Parish priest in Caribbean ruminates on trust and community


“Sometimes goodness is not about right and wrong but how we care for one another,” said Father Dominic Savio Huynh Pham SVD, pastor of Sacred Heart parish and its mission church St. Joseph on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.

“Sacred Heart is gradually coming back after the Covid pandemic, but it is not like it was,” said Father Dominic, who comes from Vietnam and has been ministering in Sandy Point, St. Kitts for five years. “Due to Covid, a lot of people question their faith and suffering. They ask, ‘Where’s God?’”

One of his first challenges when he arrived on the island was to gain the people’s trust.

“Earning people’s trust requires time,” he said. “We must allow God’s compassion, mercy, kindness and forgiveness and time to experience God’s flowing grace. Sometimes, it takes a long time for a miracle to be visible.”

During a recent visit to the Province Center at Techny, he said, “Our people are suffering a lot. Some families have experienced generational trauma.”

He describes the parish community as small but diverse.

“The community is open to welcoming people from all walks of life to come together as a family,” he said. “As a parish family, we have an opportunity to gather and give praise and thanks to God, show care and support, and grow in faith together.”

He reflected on the time of Covid. “It was a confusing time,” he said as he holds his cell phone in a worn faux-leather case. “We tried to listen to the instructions from the CDC and wisdom from America. The Government of the Federation of St. Kittian and Nevis and gifted citizens also employed their own wisdom.”

They realized that their island had the privilege of isolation. To stop transmission of the disease, they suspended air and boat travel. They instituted distancing on the island, too.

“People were divided into zones around the island, and people from each zone would take a turn to buy food and other necessaries on certain days and times during the week,” he said.

Cutting-edge technology is slow to come to the islands, Father Dominic said, but the government provided airtime on TV and radio for recorded and live-broadcast church services. The number of in-person participants was limited to ten people or less—the presider, videographer, some members of the church choir and community.

“In the community, we learned what was going on and how tracing worked,” he said. “We established a WhatsApp group for the church, so we could share information, daily Mass readings, reflections, the Divine Mercy prayer and the Holy Rosary, so we didn’t have to live in fear.”

Through the parish WhatsApp group, they also encouraged able members to look after the elderly and people with disabilities in their neighborhoods. They helped those in need to buy food, medicine and other goods.

“In doing so, even though we were staying in our own homes during the lock down or strict curfew days and weeks, our people were able to communicate and to experience the company and support of one another,” Father Dominic said.

“Members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society/Women League Group and the youth group, together with the support of the parish community, prepared packages with food and household goods for the elderly and needy—both Catholics and non-Catholics—a couple of times a year,” said Father Dominic. “We did a little more during the years of the Covid-19 pandemic. The highest amount was 45 packages.

“As long as people have food, goods and experience the love and care of one another in our church community and in the larger community, I’m happy,” he said.

As the memory of Covid fades into the past, the parish community will gather on Pentecost Sunday for a day of food, family and fun.

Father Dominic relishes the small acts of kindness that he and church members can do.

“We are blessed to visit about 14 to 20 homebound, Catholics and non-Catholics, every week,” he said. “I usually find joy when we go around the island to visit the homebound in their homes, institutions for the elderly or hospital. Besides being a way to live out God’s great Commandments, we also have a chance to view the beautiful scenery like tourists. It is also an opportunity for us to show the real tourists the beauty and handsomeness of the people in St. Kitts.”

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