Vincentians Celebrate 34th Anniversary of Independence

Last weekend at an Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Flatbush, Brooklyn, Vincentians kicked off celebrations to mark the country’s 34th Anniversary of Independence on Oct. 27.

Focusing on the Independence theme: Working Together to Enhance Our National Pride, the Rev Rhonda Ellis, daughter of former school teacher Ron Ellis said, whether one is living in the Diaspora or at home, “God calls you to do special things, because you were called for a special purpose.”

Laverne McDowald-Thompson – president of the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group in the United States, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations, U.S.A. Inc. (COSAGO), which organized the Independence Church Service in collaboration with the New York Consulate General – urged nationals to “work together to meet the challenges.

“Each time we commemorate our independence, let us focus on national pride,” she said. “Let us rededicate ourselves to the transformation of our beloved country.”

A similar Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving was held on the same day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, organized the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP).

The night before, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Association of Massachusetts held its Independence Dinner and Awards Ceremony in Boston.

COSAGO is collaboriting with the New York Consulate to host the gala Independence Luncheon, at Tropical Paradise Ballroom on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn.

Newly-appointed United Nations Ambassador Rhonda, King, who was among Vincentian dignitaries at the three-odd-hour-long church service, also noted that her compatriots are a “praying people,” adding that “we have not yet separated church and state.

“We are Hairouna – Land of the Blessed!” she affirmed in her maiden Independence Anniversary Church Service address in New York.

“We must not be daunted by how far we have yet to go,” she added. “We must not be distracted by the disadvantages inherent in our unique circumstances, because the Lord has rejected all of that.

“Instead, remember that we are a praying people,” added King, who then invoked the words of the late Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mother Teresa, a renowned Catholic nun and missionary: “The fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service (and) the fruit of service is peace.”

“This afternoon, I would like to add prosperity and say instead, the fruit of service is peace and prosperity,” the Vincentian envoy continued. “Like David (in the biblical story of David and Goliath), let us focus on what we do have, what we can do. And let us work together to enhance our national pride.”

“Each time we commemorate our independence, let us focus on national pride,” she said. “Let us rededicate ourselves to the transformation of our beloved country.”

A number of Vincentian clergy persons in the New York metropolitan area, as well as the Bishop of the Windward Islands, the venerable Leopold Friday, and retired Anglican priest, Fr. Ulric Jones, officiated in the service.

The “men and women of the cloth” also offered prayers of Thanksgiving and prayers for the youth, the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and for the U.S.

A similar Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving was held on the same day in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, organized the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP).

The night before, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Association of Massachusetts held its Independence Dinner and Awards Ceremony in Boston.

COSAGO will collaborate with the New York Consulate in hosting the gala Independence Luncheon on Sunday at Tropical Paradise Ballroom on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn.

INDEPENDENCE MESSAGE

In his independence message to the Diaspora, read on Sunday by New York Consul General Selmon Walters, Prime Minister Ra;ph Gonsabves said a “compelling factual story of improved standards of material living is available to be told” in a number of “central areas.”

Areas that have been “enhanced” included: income levels; education; health; housing; sanitation; water; electricity; telecommunications; car ownership; road transportation and airport infrastructure; travel by air and sea; social equality; poverty reduction; culture and the arts; sports and recreation; science and technology; and broadcasting and information.

But the Vincentian leader, at the same time, hastened to add that there have been “disappointments and even regression” in other spheres, such as “increased criminal conduct, especially crimes of violence; a disturbing coarseness in public and private discourse; a weakening of citizen security, despite improved levels of policing and the strengthening of security apparatuses; unhealthy behavioral habits, which lead to chronic non-communicable diseases (diabetes and hypertension); and widespread sexually-transmitted diseases, mainly HIV/AIDS.”

He, however, said that the nation’s “outstanding” accomplishments have been “initiated and sustained” by faith and deeds, stating that the two ideals have “seen us through difficult challenges, and has brought us success.”

The prime minister reiterated that hard and smart work are the “centerpiece of a progressive society,” pointing out that “progress is dependent upon productive and disciplined labor, which society must reward appropriately.”

Gonsalves said since the global economic crisis in 2008, economic challenges facing the nation have intensified.

He noted that these have been exacerbated by the meltdown of the Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO) and the British American Insurance Company (BAICO), and a “succession of natural disasters, occasioned substantially by climate change.”

As a result, he said the multi-island state endured three years of negative economic growth, from 2008-2010, followed by two years of “slow, hesitant” recovery in 2011 and last year.

“Despite all these awesome difficulties, our nation has survived and thrived,” said Gonsalves, pointing out that his administration has not reduced expenditure in “critical areas” of education, health, social safety nets, and citizen security; nor has it laid off workers in the public sector.

He noted that, even in the “challenging” economic environment, Kingstown has embarked upon the largest capital project ever, the Argyle International Airport, which, he said, should be completed by “this time next year.”

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