Editor’s note: After serving in Brussels in his first posting overseas as a Foreign Service Officer, Antonio Butler (far right of the photo) has been recalled. There were farewell parties galore including one by the office that is booting him back home. A diplomat to the end. Here is what he said to the church community as he took his leave.
FAREWELL SPEECH FOR BRUSSELS CHURCH COMMUNITY
26th January, 2020
Good Afternoon Church. It is an honour to stand here today, to say thank you to a Community that has done so much for me during my time in Brussels.
This journey all started six months ago when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas requested that I serve in a Diplomatic position in the first Bahamian Embassy in Brussels.
Having been raised in an active Catholic family, my Aunt and I started researching Catholic Church communities upon our arrival in Brussels. I wanted to find a community that would be in close proximity to the European Union District and the Ixelles commune and low and behold we found the St. Joseph’s Catholic Community.
Even with St. Joseph’s being in close proximity to my home and to my job I was not 100 percent sold originally but after my first mass on September 1st, 2019 all doubts or reservations were erased immediately. The first parishioner I met was a guy named Mark from Uganda and he invited me to the Annual church barbecue which was to be held the following week. I asked Mark “what should my Aunt and I contribute to the barbecue” and he stated “Antonio bring beers we already have enough meat and your aunt can bring wine”. It was at this moment that I knew I had found my church home in Belgium. This church can be best described as a melting pot where diversity is not only accepted but it flourishes. My aunt even learned that a priest we met at that first mass had attended seminary over 50 years ago with a well-loved priest from her parish in New York City. Everyone feels at home here. No matter where you are from in the world.
I must commend Emy from the Philippines who ensured that I remained involved by encouraging me to become a lector, this helped me to assimilate into the community.
To my Sip and Chat crew also known as the African group I will miss you all. I was easily adopted within this group and on many occasions they were astonished about how much I knew about their various countries because I had been living in Africa for three years and developed a deep love for the continent. Every Sunday we would have a different topic to discuss and on many occasions the discussions/debates would be continued even after the parish hall was closed.
This group became family and made sure my relationship with God was kept intact and that it continued to grow. I will never forget the pilgrimage tour a few of us made on All Saints Day to Liege to visit the site of one of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary. That experience was life changing.
This church has kept me grounded in faith even in some of my most difficult times. The Act of Penance / Reconciliation was something I capitalized on in Brussels because there were so many different visiting Priests I felt at ease going to them to talk. Whereas in The Bahamas I would be a bit reluctant because I practically knew every Priest from when I was a child and I did not want to go to them for confession. On this note about going to reconciliation as a child, I would like to share a quick story about my niece Rayanne who is in the 5th grade that my family recently shared with me: [she said Teddy needed to confess but not her] it shows the fear kids can have about going to a priest that they know, the same way I had an reluctance]
I would like to thank Father Chika for allowing me to have this platform to say thank you to a parish community that I quickly grew to love. You will remain my Brussels parish family.
Lastly, I would to thank everyone from the Diplomatic corps, Spaces Building Complex and my colleagues who came here today to say farewell.
Your presence here today really means a lot.