The Anglican Church loses a gem
A laughing man with a joke on the tip of his tongue who loved his family and devoted his life to the service of Christ is how Michelle Bailey, wishes people will remember her father, Canon Neil Roach, who passed away on Saturday, December 17 at noon at Doctors Hospital.
Bailey, the second of Canon Roach’s four daughters says for her and her sisters, Melanie, Carol and The Reverend Marie Roach, life with their father was one filled with joy and laughter. Although he was a priest, she says their relationship with God was not something he forced on them. As a result they all found their way to God and built a lasting connection nonetheless.
“My father was a wonderful man. He never took things too seriously and loved to tell jokes and laugh. He was a lively and vibrant person who genuinely loved what he did — whether it was teaching, preaching or being with the family. He gave his all and never settled for less. He was genuinely a loving spirit,” says Bailey.
Her father’s colorful personality, which caused people to gravitate to him, and in turn enriched his family, is what she says she will miss most.
“There was not a day he didn’t come home without a story to tell. And as unbelievable as most of the stories were, they all turned out to be true,” she said.
She now has to contemplate life without her father, and knows she will not be able to eat curry or black cake for a while. They were dishes she said her father made the best and would lovingly prepare for her whenever she requested them.
Bailey says she will also miss the lengthy, chatty telephone calls he made to her in Abaco where she has lived for 10 years.
She says she knows he loved her dearly, but his first concern was about the health of her children — sons Pavel and Jovan. Besides his four daughters and devoted wife, she says the apples of his eyes were his five grandchildren.
“There was no one he loved more than Pavel, Jovan, Jewelle, Natasha and Daniella. They really kept him active and excited. He was truly a family man and he and my mother, Joan Roach, shared 51 years of marriage. That is not something you see everyday. It’s so amazing the kind of person he was through and through.”
When he wasn’t focused on his family, Canon Roach spent an exorbitant amount of time impacting the lives of his parishioners and the community. He wasn’t only interested in his in-church ministry but was always looking for ways to reach out to all people, including those outside the denomination. His passion for doing more led to introducing the Discovery Weekends. He was also a keen supporter of the Cursillo Movement, which are both annual revival programs in the Diocese. He also served as chaplain to the order of St. Luke, a healing ministry of the church.
Canon Roach also spread his expertise to education, a field he enjoyed thoroughly.
“Most people may know him in the capacity as a priest, but those who were really lucky, knew him as an educator as well. He was a comedian and knew how to bring life to any class. But he was also a disciplinarian and if you could follow the rules you and he would get along just fine,” said Bailey. “I even use some of his antics in my own teaching. There was something he used to say to students who loved to borrow that I find myself using as well “Laddie eat less, drink less, buy your own …” It always got a little chuckle out of people. He taught me so much I don’t know where to begin.”
The priest also took time to enjoy the small pleasures of life and indulged in one of his favorite hobbies often — traveling. Over the years, when he had the time, Bailey says he visited Singapore, Australia, Japan, Canada, and the United States just to sate his curiosity. And that he strongly believed seeing the world personally was the best teacher and took his family with him as often as he could.
“My father did so much, and made us all feel so special. He loved people and made friends easily. He was very close to the other priests and loved to take the younger ones under his wing. He often got out and about without one of the family members taking him when he couldn’t drive himself anymore. He had people who would just come to give him a ride and go about with him. He loved his independence and stayed as active as he could until he died,” she said.
The Anglican Diocese of the Turks and Caicos Islands truly lost a gem with the demise of Canon Roach, according to Archdeacon James Palacious who along with his wife Reverend Angela Palacious had visited the priest in hospital a mere hour before he died.
Although Canon Roach’s passing as a shock for him, Archdeacon Palacious says he was grateful that Canon Roach was still alert and lively at his death.
“He went out with a bang, and left a great legacy behind him,” said Archdeacon Palacious.
Besides his professional relationship with Canon Roach, Archdeacon Palacious says he had developed a close friendship with him as well.
“Canon Roach was a very laid-back comedian. He was a jokey fellow. Mind you, his jokes were often stale, but you laughed anyway.”
Archdeacon Palacious’ acquaintance with Canon Roach him began in 1968 when the archdeacon was still a student and he taught him at St. John’s College. He said Canon Roach was really a force to reckon with and stood out wherever he went — be it in the schools or the church.
“He was really a kind and thoughtful person and no one who met him can say he did not make a good impression on them no matter how small.”
The archdeacon’s fondest memory of Canon Roach was the occasion when he bought Palacious his first factory-made cassock. In those days, Archdeacon Palacious says a tailor would have to make the vestments for the priests, but he remembers Canon Roach telling him he would do the honors.
“It was in 1974 and I still remember how handsome I felt. It was black and it has a fine black belt to go along with it,” he says. “Canon Roach also gave me my current Archdeacon’s Beretta. I am very fond of it, especially because it was his. I will now always remember him whenever I wear it. I am saddened, but happy that he has passed as he wasn’t in the best health near the end. Even so he was always willing to do, so it was only fitting he left us while he was still active,” said Archdeacon Palacious.
Prior to his death, Canon Roach was the longest serving living priest with 55 years of service in the priesthood behind him.
The “laughing Canon” was born in Trinidad in 1932 and came to The Bahamas as a Deacon in 1957. He worked at St. Agnes and St. George’s parishes and St. Mary the Virgin, in New Providence, St. Stephen’s Parish, Central Andros, St. Saviour’s Parish, Cat island and he was rector of Holy Cross Parish, in New Providence where he served for 26 years (1971-1997).
Even after his retirement from the priesthood in 1997 at the age of 65 Canon Roach still assisted and visited many other parishes until his death.
Canon Roach’s body will be laid out for viewing on Thursday, December 22, one day after he would have marked his 54th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, at Christ Church Cathedral from 5 p.m. until his funeral on Friday, December 23 at 11 a.m. Parking will be available in the Lower Grounds of Government House from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for people attending the funeral.
Schedule of events for Canon Neil Roach
Thursday, December 22
9 a.m. – 4 p.m. — Public viewing at Bethel Brothers Morticians, Nassau St.
5 p.m. – The body of Canon Roach arrives at Christ Church Cathedral,
George St., for public viewing
7 p.m. – 7 a.m. Friday — Hourly celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, public viewing continues
Friday, December 23
11 a.m. – Funeral service for Canon Neil Roach, Christ Church Cathedral
Solemn Pontifical Concelebrated Eucharist
Chief Celebrant: The Rt. Rev. Laish Boyd
Concelebrants: The Most Rev. Drexel Gomez
The Rt. Rev. Gilbert Thompson
Preacher: The Rt. Rev. Laish Boyd
(Cremation will follow)
Parking will be available in the Lower Grounds of Government House from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. for people attending the funeral