The Shrine Committee envisages that its mandate to elevate OLM to a Shrine of international status will redound to the benefit of the Tortuga community and by extension, our country. In pursuing this mission preparatory classes for the sacraments of initiation are held. First Communion and Confirmation classes are offered at OLM and the children of Tortuga and the surrounding communities have responded very well. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) candidates also benefit from training and are welcomed into the Catholic faith.
Following the 2012 Joseph T. Rostant Hymn to OLM competition, scholarships were offered to members of the participating choirs to attend the music ministry of Liturgy School to hone their musical skills.
We receive support and guidance from the wider Tortuga parish as well as a wide range of organisations such as the Citizens for Conservation (CFC), Trinity TV, Kemal Manickchand Designs, the Tourism Development Company (TDC) and the Couva/ Tabaquite/ Talparo Regional Corporation.
Through the intervention of CFC, two members of the Shrine Committee were invited in 2013 to participate in a two day Heritage Workshop/ Seminar organized by the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago of the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration in collaboration with Citizens for Conservation. At that event, our participants were able to share the OLM experiences and learn from the other participants.
In 2014, CFC placed a picture of our church as the month of January on their Calendar.
Thanks to Trinity TV, Heritage Radio and several articles in the Catholic News and other print media, the work of the Shrine Committee has reached a very wide audience even beyond the shores of Trinidad and Tobago.
There are future plans to have a restaurant, museum, gift shop, book shop and retreat spaces where people can come and relax in our beautiful surroundings. The TDC has offered to train tour guides and hospitality personnel from the Tortuga community.
In 1989, after touring the burnt-out site of the Mayo Roman Catholic School, Mayo Village, the then-Minister of Education, Clive Pantin, visited the nearby Tortuga Roman Catholic School, located between the RC Presbytery and Church (est.1879, one year after the consecration of Our Lady of Montserrat RC Church) and Tortuga Anglican School at Mayo Road, Tortuga Village.
The majority of students from the Roman Catholic School was from the neighbouring communities of Indian Trail, Gran Couva and Gordon Village. The Anglican School consisted of students from the Tortuga Village.
Both schools were in a serious state of disrepair and staff were now lobbying for new structures to be erected. Saddened by the deplorable conditions to which staff and students were subjected, he promptly organised a meeting with staff and parents of both schools.
It was decided that both schools be demolished and one structure – a government school – be erected on the site of the Roman Catholic School. This action was sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port of Spain and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago with funding coming from the Inter- American Development Bank (IDB).
In early 1991, the Roman Catholic School was demolished. Staff and students were now housed in the nearby Tortuga Roman Catholic Church while the Anglican staff and students moved into the Tortuga Anglican Church. Classes continued as normal.
In addition to the various church and government officials in attendance, staff and students of both schools were present at this historic ceremony.
On November 3rd, 1992, the then Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the Honourable Patrick Manning, opened The Tortuga Government Primary School – a merger of Tortuga Roman Catholic and Tortuga Anglican Schools built on Roman Catholic lands. The Principal of the school at that time was Ms. Gloria Clement, a devout Roman Catholic and a parishioner of the church next door. The government school and the church maintained a close working relationship up to the present time.
Tortuga Government Primary School located at 312 Mayo Road, Tortuga Village, Trinidad and Tobago, encourages holistic development among their students with the emphasis on good nutrition.
With discipline structures in place like policies, teams, matrix and a big brother/big sister mentorship programmes, students are well trained/well behaved. In addition, there is a Read-a-Book and Add-a-Brick programme which help tremendously in fostering good attitudes.
The school participates in many co and extra curricular activities. There is a vibrant 4H Club, a Spelling Group, an Ace Choir and a Hindu Cultural Group.
Termly events like Carnival Street Parade, Easter Hunt, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Indian Arrival, Divali and Christmas Concerts are all celebrated with members of the community.
The school, while it is no longer under the control of the church still works closely with the Roman Catholic Community. Stalls for the yearly Harvest in September are housed on the school compound, and the school facilities are used as dressing rooms for the Shrine Committee’s flagship event in December, the Advent/Christmas Carol Service. Plants are also used from the school’s award winning garden to beautify the Altar and the Presbytery during “Afternoon Tea with Our Lady” every April.