Author: Catherine Serrant
Make some noise! St. Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain is celebrating a whopping 185 years as an educational institution. As the oldest secondary school on the twin island, we could not help but big up the convent gals on this magnificent milestone. It must now be glaringly obvious that I, your dear blog writer, am a Convent girl. With my Alma mater dear in the spotlight, I of course must share my excitement with you as we acknowledge this momentous occasion.
This is the first part of a 2-part Blog, commemorating SJC POS 185 years. This piece is all about St. Joseph- the man and the saint – and the order of St. Joseph of Cluny. Let us look together at the near two centuries long journey to establish and become the pillar of learning and knowledge it is today. #185and counting
Who is St. Joseph?
St Joseph’s Feast day is celebrated by Catholics annually on March 19th (whilst St. Joseph the worker is celebrated on May 1st). As the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus Christ, and being of modest means, he is revered for his hardworking ethic and obedience to God. St. Joseph (90 BC to 18 AD) looked after the Holy family during his lifetime. He is the patron saint of a multiplicity of causes: patron saint of the Universal Church, families, fathers, expectant mothers (pregnant women), travellers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers, and working people in general. He is also patron of lawyers and attorneys (all persons in the legal profession), accountants, persons employed in finance, a happy and holy death, people who fight Communism, people in doubt and social justice to list a few more. With so many outstanding qualities for us to emulate, and so many causes for which he intercedes, you can understand why persons would want to pattern their lifestyles after him.
Source: Carmel Holy Land
Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny in the Caribbean
It comes as no surprise that a new order of sisters formed in 1807, pledged to live their lives according to the example of St. Joseph. The order of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny was founded by Blessed Ann-Marie Javouhey, in France. To me, St. Joseph represents grace in the face of uncertainty, and he showed so much courage in following/ carrying out God’s will. These early sisters of the order lived these characteristics to a T. Given that their namesake is patron of the universal church, various sisters dedicated to the order, travelled around the globe spreading the gospel, espousing a humble lifestyle and using education to uplift and edify by setting up schools to minister to those in need of religious guidance, thus filling a void where the education of girls in British colonies was concerned.
Many different types of missionaries have branches worldwide. Early in the 19th century the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny in Martinique travelled across the Caribbean Sea to establish a denominational school in Trinidad, first in the capital city and subsequently in east and south Trinidad. There are now 12 branches of Cluny sisters in the Caribbean.
Sisters in Trinidad
L’abee Bertin, chaplain at St. Joseph’s in Martinique, wrote to the Prelate Dr. McDonnell about the possibility of opening a girl’s school in Trinidad. L’abee was then commissioned to put this request in writing (in the name of the Prelate) to the Provincial Order in the West Indies, to formally ask about establishing the school. Given the go-ahead, 6 nuns traversed the Bocas to set up in the heart of the capital city.
Source: Maria Nunes Photography (She’s an SJCPOS Alum!)
An account of the proceedings was taken by the Vicar Apostolic, the right Rev Dr. McDonnell. This announcement from almost 2 centuries ago is adorably old-timey:
“On January the twenty-ninth of the year eighteen hundred and thirty-six, We Daniel McDonnell, Bishop of Olympus, have received and approved under Jurisdiction, six nuns of the Congregation of St. Joseph of Cluny, that we had asked the Superior of this Congregation, established at St. Pierre, Martinique, to send us, in order to found in this colony a house of education, in which children of every class and religion may receive a solid and adequate grounding..”
These six nuns are very special to SJC, as they would become amazing trailblazers, leading by example for similar academic institutions. They are Mesdames Pauline Lefevre – Sr. Onesime, Superioress; Adelaide Delorme – Sr. Scholastique; Antoinette Beurier – Sr. Pelagie; Marguerite de Wint – Sr. Louis de Gonzague; Marie Josephine Remi – Sr. Theotiste and Civilise Jacqumel – Sr. Gabrielle.
Source: Maria Nunes
The Port of Spain Gazette Notice for March 1835 announces the opening of St. Joseph’s Convent at Kent St. (now Pembroke) in Port of Spain as a religious boarding school. Since then, various members of the order have dedicated their lives to the schools, as principals and teachers. Growing in number, diversity and capability, SJC stands for more than just education- it is both a home and hub for holistic development, for students far and wide.
For the 175th anniversary the theme was “Rooted in Faith, Alive in Spirit” to commemorate the continuation of providing for the needs of girls (and guys, as male students are accommodated) in need of education. 185 years onwards, this bastion of excellence in education continues to display quality, proficiency, dedication and (yes, observe my bias) greatness in all fields. Just a little sample of these things: Academics- check! Varied extra-curricular clubs available: check! (45 of them FYI) President’s medals: check! National scholarships, open and additional: check, check! Leaders of business, law, science, (possibly every field of study lol, you get my point): checkkkkk! Have you seen our Hall of Excellence? It celebrates the school’s contributors to the development of Trinidad and Tobago. The motto, sapientia et scientia is Latin, meaning wisdom and knowledge; a creed which those touched by this institution strive to apply to their life in order to make the world a better place. Holistic development of young people and building a lasting legacy of greatness for the country, that’s what #185 years on is about.
Celebrating 185 years
SJC’s Plans for 2021 feast day and anniversary year as with many other things are largely virtual. Usually there is a Feast day mass at the school’s Chapel (which we’ll be exploring in Part 2!). The Past Pupils Association has embarked on a drive called “185 for 185, A Call to Give”. This initiative aims to raise 185,000 USD in this year of our 185th anniversary year to obtain funds to do upgrades and repair work at the school. Check out their website (https://www.sjcpos.edu.tt/donate) to find out how to donate and to keep abreast of the activities taking place. Even amidst a pandemic, this is a special year that deserves celebration. The St. Joseph Convent Choir under the direction of John Thomas will be broadcasting an event titled Palm Sunday Concert Special “Songs of Inspiration”. On Sunday 28th March at 8:30pm there will be a virtual concert, live from the SJC Chapel. It will be carried on local station CCN TV6. Let’s commemorate safely, and give a cheer for many more years to come.
Happy 185th anniversary to St. Joseph’s Convent Port of Spain!
DISCLAIMER: I have fan-girled so hard in this blog. I’m part of the SJC Class of 2013; I trust you can appreciate that I really do love my school. I hope that my exuberance over SJC’s significant role in my shaping my life, has come through in this blog.
“St. Joseph”. Catholic Online 2021.https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=4
“St. Joseph’s Patronages”. Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. 2019-2021. https://yearofstjoseph.org/patronages/
“Our History in the Caribbean.” Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. 2014-2021. http://www.clunycarib.org/ourhistory.html
“St. Joseph, the just man”. Carmel Holy Land. 2019. https://www.carmelholylanddco.org/saint-joseph-the-just-man/ (Photo of St. Joseph and baby Jesus)
“St. Joseph”. Catholic Online 2021. https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=4