The headline on the last page of this week’s Catholic News (March 30, 2014) reads: ‘Pope: Clergy must be caring.’ How significant as I sat down to pen an article on Fr Gervase Girod whom I have always considered a most caring, warm-hearted, patient and compassionate person with a genuine interest in people. This has been reflected in his relationships with the communities of Fatima College, Holy Name Convent, Providence, St Dominic’s Home in Belmont and St Theresa’s Parish in Woodbrook.

2014 is a landmark year for Fr Girod as he celebrates his eightieth birthday and also the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He was born in 1934 to Louis and Lena Girod, the eldest of eight children. He lived in Picton Street in Newtown, attended Miss Boucaud’s Private School and later St Mary’s College. He came under the early influence of Fr Toba Valdez as a member of the Sixth Trinidad Sea Scouts. He recognized the value of Scouting in deepening spirituality, building character in addition to developing aquatic skills.

In 1954, he entered the novitiate of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Quebec, Canada accompanied by another St Mary’s graduate, Reginald de Four. He then left for Dublin in Ireland to attend the Holy Ghost Fathers’ seminary there. He also obtained a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in French and English Literature at the University College of Dublin. He returned home to teach at St Mary’s as a ‘prefect’. He then left for Canada to complete his studies and in 1964 he and Father de Four ordained priests by Archbishop Finbar Ryan at Rosary Church as the Cathedral was under repair. They were the first Holy Ghost Fathers to be ordained in Trinidad. He completed a year of theological studies and in 1965 was appointed to Fatima College where he remained for 25 years.

Fr Girod immediately took over the reins of the Sea Scouts and led it to be one of the best in the country. In 1966, he started the Mayfair as a fundraising activity for the Scouts. He concentrated on the spiritual development of his pupils and built long lasting relationships with his charges and their families. He served as Lower Form Dean and also as Vice Principal but as the years rolled by he focused more on the teaching of Religion. On his retirement from teaching, he served as Parish Priest of St Patrick’s in Newtown before his appointment to St Theresa’s in Woodbrook.

Fr Girod believes that teaching is all about “relationships” based on “unconditional love” where “every pupil is important”. He states his philosophy towards education in an article in the Fatima annual 1981 – 1982. He writes: “a school can never be satisfied with being only an exam-oriented institution. It must be a community. Here should be an atmosphere of welcome, of acceptance, of trust, where each student feels wanted and appreciated. The school today must be a community in which each individual student is important, where care is given especially to those who are in any way disadvantaged or marginalized.”

I have been guided by several words and phrases during my tenure at Fatima – “Fatima family,” “community,” “for the good of the boys,” “service before self,” “a happy staff is a productive staff,” “well-rounded individual,” and “every pupil is important.” I ascribe the last phrase to Fr Gervase Girod, a truly caring individual.

Thanks Father and congrats on your milestones this year.

By Glen Roach