BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
For Fr. Brad Smith, CO, one of the biggest challenges of his ministry is “getting people to realize what it means to radically embrace the Gospel.”
“Catholicism in Jamaica is not very widespread – about 2-3 percent only,” Fr. Smith told The Western Kentucky Catholic in an Oct. 12, 2018 interview.
Fr. Smith lives and works in Portland, Jamaica, as a member of the Oratory of Port Antonio, which is a congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri. He is a son of St. Alphonsus Parish in St. Joseph, and was ordained a priest of the Oratory on Dec. 1, 2013.
Fr. Smith explained that the Oratory is not actually a religious community, since the priests and lay brother members take no formal vows. Instead, in following the guidelines of their founder St. Philip Neri, they live and serve the community together through the bond of charity. Various Oratories are located around the globe.
“Our particular Oratory has three churches entrusted to us,” said Fr. Smith. This includes churches in Port Antonio, Buff Bay and the Blue Mountains. Their ministry focuses heavily on assisting the needs of the impoverished local community.
The Oratorians also help with a school, visit the sick and work with the youth, explained Fr. Smith, who is a youth commissioner with the Archdiocese of Kingston. Fr. Smith, who plays the keyboard, also teaches music, since music is a standard part of the Oratorian tradition.
Fr. Smith said members of his community will sometimes travel around the United States and give appeals for Food for the Poor, an international charity organization, “showing the First World what Third World needs are.”
Fr. Smith said perhaps the greatest challenge is the lack of family life among the people. He said many men have no intention of raising a family, despite often having children with various women. And as a result of the deficient family life, there is a shortage of vocations.
The Oratorians also witness a lot of influences from negative aspects of American culture through social media and the ongoing secularization of society.
Despite the tough days and uphill battles, Fr. Smith said he takes encouragement from the good that is happening. This includes seeing a youth he had taught now becoming a doctor, and witnessing couples getting married.
“This past Easter we baptized 15 young people between the ages of 15-20,” he said.
The Oratory community is small and close-knit, said Fr. Smith: “Five of us live and work there; four of us travel around.”
Fr. Smith explained that St. Philip Neri had always intended the communities to remain small – “to be like a family.” But as with most communities in this day and age, vocations are always welcome.
Fr. Smith, who grew up in western Kentucky, said he has gotten used to Jamaica’s tropical climate. It may be different, but it is home.
Indeed, in the words of his community’s founder, “The true servant of God recognizes no other country but Heaven.”
To learn more about the Oratory of Port Antonio, visit www.oratoryofportantonio.org.
Originally printed in the December 2018 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2018 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic