Welcome, Father Brakes
Brancker "Brakes" John becomes a Catholic priest. The former calypsonian and politician was ordained on Saturday in Colihaut
Dominican Catholics had another reason to celebrate last Saturday when Brancker "Brakes" John, a former community worker, calypsonian and politician was ordained to the Catholic priesthood. He is the second priest to be ordained here in a month. Just about three weeks ago, Elton John Letang was ordained to the priesthood at a Eucharistic celebration held at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Newtown.
In an historic event in Colihaut, His Lordship Gabriel Malzaire, Bishop of Roseau, in the company of clergy of the diocese conferred the Sacrament of Holy Orders on Father Brancker John before religious, family and friends on Saturday June 29, 2013.
Fr John's path to the priesthood was tortuous. But the seed to the priesthood was influenced by his close friend Fr Celsus Auguiste, the parish priest at Colihaut in 1988. Brancker was then 15 years old and served in the church and helped out in the parish. So the idea of the vocation to the priesthood was planted then.
But the environment for that seed to be planted was created long before, by Fr Brancker John's grandmother. She died a few years ago, but she was a very staunch Catholic and very prayerful woman.
John left high school in 1989 at 15 and worked for 18 months with the Fisheries Division as a data collector; he was also employed with the Local Government Department in 1992 as a community development assistant; in 1999 he became a member of parliament.
Brakes became a calypsonian by chance. In 1995, calypsonian "President Lilly" of Colihaut encouraged Brakes to sing calypso.
"Take a try; you never know," Lilly said.
Brakes went on to win two monarch crowns in 1997 and 1999, and the Road March crown in 2000.
He then entered parliament in 1999 on the invitation of then Prime Minister Edison James and contested the seat in Colihaut in 2000 and lost.
Then that seed, which was planted in 1989, and was watered by the Lord, was allowed to germinate in silence. John left Dominica in March 2000 after the general elections. He had lost at the polls and lost the calypso crown, which he tried to defend as the reigning monarch in 2000.
"I went to New York and things changed, and my life was much more silent," he said.
In the US, the idea was to go to school and study economics and hopefully to come back to Dominica, but in the process, in the silence "I guess the Lord had other plans," he said.
On December 4, 2005 John finally came to the conclusion that the best way to discern whether or not he was called to the priesthood was to go to the seminary.
"Believe it or not, a man cannot discern the call to the priesthood in his house. You can't stay at your house and discern whether you are called to the priesthood. The best way to do that is to enter the seminary, which is the seedbed of vocations to the priesthood, that is the place where seminarians get up in the mornings, pray, go to mass every day, go to classes and think about whether this is the life the Lord is calling me to," he said.
"Bishop Malzaire graciously and very generously accepted my application to enter the seminary in 2006 when I applied," he said.
Brancker John studied at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in New Jersey.
"Family support has been good, but it had to evolve. At first some did not understand, like a lot of people did not understand. What now? Why do you want to become a priest? It seemed like a radical change. So some of my family members did not understand and were not quite supportive. That has evolved," he said.
So last Saturday that phase to the priesthood for Fr Brancker John ended, and the ministry began.