La Divina Pastora
Articles by Angela Pidduck
This story of the statue of La Divina Pastora (The Divine Shepherdess) of the Lopinot Chapel started with a call from Selma Flood, who had been commissioned by Vena Rivas-Carrington to restore the statue which it is believed could be the same one which shed tears in the Arouca Church on the first Friday of October 1917 in the presence of 200 persons, and was shortly after transferred to La Pastora in Lopinot.
From this call, evolved an early Sunday morning drive out to the La Pastora Chapel, situated some miles after the Lopinot Village parish church, La Veronica, accompanied by photographer Bert Allette, to find out if any of the old parishioners knew the story of the weeping shepherdess.
After miles and miles and miles along roads, which desperately need the attention of Minister Carlos John, into the foothills of the Northern Range, I met and spoke with the very helpful Chapel congregation and, as well, the Rivas family, which included Rivas- Carrington, 81 year old Innencio Pacheco, Theresa Mora-Farmer from Montreal, Juanita Rivas-Leon from New York and Frankie Rivas, who were holding their annual parish treat after the 8.30 a.m. Mass.
Unfortunately, the one woman who may have known about it was out for the day. The La Pastora Church, the first in Lopinot, was built in 1890 under the guidance of Father Creamer of Caura, by the people of Lopinot with sand, gravel and stones from the river. The story goes that one day when Father Creamer came to the site he found no one on the job. He laid himself down in the foundation and started bawling for help. The villagers rushed to see what was happening, found their parish priest and got the message.
The church was dedicated to La Divina Pastora (the Divine Shepherdess). And in 1917 a beautiful statue of the divine shepherdess was installed in the church.
Father Anthony De Verteuil records the statue's 'interesting history' in his book "Great Estates of Trinidad" as follows: "In the 1880's the devotion to La Divina Pastora at Siparia in south Trinidad became very popular among the East Indians. Even those from north Trinidad would absent themselves for three days to jouney to the Saint on her feast day. This lengthy absence was unpardonable in the eyes of the estate owners, so they devised a clever expedient. They bought a statue of the Divine Shepherdess and installed it in Calvary Chapel at the western foot of Laventille Hill, which they rechristened Siparia Hill. The ruse did not fool the immigrants. When the Calvary Chapel was converted into a school, the statue was sent to Arouca Church by the Archbishop. Later it was brought to La Pastora."
Last Sunday, the first in the month, should have been the morning when a priest said Mass at the Chapel, which has replaced the original La Pastora Church. No priest showed up and two lay ministers, Benedict Guerrero and Bonifacio Garcio, who are quite accustomed to looking after the needs of the village, conducted the Communion Mass.
As we were taken on a tour by Guerrero, he spoke of the small statue of Our Lady, which still stands in the chapel (the restored La Divina remains with Vena Carrington until the Chapel's roof can be repaired). And remembers the story told to him as a boy that the small statue was found in the bushes up on Canta Mono Mountain (canta means sing, mono -monkey). "They used to have some kind of service up that hill (behind the chapel) in a shed made from cocorite leaves, and they worshipped there until the church was built in 1890." He enjoyed past processions to the river in the month of May: "the small statue was carried on a bier with handles by four people, followed by the congregation singing hymns and throwing flowers along the path."
While the La Veronica Church built sometime after 1945 in Lopinot Village, was the recipient of many good things, such as, the cornerstone, two colonnades from the Mediterranean, several stained glass windows, a bell and the statue of Saint Veronica, from the Caura church which was no longer in use once the Government decided to build the Caura dam to provide water for Port of Spain and relocated the people of the valley at La Reconnaissance Estate, Lopinot, the villagers at La Pastora had to first fight to keep their church as the then Archbishop, Count Finbar Ryan, found Lopinot too small for two churches.
Later on their church became the home of the principal of the school which stood next to it , when he needed a bigger place in which to live. After years of neglect, the church was broken down and the Chapel eventually rebuilt.
Rivas-Leon, visiting for the annual Rivas family reunion which started ten years ago, reminisced "my parents were married here and everytime we came to visit rain would fall very heavily, to me that was a blessing." She has given the Chapel its beautiful indoor Stations of the Cross, the outdoor ones are still to be completed, the Monstrance for the Blessed Sacrament, the Chalice, and a Tabernacle in loving Memory of her 21 year old nephew, Henry George Carrington, who was tragically shot, and died on January 29, 1994. Even the chapel's bathroom has been erected by the Rivas family.
"Now" says Rivas-Leon "it is time for somebody to take over and build the roof, and attend to refurbishing of the altar and the rest of the Chapel so that the restored La Divina Pastora statue can be housed in the chapel."