Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
“Life begins at forty,” says Fr Bolmax Pereira. Though it has been just about twelve years after his ordination, today he holds the responsibility of being a parochial administrator (similar to ‘padvigar’) at Our Lady of Remedies Church, Nerul.
He was assigned the duty in July 2015 on the call of the Archbishop to take charge of the parish in an emergency situation. Though it was meant to be for three months, Fr Bolmax has offered to stay on until next year even as he pursues his PhD in ecology and environment studies through Jodhpur National University. In pursuit of his doctoral research he wasn’t sure that he would be able to take charge of the Nerul parish. Though he was curate in St Lawrence Church Agassaim, the posting proved beneficial to him in his research studying the wetlands and move across Tiswadi, Mormugoa and Salcette for his research.
A jolly, fun loving person, who loves to makes others laugh, play football and his guitar, he has nicknamed himself ‘the spare part’, who whenever needed was asked to move to another location. He was even asked to assist the parish priest in Sanvordem when there was a need.
Now at Nerul he has won hearts of the parishioners despite difficulties. “People have accepted me and put up with demands for it was because of their need that I have been sent here,” says the priest.
Those who know Fr Bolmax will vouch that he has youth appeal and thus brought many young people back to the church, though he maintains that he has no problem connecting with every parishioner from children to the white haired ones. But, he hits the nail when he says: “I am more connected with the youth. Those who had moved away from the church have come back and take active part in the happenings.” Being a parish priest in Nerul, he asserts, is much better as compared to other churches which is why he has offered to work there till next year because of its people.
Fr Bolmax in the past was instrumental in regrouping the youth in Fatorda at his initial posting in 2004. As member of the Band of Priests, under his guidance, the youth of Nerul and Agassaim came forward to be part of the musical that has travelled to various parishes across the state. In Loutolim too he used his talent of music and football skills to breathe life in the Loutolim and Mapusa youth groups; he is now no less than a youth icon for Goan catholic youth.
Being extremely practical and open minded, he says that the church today is one of the youth. “If you don’t have youth force the church is empty and lacking something,” says the priest who believes strongly in giving youth the freedom to work along with assurance of support. He says: “What also matters is how the parish priest talks to them. You can’t be preachy and bossy, but one among them.”
And from where does he get his energy? “Mein aisa hi hoon,” he jokes before acknowledging his attributes to his open minded family who taught him that being an authoritarian takes you nowhere. “But, I am strict when required,” he chuckles.
Just after completing a year as curate was in St Jerome’s Church, Mapusa, he was asked to take up the posts of procurator, prefect and teacher at Saligao minor seminary, which he initially refused. Considering it God’s call he later took it up. Here he further nurtured his interest in the environment where he teamed up with Joseph D’Souza from the Science and Technology Department to conduct a cleanliness drive. He later initiated the Green Goa project in the barren land at the seminary to start water shed and mango project, but the former was shelved when he got transferred.
True to human nature, Fr Bolmax too used to grumble about being transferred, but he felt that God worked through the negatives and saved him from death when he had a severe fall. “If I had the fall when I was still at the old posting I would have probably died at the water shed project,” says the priest who was diagnosed with aortic valve stenosis and underwent the first awake surgery in Bangalore in December 2010. When he is offered a transfer now, he doesn’t object and believes it is God’s plan for him.
Fast forward four years and Fr Bolmax armed with a master degree in science, was well on his way to register for a Phd after seeking permission from the bishop, but wasn’t granted admission at Goa University for reasons best known to the officials he says.
As I near the end of a conversation I asked him: “So had you not been priest today, what would you have been?” His answer was exactly what I expected! Fr Bolmax was initially stumped. He then said he would have worked in the field of environment. He adds that among all issues in Goa, it is the garbage issue that troubles him the most. “It is a big problem which leads to so many other issues,” he says. He points out how wet lands are being reclaimed in the name of development. “Unsustainable development is a big issue especially at the rate at which it is going on.”
Rapid Fire with Fr Bolmax
* Qualities a priest needs in the 21st century … A priest has to be a human being, not an angel though he needs to be a man of god.
* The qualities of the Pope that you have imbibed… He is an environment lover and is very open minded. Our catholic church has a lot of conservatives at every level, which he isn’t worried about.
* Are there open minded priests in Goa? There are many open minded priests. There are also priests of the old school of thought, which is necessary for it throws challenges at the younger ones.
* Vocations in Goa are declining. Will there even be priests in the future? It is not your church or my church. It is the Church of God. From the beginning till now, although there is a decline, it is the work of God, nobody will be able to stop it or destroy it – as Jesus has promised. I don’t see the church declining for God will provide. Running down priests, nuclear families, competition to secure their child’s future are reasons for declining number of priests.
* Are you happy with the attitude of the people? Our Catholics have too many expectations from priests, but when it comes to them to deliver, it doesn’t happen. There are few who work selflessly, yet people love to criticise and spread rumours. People use social networking sites to tarnish priests but no one dares to correct or comment even if they don’t agree with what is said.
* What do you think religion means to people? Today religion is more of a convenience than a need. People look at aspects such as proximity of the church to the market, sermon length delivered by a priest, etc.