named "James" and others made it possible. 

Bishop County opening the dedication Mass.

I was invited to preach. See homily below.

Bishop County, some of the deacons and some of the priests listening to the homily. 

Bishop County anoints the altar with oil. 

Bishop County blesses the incense on the altar.

Sitting under the icon of Saint James, Desmond Telsford, project manager and Pastoral Centre manager, was the one who "got it done" from construction through the celebration after the dedication. 

Notice some of the new Pastoral Centre renovation in the background
One of the tables at the dinner celebration. On the left is Father Rex and beside him is the Ambassador to St. Vincent from Brazil and his wife. Sister Clare is on the right.

(counter clockwise) Ewansie, Pam, Bernadette and Bishop County

At the party afterwards, we had some wonderful Caribbean music......

...which inspired Pam (Pastoral Centre housekeeper) and me to dance a bit outside the chapel! 

These two ladies, Tresena Vera and Pam Brown, do a Holy Hour every week in the chapel. 

Fergal, we missed you terribly, but your spirit was very much present!

"God Chooses the Weak"
Rev. Ronald Knott
December 14, 2017

We hold this treasure in fragile clay pots.

II Corinthians 4:7

If Jesus were to have been born in our day, instead of 2,000 years ago, he might have graduated from Bellarmine University’s W. Fielding Rubel School of Business. I recently retired from there after 17 years of weekend campus ministry. As a graduate, he might have used a management consultant to help him get his ministry off the ground and to help him choose his twelve apostles. If so, he may have submitted the resume' of would-be apostles to that consultant for feedback. Here is how that feedback might have sounded.

To: Jesus, Son of Joseph
% Woodcrafter Carpenter Shop

From: Jerusalem Management Consultants

Dear Jesus: 

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have recruited for management positions in the new church you want to found. All twelve of them have now taken our battery of tests; we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologists and vocational aptitude consultants. 

We regret to inform you that it is the staff’s opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability. 

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no leadership qualities. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been black-listed by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, son of Alpheus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale. 

One of your candidates, however, shows great potential - Judas Iscariot. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend this man as your controller and right-hand man.

We wish you every success in your new venture.

Sincerely yours, 

Hugh Mann, President

Jerusalem Management Consultants

This little fictitious "consultant report," in which Judas is picked as showing the most potential as an apostle makes a very important point. One of the most interesting things about God is that "God does not see as we see. We see people's externals, but God sees into their hearts." The more familiar you are with the Scriptures, the more you realize that God is always picking the weak, the incompetent, the unqualified, the least, the lost and the loser - and then makes them strong in carrying out his work. These choices are not isolated events. They happen, over and over, again. We have two of these "least likely to succeed personalities" in today's gospel – James and his brother John.

First, there is Isaiah. One day, while in the Temple of the Lord, he is overcome by an awareness of God's greatness and his own unworthiness! He is so overcome with his own unworthiness that he cries out, "Woe is me! Not only do I have a foul mouth, I come from a bunch of foul-mouthed people! I am surely doomed!" God's response was to send an angel, with a hot coal, to wash out his mouth out and clean up his lips for the preaching ministry he had chosen for him! What a choice!

Second, there is Paul! For years, Paul had been the lead bounty-hunter in tracking down Christians for execution. Smug with righteousness, he felt as if he was doing God a favor by ridding the world of these heretics who had no respect for the old-time religion. He had even held the coats of those who stoned Saint Stephen to death. One day, on his way to round up some more for execution, God knocked him off his proverbial high-horse and called him to make a complete u-turn in his thinking. Instead of persecuting Christianity, he was called to be its biggest promoter! What a choice!

Third, there is Peter! Peter is an uneducated, red-neckish, bumbling blow-hard of man with a big heart! He was a thick-headed, hard-headed and empty-headed clod who meant well! He would brag one minute and fall on face the next! When the chips were down, he pretended that he didn't even know Jesus - not once, not twice, but three times. This is the one that Jesus left in charge of his church at his death. What a choice!

Fourth, there is James, after whom this chapel is named, and his brother John. Like Peter and Andrew, they were fisherman. They were men of the sea. In the gospel today, we see James at his worst. In the Gospel of Mark, written earlier than the Gospel of Matthew, James and John ask Jesus for the best seats in his new kingdom. As time went by, the writers of the Gospels could not bring themselves to have such tacky and self-serving words coming out of the mouths of the exalted apostles, so Matthew changes the story and has the request coming out of their mother’s mouth. Blaming women has been a favorite technique of men since Adam blamed Eve!

The list goes on and on! Moses, who was charged with convincing the Israelites to leave Egypt and making a forty-year desert crossing, actually had a speech impediment. He stuttered so badly that they could still be in Egypt if he had not gotten someone else to do his speaking for him. What a choice!

Mary, when she was chosen to be the mother of the world's Savior, was probably still a teenager - and dirt poor at that! What a choice!

We see James at his worst in today’s gospel. He is a climber, an ambitious self-seeker and a sneak. Again, we see in his life that yet again “God choses the weak and makes them strong.” Jesus evidently saw something in him because he ends up in the inner circle. Along with Peter and John, he witnesses the Transfiguration, some of the miracles including the raising of Jarius’ daughter and the agony in the garden. Beheaded, James was the first the apostles to give his life. His death is the only biblical record we have of the death of one of the Apostles.

The list goes on and on, throughout Scripture and Church history, to this day! It seems that "God is always choosing the weak and making them strong in bearing witness to him!" My friend and former associate pastor, Father Bill Medley, was consecrated the new bishop of Owensboro a couple of years ago. He was shocked, and many of us were pleasantly surprised at this choice, because, in many ways, he is not the "type" to be selected. He has no advanced degree in theology. He is not a canon lawyer. He is not a career chancery official from Philadelphia or Detroit. He did not study in Rome. He is simply a good pastor from a small rural Kentucky town and yet it was he who was chosen for this important ministry! What a choice!

In my own experience, all throughout my priesthood and the years that led up to it, I have always felt like the "least likely to succeed." Looking back, I am amazed as I have seen this scrawny little boy from Rhodelia, painfully bashful, labeled a "hopeless case" by seminary officials, being led over the years by the hand of God to places like St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and through experiences that I never could have imagined when I first started this journey in the fall of 1958! What a choice! After 47 years of this, I want to believe that "the best is still yet to come!"

Let me speak directly to those of you who struggle with your self-image, with feelings of unworthiness, with thoughts of never being good enough and with being labeled, rejected or discriminated against. The world may be dealing you a bad hand today, you may have been passed over and put upon in the past, you may feel that you will never be good enough or can never measure up, but also know this: God may have his eye on you right now, he may have a mission for you that he is about to announce! He may be ready to take you to places you cannot even imagine. Your pain and suffering could be part of some grand plan! You may have been learning what you need to know for the job that God has always had in store for you!

My friends, as you sit in this chapel dedicated to St. James, pray for me, James Ronald, and my father James William. Pray for my many friends who have the name “James” and all our friends who gave generously to honor us and make this chapel a reality. As we James's pray back home, we’ll be thinking of you. The thing I am most proud of today is the fact that I have taught a whole lot of people back home about a little country many of them had barely heard of, called St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Let’s let our prayers flow both ways!

As you sit in this chapel and look out at the sea, think of James, John, Peter and Andrew fishing on the sea of Galilee. Think how God took them, in their weakness, and tuned them into powerful witnesses. Just as God took them, fragile clay pots as they were, and filled them with his great treasure, God has done, and can do, the same with you. When God calls you, don’t be afraid of your weaknesses, just be ready to answer, with Isaiah, "Here I am, Lord, send me!"

We hold this treasure in fragile clay pots.
II Corinthians 4:7



Wednesday, December 13, 2017



You can hardly read it, but the logo on the side says
R J MISSION PROJECTS which is my sister organization to CATHOLICS SECOND WIND GUILD. 
It is a win/win/win situation. 
We bought the motor because the fisherman had a boat and no motor = no way to make a living fishing. 
Father Rex had no way to get to his churches on the other islands because he did not have a boat.
The fisherman is making a living. Father Rex gets to church. The fisherman puts a little aside from his profits in a fund to replace the motor. 
It is a model for how I see our work in the Caribbean missions. 

Father Rex (left) Percey Forde (fisherman)

This is how Father Rex Ramos gets round Union Island itself where he lives about 75% of the time. It has been motorized by a small gas engine and rear view mirrors, all required to get it registered as a "car." What you can't see is how bald the tires are because of the sharp shell-rocks with which the roads are paved. These were bought "used." 
It chugs and struggles to get up the hills all over the island.  I suspect that it is on its last leg, even though Father Rex keeps it maintained and painted up from the salt air. 
What he really needs is a  Polaris  Ranger 4 x 4 golf cart. 

How about a group of you good Catholic golfers out there, getting together and get this missionary priest volunteering from the Philippines a new Polaris Ranger?  If he had one, he could not only get around the island, he could pick up elderly parishioners and bring them to church. Sadly, there is no public transportation on Sundays and they cannot walk that far, so they often have to miss church. Maybe Father Rex could charge a very modest fare to help fund maintenance and repairs. 
We will put the name of your "group" on the side! 


Arriving in Saint Vincent Island from Union Island on the morning SVG AIRLINES flight. 
I spent two nights and a day visiting Father Rex Ramos.  See yesterday's post.  Stay tuned because tomorrow night there will be a lot of photos and news. 

Bishop County and I drove down to the Wednesday night prayer meeting at the Soup Kitchen. 
It was breaking up as we arrived.  I led the service the last time I was down. 

I met a new friend, Malia. She is called "Mala" by the other kids. 

Malia stared at me continuously. I think it was because she was not used to seeing white men up close with a little sunburn. It could be because she was not used to looking at old people that close up?  Unlike the other two nine year olds I met, she was very quiet, just staring intently. 

The other boy and girl were very talkative. They like school.  She is one month older and a bit taller than he. They are in the third grade. The boy wanted a bicycle for Christmas. The little girl wanted a bake set that "made real cakes" and a "small sewing machine." I hope they get what they want.  She will no doubt become a chef and clothes designer,  

Tuesday, December 12, 2017



I am on my way to St. Vincent island again, but on this trip I decided to stop on Union island, another of the outer islands, to see more of  this 32 island nation. I visited Bequia Island, Father Alando's island, on a previous trip.  This time I will visit one of Fathers Rex's and Edmundo's three islands. 

Union Island with airport runway on the right. I will be landing and taking off from there in a small SVG AIR plane. 

View from seat #3!



The airport runway in the distance. 

St. Joseph Church where Filipino Father Rex Ramos is pastor. 

I probably will not be going to Father Rex's other two islands in his newly painted boat and new outboard motor on this trip - because of time and because I don't see any life-preservers on that boat!  


St. Joseph House, operated by the Diocese of Kingstown, SVG, as income to operate the diocese, is where I will be staying while on Union island. You can rent it yourself for a vacation if you like.

I stayed on the top floor.  It looks good in this photo, but it is is desperate need of repair: roof, plumbing and general repair. 

Looking down toward the sea from my room, you can see the shed on the back of the church where Father Rex lives. He created a small living space out of a storage building. 

View from the porch of St. Joseph House. 

My host, Father Rex Ramos, took me around the island in his "car." 

We stopped to have a drink at this sea-side French-owned bar
on Sparrow Beach. 

We made a visit to the island Hospital.

Neonatal unit. 

The emergency room. 

If you don't make it at the hospital, there is always the Morgue!

We stopped in to visit the Social Service Center for the island of Union, 

Dinner out with Heather and Ian Grant (and Father Rex) who manage St. Joseph House as well as mnay other properties. They are originally from Canada.  

Father Rex drives a goilf cart. Heather and Ian drive a Polaris. 
No need for a car. 

Monday, December 11, 2017


DECEMBER 11-19, 2017


Pray for a safe and successful trip.
Several things have gone wrong already this time. 

I go alone, encouraged by the prayers, well-wishes and gifts of many wonderful friends. While there, I plan....

- to visit the Union Island parish for the first time,
- to help dedicate the new Saint James Chapel,
- to view the progress of the Pastoral Centre renovation.
- to celebrate weekend Masses at one or two parishes and
- to deliver a few Christmas presents, hopefully. 

I say "hopefully" because the toys for St. Benedict Home and Bread of Life Home have still 
not been delivered to St. Vincent as of last Thursday.  

In short, I am going to bless and be blessed. 

Louisville to Miami, Miami to Bridgetown (Barbados) on AMERICAN AIRLINES

FROM BRIDGETOWN (Barbados)  to UNION ISLAND (St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
This will be my first trip on SVG AIR. I hear its schedule is more reliable. I usually take LIAT AIRLINES., known for its delays and changes. 

 Maybe I'll get up enough nerve to take a trip from Union Island to Canouan Island in our new RJ MISSION PROJECTS boat and outboad motor? Again, maybe I won't! We are talking about miles of open ocean here - and in an open boat at that!

After two nights on UNION ISLAND, I will take a SVG AIR flight to St. Vincent, landing at the new Argyle Airport. 

On December 19, I'll be flying back to Barbados on SVG AIR, then from Barbados to Miami and on to Louisville.on AMERICAN AIRLINES. 

In February, I'll go down to St. Lucia for trip #9 to lead their priest retreat with Archbishop Rivas.  Then it's back to St. Vincent in May for trip #10. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017



I am sending my messenger ahead of
you; he will prepare your way before
 Matthew 11

Some people just don’t know when to quit! And I’m not talking about Elvis’ last concert!  I’m talking about that part of all of us that doesn’t know when to quit, even when it’s time. I went through that a few years ago when I was at the Cathedral. My ten year term came and went and I was still here. I had worked hard and I was proud of all that we accomplished during those years. Because it was such an exceptional assignment, Archbishop Kelly left it up to me when to quit. A big part of me wanted to hold on, but after 14 years I resigned.  I did not want to be one of those people who didn’t know when to quit and stay so long that things began to unravel or the people who used to love me got to the point they wanted to run me off!  The same thing happened after 15 years of writing a weekly column for The Record. Even though my heart wanted to hang on, I knew in my gut it was time to let it go and do something new. I now post all my writing on my blog with lots of other things. I get to use photos now, as well.   

Parents go through this all the time. After doing a great job of raising their children, after sacrificing to send them to college, there comes a day when they leave to start a family of their own. Instead of letting go, not knowing when to quit, some of these parents meddle in their children’s lives even after they leave and start a home of their own.  If they cannot keep controlling their children’s decisions, they begin a path of emotional terrorism. It’s  like the New Yorker cartoon a few years ago. A woman is sitting on the couch, a child is playing on the floor and the man is talking on the phone. The caption below read: “They say we can go there for Thanksgiving or they can cut us out of the will. Our choice.” Instead of focusing on living his or her own life, that child ends up focusing on the parent, reacting to or avoiding them. Then resentment and avoidance becomes a norm. The parents probably did a great job, but they didn’t know when to quit. When they didn’t know when to quit, they actually began undoing their own good work.

Some people, however, do know when to quit. I’m not talking about Evel Knieval’s retirement before he killed himself in yet another attempt at a rocket motorcycle jump of the Grand Canyon. He actually got to die of heart disease in Florida.  ’m talking about this strange bird, this wild bug-eating preacher, named John the Baptist. He knew his role. He did it passionately and moved out of the way when the time came.  As popular as he was, he understood his role, he knew the fine art of being number two. He pointed to the light and left the stage.

On this third Sunday of Advent, we are asked by the church to share this role of “messengers of God.” Paul called us “ambassadors of Christ.” Ambassadors do not speak on their own, they represent someone else. Paul called us “earthenware jars that hold a great treasure.” We are the containers. We are not the treasure. We are, in the words of today’s gospel, “witnesses to the light,” not the light itself.  How many times have we as a church forgotten that! Every arrogant clergy person, every fired-up religious fanatic needs to have this message tattooed to the inside of their eyelids. There is a temptation and trap that always seems to come with being a highly visible and highly successful religious leader. The bigger the success, the bigger the temptation and the bigger the trap. Just look at all the fallen Jim Bakers of the last few years. They all have one thing in common: they were sent to point to God and ended up being little gods themselves.  Instead of pointing to the light, they ended up thinking they were the light. I do know of one notable exception: our very own bishop Maloney. He has been auxiliary bishop to three Archbishops so far. He has always been an example of how to reflect the light onto someone else. Through thick and thin, he has always been a humble, prayerful, honest, and faithful man, in spite of the powerful position he has held. He never let the trapping of his position become a trap for him personally. He, like John, lives a simple life, did his work well and got out of the way when the time came! 

John the Baptist is an example to all of us! He understood his vocation, his mission. He did not draw attention to himself, but reflected attention on to another, on to Jesus.  He was a person who was sent to prepare the way for another, for Jesus. (1) As a priest, it was made clear to me from the beginning that as a priest, I am sent “to serve, not to be served.” Priesthood is not my personal possession, it’s not about me, it is about being of service to all the baptized members of the church. The Pope put it this way, “The priesthood is “for” the laity, and precisely for this reason it is a ministry “of service.” (2) Most of you are called to married life.  Marriage, like priesthood, is geared toward the salvation of others. In spite of the fact that our culture teaches people that they marry because it is good for them personally and for what it can do for them individually, marriage is for the benefit of their partners, their children and the community as a whole! People who marry mainly to “be loved,” miss the main point of marriage. The main point of marriage is not turned inward, but outward: not so much to “get love,” but to “give love.” Like John the Baptist, a married person does not pull attention to himself, but places attention onto others.  (3) Parents, teachers, doctors and social workers are called to the service as well. The role of parents is to mentor children into adulthood. The role of a teacher is to empower others. The role of a doctor is to heal others. Social workers are called to help others get their lives back together.  Like John the Baptist, the priest and the married person, the whole purpose of the parent, the teacher, the doctor and the social worker is not to be served, but to serve.”  (4) Those of you involved in the various liturgical ministries today need to remember the role of John the Baptist: musicians, readers, hospitality ministers and Eucharistic ministers. You do not perform your ministries to be admired and to impress. The attention must always go to the assembly. The only question worth consideration is this: have I helped the congregation pray, get closer to God or to have new insights into themselves and into the scriptures? We are not here to show off, to perform for or show people what we can do. We are here as catalysts. We are conduit. We are here for others. It’s not about us! It’s about those we seek to serve!

My friends, in a world where being number one, being on top, being first, being the winner, being the survivor, John the Baptist has a different message, a challenging message, a counter cultural message. There are times when we are called to “be all we can be,” but there are also times when we are called to empower others to “be all they can be.”  John the Baptist reminds us of the world’s best kept secret: the more we put ourselves in the center, the more unhappy we become. Friends, beware of those who tell you that happiness consists of grabbing enough wealth to insulate yourself from having to deal with ordinary people.  It is a popular thought these days, but it is a trap!  The great Albert Schweitzer put it another way when he said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”