Wed | Oct 28, 2020

Colleagues hail slain priest as caring, compassionate

Published:Sunday | September 27, 2020 | 12:14 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Father Larius Lewis
Father Larius Lewis

Friends and colleagues of Father Larius Lewis are still numb with shock, trying to make sense of the murder of someone who served the Church, community and had a positive impact on those he came in contact with.

Lewis’ nude lifeless body was discovered on Friday with the hands and feet bound at the rectory of St Paul’s Cure in Chapelton, Clarendon, after church members went to the rectory to make checks after not hearing from him since Wednesday.

The surreal tragedy has been a nightmare for those who worked closely with Lewis.

Grace Golding, one of his church members, said the news sent her blood pressure soaring, forcing her to postpone a dental appointment.

She told The Sunday Gleaner that she was about to enter a dental office in May Pen when her niece called to give her the news.

“You know they have to check your pressure before they do any extraction, and when that was done, my pressure was high,” Golding said, adding that she was sent home to take it easy.

“It was shocking when I got the news ... . It is shocking to everybody because he was good in the sense where he carried the congregation. He was good in singing and in music. It was never a dull moment with him,” Golding said.

Olive Knight, who is a part of the Mother’s Union group at the church, described the 36-year-old Lewis as “an amazing priest, cooperative and loving”.

She said he was very involved with the women’s group, not just at their church in Chapelton, but all the Mother’s Unions in the deanery of Clarendon.

“Our group benefited from his involvement. He brought fun, he brought innovation, and when we were having rally, he would come take the mic and he would sing,” she reflected. “He was great fun to have around when we were having our programmes.”

Describing him as a dynamic priest, Knight said Lewis would contribute some “spectacular pieces” to the fundraising programmes they often held to support the activities of the Mother’s Union.

“He would pop in there and he would come and do some spectacular pieces and that shocked us. We didn’t know he had it in him. He was a fun priest,” she reminisced.

Lewis’ influence, she said, extended beyond the church walls as he would be involved at events such as the prep school graduation, giving motivational speeches as well as interacting with the youth, always giving advice and sharing his experiences from growing up in St Elizabeth.

Father Winston Thomas, who supervised the region in which Lewis worked, told The Sunday Gleaner that he was “devastated” and “shocked” by the murder.

Highlighting his teacher training at The Mico University College, Thomas said Lewis also sang and played the keyboard and he would often use them in his presentations, which endeared him to a lot of persons.

Jovial

“When I was in Chapelton Friday night, people were saying that he would never pass anybody without saying hello to them. They recall him as being very jovial,” said Thomas, who is also the rector of the St Gabriel’s Anglican Church in May Pen.

He said the death of his colleague had shaken the entire church family, a chord similar to that struck by Anglican Bishop of Jamaica Reverend Dr Howard Gregory, who said they were all in mourning.

Mario Samms shared a friendship with Lewis which started at a spiritual retreat in 2007 where they bonded like brothers. They both later attended Mico and decided they wanted to go into ministry.

He said Lewis was a humble servant of God who served the church diligently.

“He had a passion for serving God’s people in the capacity as a priest. He was very charismatic in his journey as a Christian,” Samms said.

Samms’ last interaction with Lewis came in August when he was attending a teachers’ conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.

“I posted a pic on my WhatsApp profile with [then Education] Minister Karl Samuda from the convention. He started teasing me that I was with my Labourite friend ‘cause he knew I am a supporter of the People’s National Party, while he was a Jamaica Labour Party supporter,” Samms shared. “But his sense of humour was like that. He would crack you up.”

There was no missing the sombre note in his voice as he recalled that during that conversation, Lewis issued an invitation for him to come and preach at his church.

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