Monday , 25 June 2018

Fr Jacome Gonsalves- A saint in waiting

Anthony D’ Lima

The 17th and 18th century were characterised in Goa by an exalted Christian spirituality and an intensive evangelisation. Those were the times of intense spiritual life with an active church, inspired in the grandiose epopee of spreading the message of Christ in the East with such an intense and mystical faith, there was an effervescence of religious life and privileged vocation spring up in abundance.

In that epoch of great achievement, Fr Jacome Gonsalves found a right environment for his ardent religious vocation, which in due course, flourished into one of the greatest missionary assignment in the East. An oratorian savant, successor to Fr José Vas, who graced the mission and made it grow for 37 years. He was born in the village Graça, Chorão, on June 8, 1676. Son of Tomás Gonçalves, from Piedade, Divar and Mariana Abreu, from Graça, Chorao, he died on  July 17, 1742 and is Buried in the St Mary’s Church, Bolawate, Ceylon presently Sri Lanka.

On July 17th The Divar church celebrates the 275th death anniversary of Fr Jacome Gonsalves. This illustrious servant of God, the saintly Goan missionary toiled silently in the vineyard of the Lord, in the land of Ceylon, with faith, love and self-sacrifice’.  Strange as it may appear, after the solemn commemoration held in Ceylon in 1942, on the occasion of the 2nd centenary of his death and the enthusiastic celebrations of the 210th death anniversary, in 1952, by his native Island of Divar- the memory of Fr Jácome was gradually allowed to fall into oblivion.

However, with the recent canonisation of St Joseph Vaz, the spotlight is now on the cause of Fr Jácome and there is presently great enthusiasm and effervescence in Sri Lanka and Goa, and in particular Divar.

In Sri Lanka, where his missionary action took place and where he is buried, the congregation venerates Fr Jácome as a saint, hoping that he would be beatified soon.

In Goa, Fr Eremito Rebello, former vice-postulator for the cause of canonisation of St Joseph Vaz, initiated in 2015 the spade work for reviving the cause of his canonisation, and preliminary action has been initiated with the active participation of his co-islanders.

The parishioners at Our Lady of Piety Church, Divar, immediately held an annual commemoration day, to pay tribute to the great missionary. A portrait older than 200 years of Fr Jacome Gonsalves, presently honoured in the photo gallery of the parochial residence was placed below the altar.

On the occasion, a plan was formulated to undertake the preliminary work of instituting the cause of canonisation. An executive committee under the chairmanship of the parish priest, Fr Jose Dias, was constituted to coordinate all the local activities. Most importantly, a prayer group formed to pray for the cause.

Celebrations were held in Divar on July 17, 2016, in commemoration of his 274thdeath anniversary, by holding a solemn Eucharistic celebration at the Our Lady of Piety Church, attended by a large congregation, with even people coming from neighbouring islands to honour the saintly missionary.

The religious service was followed by the naming ceremony of the main village road, fronting his three and half century old ancestral house, as ‘Fr Jacome Gonsalves Road’. The plaque was jointly unveiled by Fr Eremito Rebello and engineer Jose de Albuquerque, in the presence of a large and enthusiastic crowd.

The turret room at his ancestral house, which has been refurbished and dedicated to his memory, was solemnly blessed. A statue of the saintly missionary will be shortly installed in this room. In the meantime a cut-out of the saintly missionary has been placed at the entrance of the room.

A pamphlet published on this occasion, in English and Konkani, giving a short description of his saintly life was released. A book titled, ‘Fr Jácome Gonsalves – A magnificent Life’, by Jose de Albuquerque was released on the occasion of the Feast of the Lord Redeemer, at Piedade, on November 20, 2016.

Pilgrims from Sri Lanka who visit the shrine of St Joseph Vaz at Sancoale, Goa, take now the opportunity to visit the ancestral house of Jácome and pray in the room particularly dedicated to him. Presently a number of high level pilgrimages led by the Sri Lankan Bishops, have come to Divar, along with groups from Portugal.

Today, on the occasion of his 275thdeath anniversary a Eucharistic celebration will be held at Our Lady of Piety Church and on Monday, July 17 a Eucharistic celebration will be held at the Our Lady Of Divar High School.

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