Interview With Bishop Clyde Martin Harvey and Francis Darius

Interview With Bishop Clyde Martin Harvey and Francis Darius

Cross Catholic Outreach: How have things changed in the Diocese of St. George’s in the last year?

Bishop Harvey: The world is changing fast, so unless you’re changing with it, you’re going to dry rot. But things have changed. We’ve seen a lot of progress in just the enthusiasm of people, and I’m very happy with the things people are becoming enthusiastic about. We’ve kept a steady beat with what was going on before, in terms of assistance to the poor: food, clothing and so on. I think we’re better able to identify where people’s needs are, so that is very important, and it’s going to become more important as time goes by.

We’re much more conscious now of the tasks that are involved in the whole question of disaster preparedness and relief. I think for Cross Catholic Outreach, that’s a very important point — to be able to really zero in on both preventive and, of course, effective interventions when something happens. What I would say is that the money we receive now is helping people in particular situations. But I also hope that what we’re doing is building capacity to help people, and something that I think is going to be very important as well is identifying leadership and providing the training that is needed.

Our concern for the elderly and the youth remains the same. We must do more to support senior homes. When you think of senior citizens’ homes, you might think of a dreary place where elderly people are sitting down and dribbling on each other. However, we can transform this concept into that of senior hotels, which, to some extent, aligns with U.S. thinking as well. When you think of hotels in big cities, it’s the idea that senior citizens deserve to be treated with all the respect and dignity associated with age. This means building relationships between senior citizens and young people. Many young people these days are growing up with no sense of their extended family. They move so much with their parents that they hardly see their grandparents or great-grandparents. The Church should establish institutions where deliberate efforts are made to build connections between the young and the elderly.

Cross Catholic Outreach: Do you have any particular story that has touched your heart that you would like to share?

Bishop Harvey: I like to think of the simple fact that at one point in time, I felt very comfortable. I wasn’t aware, and I didn’t know a lot of things, so I just thought, “Okay, you have some senior homes to deal with,” and then you go in, and you begin to interact with people on a very human level. You visit a home, and you begin to see things. Your eyes are opened, you know, like the simple fact that you presume that people are being taken care of, and then one day you hear there’s an outbreak of scabies in the home. That doesn’t have to be anybody’s fault in the sense that you can’t fire somebody for that, but you’re aware that — hey, you’ve got to take a lot more care of people. You can’t be just doing this thing because it’s a job. You must be constantly looking for ways and means to do it better.

As we become more aware of Alzheimer’s and dementia and so on as illnesses, it’s not that these old people are going mad or possessed; they’re still human beings who are struggling to be human and to maintain their dignity in situations where very often they have no control. What I’ve seen is just this deepening of awareness of what it takes to help an older person live with respect. The former concept of a senior home as a place where you just put your old people, and they sit down, and they look at each other morning, noon and night. You know, sometimes they get fresh, as we say, with each other, and you smile and know they are human beings. The more you treat them with respect, the more you take care of them physically, the better quality of life they can have in old age.

I think all of us have to ask ourselves what quality of life we would like to have when we grow old. I look at the older people who are now 20 years older than I am, and I say, perhaps in treating them, I can learn how to care for myself in such a way that when I reach their age, I will be better able to cope with the challenges of life.

Cross Catholic Outreach: What are the current needs at the senior home?

Bishop Harvey: Well, you know, I was talking about not being aware. I wasn’t aware, and I think many people were not aware of the physical reality in the home. Somebody comes, and they say, “Let’s paint the whole place!” You paint it, but nobody manages to stick a sharp instrument into the wood to see the woodlice climb out, or the person cleaning the home just sweeps out the dust, not realizing that’s a sign that something else is taking place. So certainly, with our homes, a major question is that they’ve been around for a while, and we now must look at them again because there’s clear evidence that the physical structure is decaying. We must break down and rebuild, and that’s a major task for this coming year, the renovation issues.

Some years ago, I was invited by a young doctor, whom I encouraged to give her life to more than just medicine, and she chose to give her life to aging people. She began to work in hospice, and she made me more deeply aware of what hospice care is all about.

In Grenada, one of the challenges we face is understanding the different challenges that senior citizens face. There’s dementia and Alzheimer’s. When somebody is in a hospice state, it’s not the same thing as when they come in just because they have no family to care for them. When they come in at that stage, they need things to keep them mentally alive and mentally alert. You have to train your caregivers to interact with them at a different level. I remember one caregiver saying, “Oh God, it’s so miserable, why can’t we get people who are nicer?” I said, “Alan, when you get to that age, if you’re nicer, you’re lucky.”

Now, we know that if you lie on a certain kind of bed when you’re 60, by the time you’re 70, your back is out. It’s a question of trying to provide them with what they really need.

I’ve found that we’re very good at thinking that way for young people. You want to have all the technological stuff in your schools, and you must have that in your schools, but now we have to say to ourselves that our senior citizens need as much attention as our children need.

In terms of the senior homes, it’s the physical renovations that need to be done, but also to provide for the environment in which people are living so that they have things that, let me put it this way, keep them alive rather than simply preparing them to die. I don’t want to sound triumphalist, but what’s clear to me is that there are some things that, if the Church didn’t do it, nobody would. And this is not just in terms of caring for the aged across the spectrum. You know, we have a minister and a ministry in terms of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and so on. These are not options for us. Thanks to Pope Francis, we’re now able to say very clearly that we have to move beyond the option for the poor, which was a big buzz phrase some years ago. No, it’s not an option for the poor; it’s the Lord’s command to feed the poor, to clothe the naked and so on. So, if we are truly Christian, we have to do it.

While a lot of churches, the smaller churches, the newer churches, make this very much a part of their life, I remember meeting a lady in a store the other day, and she recognized me. She said, “Oh, you’re…. ” and then she said to me, “You know, I’m not a Catholic, I just came to help, and we fed 400 people. We gave schoolbooks to so many children.” Those are things that you do sort of one-off. What is great about the Catholic Church, and I suspect the majority of Christian churches, is that it’s not a one-off thing. We have a history of serving where service is needed. We have a history of going where nobody wants to go. Fr. Damian and the lepers, you know, even in the Caribbean here, we’ve had two or three leper colonies on the islands where the Church took care of those who everybody else avoided. When it came to HIV and AIDS, I was deeply involved in that very early on, and I was involved as a Catholic priest. I was not just involved as Clyde Harvey because the Church was trusted in that regard.

One of the challenges of prison ministry is to meet somebody where they are. You know, to take the time to talk with them, not just to put them in a box and say, “These are prisoners.” These are human beings, and you must meet them where they are. So, when you ask me what Catholic ministry brings, it brings that sense of command from the Lord. I’m not just doing this because I like to do it. I’m not just doing this because, oh, look, I feel sorry for these people. You know, if all you do is feel sorry for people, you’re not going to really serve them because pity is not a good starting point for genuine love. You know, so I give myself. I’m aware that the Lord is calling me to this, but the church adds this dimension to it. I never do it alone, you know, never do it alone. There should always be a sense that I’m doing this with other people, that there’s a community of faith behind me. When I go to Mass on a Sunday, and I hear the word of the Lord, and I’m struggling with what I’m doing on a weekday, every week, the Eucharist supports me, strengthens me, clarifies my vision for what I’m doing and helps me to persevere because ultimately, perseverance is what it’s about. You know, in the world, you come and go, but Jesus says, “Take up your cross daily and follow me,” — not just follow me, but follow me to the end.

Cross Catholic Outreach: Is there any message you would like to give to encourage people to remember the poor during this time?

Bishop Harvey: If Pope Francis is remembered for anything, he will be remembered for his effective witness that the Church must be a Church of the poor and for the poor. And we celebrate today World Day of the Poor, and all of us are called to remember two things. First, no matter what our situation in life is, if we are truly Christians, we experience areas of poverty ourselves. But then we also know that there are people around us who are materially poor, sometimes emotionally poor, and that all these people need our care and concern.

So, as we celebrate World Day of the Poor this year, I want to suggest two things. First, ask yourself, do you have a relationship with a genuinely poor person? Someone who demands your time and your patience, someone who perhaps drains you but also someone who, as you communicate with them and interact with them, you learn something from, because genuine love is a two-way street? So, think of that.

And then, beyond your own particular connection with some poor person, ask God to show you your own poverty because you can’t truly love another person unless you can identify with what they are going through. Therefore, as you look out onto the world, heeding the invitation of Pope Francis, where does your poverty lie? Because we are all called to hear, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” All of us claim heaven, but how many of us know the poverty that brings us there?

Be conscious of your own poverty, even as you thank God that you can bear witness and speak to the concerns of those who are poor. So, my dear poor friends, rich poor friends and papal friends, may you have a stimulating World Day of the Poor this year.

Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, “What do I have to thank God for?” Move beyond your status, your job and so on, and think of your inner being. What do you have to thank God for when you discover more deeply who you are? And then, what do you have to thank God for as you remember that America has always had a place in the world and that there are still people here who know the values that make that place in the world important not only for America but for all creation?

God bless you on this Thanksgiving Day. God bless America.

Francis Darius, Caritas Diocesan General Coordinator

Cross Catholic Outreach: How do you apply in Grenada the concept that Pope Francis teaches about mercy and helping the poor?

Francis Darius: My name is Francis Darius, and I’m from the Diocese of Saint George’s Grenada. My role is in cognitive guidance, and so we interact daily with the poor and challenged in our society. Anybody, I think, can hand over something to somebody, but the difference between us is why we do it and how we do it. It comes with a Christ-like characteristic. We see the person not as a number but as somebody reflecting the image of Christ. When you get to that stage of reflecting on business, the help that you give goes beyond the article that you’re transferring, changing lives, seeing somebody who has been damaged for quite a while, either by abuse or something, being able to receive assistance that transforms them into becoming an open, moral person, reflecting what the journey has been and, in turn, touching other lives through that process.

So, we look beyond the process of just giving to creating relationships, working with people, exploring the possibilities that are there for them in life, finding their own journeys toward redemption. In my many years working in this area, I have seen people truly transformed by this small injection into their lives. Somebody who was basically alive but had been consumed with looking and trying to rise but has been unable to do so. With the small donations that we provide, we’re able to provide a total change of life.

I have been privileged to work with some of these people, and one story that comes to mind is a woman who was consumed with caring for all four children she had, but she didn’t have a proper house. She had been moved from place to place, and that was eating her up. Today, she has a house where she can care for these kids, and the kids are performing well in school. She’s now become a star in our church, you know, things that were far removed from her before. So, the little that you think that you give means much to someone who has great challenges. Pray not to be discouraged. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. If we, as a nation, pray, as God said, if we pray together, we’re to enter the garden, pray and ask in his name. Much can be done.

So, we focus on praying for our annual onslaught of emergency disasters, protection from storms and hurricanes, but more so to gather lives and bring lives to Christ, touching people when they are most deeply affected by the emergencies of the situation, but we go beyond that so they don’t give up. We see worldwide there’s an increase in suicides, and we’re praying that we stave this thing off from our society, that people find solace and comfort zones so that they don’t go that bad. Yeah, as you say that, I’m looking through the eyes of a young guy in an orphanage at home who, when I visit, would probably ask for a guitar or some form of toy because they don’t have those. This simple gesture means a lot to these kids, and I can see their faces beaming with the receipt of such a gift. Again, Grenada’s population is predominantly young, so we have a lot of young persons without much of what we find comfort in here. Being able to provide them with this simple [gift] means a whole heap. There’s a lot.