Dr. Charles Keffer, former provost of the University of St. Thomas, has been sending reports of his (and wife Barb’s) service work on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. This is his 11th report.
April 1, 2001
Hello from St. Vincent!
I have begun writing this latest of our reports from St. Vincent during a rain delay in an ecumenical prayer service and swearing-in ceremony for the new members of the cabinet for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The elections were concluded successfully and without incident on Wednesday of last week. The previous opposition party (ULP) was successful in 12 constituencies. The previous ruling party (NDP) was successful in 3 constituencies. The ULP received 57 percent of the popular vote. The NDP received 41 percent of the popular vote. The third party, the People’s Progressive Movement (PPM), received 2 percent of the popular vote and in the end was not a real factor in the election. The NDP won the two constituencies in the Northern and Southern Grenadines. The only constituency they won on the mainland of St. Vincent was that where the leader of the previous ruling party (and their candidate for prime minister) was running. He won by 46 votes over the ULP candidate! The Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is the new Prime Minister. He is a lawyer by training and profession and has headed the opposition party for at least the last few years. He is referred to as “De Comrade.” He happens to be a Catholic. There is still quite a bit of partying going on. But it all seems appropriate and under control so far. There were quite a few election monitors in the country prior to the election and on election day and they seemed to be unanimous in concluding that the elections were fair and conducted efficiently and effectively. Thanks to everyone for your prayers in this regard.
Despite what the participants in today’s event might have felt, it was really good to see the rain. There has been little rain during the last month or so. The ground is beginning to turn brown and there have been some water shortages within the country and particularly in the Grenadines.
The visit of three members from the Harbortown Rotary Club in Duluth went well from our perspective here. I think they indicated that they had collected information on some 20 possible projects for the Rotary Clubs in their area to consider as they explore ways to be involved internationally.
All of this election activity has continued to impact some of our programs. Even today, my planned youth programs in Sandy Bay and Bellevue were canceled because of the ceremony referred to above (at least they canceled it before I drove all the way there!). We had planned a number of workshops for lay ministers and for participants in our lay formation program. Only one of them came off (and that one with four participants).
Barb will be doing a workshop this Wednesday for lay presiders. We are hopeful about this one. (Before finishing this piece, we got a phone call asking us to cancel this program because of conflicts!!) Barb has done excellent work in preparing a booklet outlining a common Scripture/communion service for the diocese. She will introduce it at this upcoming workshop. We also have a preaching workshop scheduled for April 17-19. The presenter for that workshop, the Rev. George Franklin, was in St. Vincent recently for a parish mission at St. John’s parish in Mespo. He had the place hopping and was well received. We’re looking forward to his return.
I did do a separate workshop for lectors recently at St. Joseph’s parish in Bellevue. There were 16 people in attendance and I thought it went very well. I also went to Union Island on March 17 and presented a summary of Unit I of our lay formation program to 10 people.
We were able to make contact with the original manufacturer of the large tent we tried to erect last month. He promised to send a videotape showing how to erect the tent. It hasn’t arrived yet!! I also realized that, at this point, we do not have any ropes that are needed to erect the tent properly. So we couldn’t have erected it on the earlier occasion in any case!
Some of you are aware that Barb was in the Twin Cities for a few weeks to be with family. The trip was a good one for family and for her although the transitions from one culture/place to another and back again are a challenge.
Bishop Rivas is in Duluth for the ordination of the new bishop of Duluth on April 2. Our relationship with that diocese is very important for us here in St. Vincent.
You may know that the University of St. Thomas has made available a full-tuition scholarship for four years for a student from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Bishop Rivas has recommended Dayle da Silva for that scholarship. Dayle was very helpful in January 1998 when the St. Thomas VISION trip to St. Vincent conducted a census on the island. He was one of the local people who worked with us for over two weeks on the project. He is active with the youth group in St. John’s parish in Mespo. He plans to major in journalism at St. Thomas. One of my current efforts involves trying to find additional resources to cover Dayle’s room and board expenses while at St. Thomas. If you can assist in any way, he and I would really appreciate it. Options include: provision of room and board in a home near the campus; provision of room in a home near the campus with board being taken on campus; a financial contribution to offset room and board expenses; a recommendation regarding other sources of financial support. I hope that we will come up with something to make it possible for him to attend this fall.
Barb and I are beginning to think about our return to the Twin Cities at the beginning of June. Travel plans, packing and shipping strategies, future work possibilities, summer at the lake, time with family and friends are beginning to occupy some of our time and thoughts here. It has been a good experience for us here. It will also be good to return home.