The feast of our patron, Saint Francis Xavier was celebrated in Old Goa. The high mass was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop of Mumbai, Archbishop Barthol Barretto as the main celebrant along with Archbishop of Goa and Daman, Filipe Neri Ferrao and bishop of Sindhudurg, Allwyn Barreto. Other priests at the main altar were vicar general, Jose Remedious; pro nuncio from Delhi, Xavier Fernandes; rector, Bom Jesus Basilica, Fr Patricio Fernandes and parish priest of Se Cathedral, Fr Alfred Vaz alongside other priests.
The theme of this year’s feast revolved around the identity of Christian life based on the beatitudes – ‘Like St Francis Xavier, let us live the Beatitudes and be Holy’. The homily delivered by the main celebrant stressed on how “As Christians we should proclaim the word of God by our being and actions”. This year there was a special 3D stage which gave one the feeling of being at mass indoors, in a cathedral.
The feast day had 12 masses which began at 5 a.m. A special mass held at 6 p.m. was celebrated by over a 100 Jesuit priests. The high mass was held at 10.30 a.m. and people from across the state and neighbouring states descended at Old Goa for the novenas and feast to seek blessings of the saint. Due to the popularity of St Francis Xavier, there were masses in Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi, French, Italian, Portuguese, Marathi and Telugu, besides a mass in Spanish.
Every year elaborate arrangements for traffic and security are undertaken by the Goa Police to ensure safety and smooth flow of traffic during the novenas and feast. Arrangements were also made for pilgrims who travel on foot from neighbouring states. Padyatra is a common feature every year where several devotees come to thank the saint for favours granted or to seek intervention.
After partaking in the Eucharistic celebration, families were seen enjoying the festivities in the area that has a large fair. People buy candles, traditional sweets, grams, etc. There are several Goan families who spend the entire day at Old Goa. They carry along their food and spend the entire day in Old Goa on the lush green lawns.