By Alfie D’Souza, Illinois (Team Mangalorean)
“The priesthood is the love of…..Jesus,” said John Vianney, the 19th century French priest who is now the patron saint of Catholic clergy. This ideal to lovingly serve the faith community, is the central focus of the Church’s ordained ministry, according to the catechism. For Catholic Christians, priests are mentors, teachers and friends who celebrate both the ordinary and special events in their lives. Therefore, it is important to find the right priest to share these moments with you – and for that matter, Fr Denzil Lobo is the right example.
Knowing Fr Denzil during my high school and college days at St Aloysius High School/College, it is my greatest privilege to honor this great religious person with this tribute on his assignment as the new Rector of St Aloysius. ” The Son of Man comes not to be served, but to serve,” Jesus said, and, after washing their feet, told his disciples to do what he did. Serving people is what Jesus did, and doing what Jesus did is a privilege – and that’s what Fr Denzil has been doing since his ordination.
If rectors were simply program managers, this transition might be simple. But of course, they are not. A priest is shepherd to the sheep, consolation to the grieving, beloved parent to a congregation?s children, theological instructor to the curious, liturgical leader, and pastor of the tight and holy community that is the parish. Departure of one rector is wrenching; installation of another is rejuvenating; and to go from the depth of one to the height of the other requires a process.
Transition, including its Search component, is an exciting and blessed process. It is an opportunity for the Spirit to be present in unique ways. It is an opportunity to see through new eyes, decide with a free mind, re-write the future without constraints. It is challenging and time consuming, but it is an investment well worthwhile. It is frequently described as one of the most intensely gratifying ministries in the Church/Chapel., and I think the General of Society of Jesuits has picked the right person to be at the helm as the Rector of St Aloysius. Prior to Fr Lobo, recent Rectors of SAC were: Fr Ronnie Prabhu SJ(1980-86), Fr Avelline D?Souza SJ(1986-1992), Fr Ralph D’Costa SJ(1998-2001), Fr Vijayakumar Prabhu SJ (2001-2004), Fr Francis Serrao SJ (2004-2009), and Fr Joseph Rodrigues SJ (2009-2013).
Today the Catholic faithful expect their priest to be a dynamic preacher, impressive celebrant, effective healer, sensitive listener, able administrator, friendly person, dedicated caretaker of the Church/Chapel and institution, sounding board and even, sometimes a punching bag – Fr Denzil has all these abilities and has kept his promises to serve as a good, God-fearing priest. The clergy, the faithful, the well-wishers and the students of St Aloysius should be very grateful to Fr Denzil for his loyalty to this great institution, his wonderful gentleness and humor, his smile and friendliness and for the wonderful things he has done for St Aloysius and so many people.
Fr Denzil Lobo truly is an inspiration to many people, young and old, in his daily interaction with them. The inspiration one gets from a humble person’s declaration of humanness and frailty is taken from the Scripture’s words: ” Man does not live on bread alone but by the words of God.” Fr Denzil is a terrific man to know both personally and professionally. He never ceases to amaze anyone with his knowledge, but mostly his humility. His love for the Church and Holy Eucharist is evident by the way he reverently says Mass, and he is a intelligent priest who delivers excellent homilies.
As the common phrase goes,” Smile, and the world will smile with you”, Fr Denzil’s smile lights up his face, and all those around him. An intelligent man with great personality, Fr Denzil is also kind and gentle, cheerful and smiling, loving and caring; and he also represents humility and has a way of making his acquaintances feel equally important. People and students are attracted to him because he is kind, soft-spoken, gentle and friendly.
During our short life here on Earth we meet plenty of people. Among them are our best friends and our teachers, and I could not tell which one between these two influences the life most. In my opinion both are important in their own ways. Teachers educate us, and their life experience and wisdom can give us good advices and support. Friends are there when you need them for good advice and comfort. To summarize, we are accompanied in our life by many wonderful people – they teach us, they support us and they will be in our hearts forever. They make us who we are and what we are, and both of them, the friends and the teachers, are very important parts of our lives.
Although Fr Denzil wasn’t my teacher at St Aloysius, but I was very much associated with him in the many co-curricular activities that took place in the High School and also in College. We both shared our views and thoughts, our ideas and plans during school and college activities. Decades later, I still feel proud, blessed and honored to be the friend of this great educator and mentor. Fr Denzil who was in-charge of the St Aloysius HS photograph Club, was the one who taught me how to operate a camera, develop prints in the dark room and so on- and if am a great photographer now, it is surely due to Fr Denzil.
Born September 19, 1952 to Joseph and Latitia Lobo, Fr Denzil was the fifth in the family among five brothers and two sisters. He did his schooling and PU studies at St Philomena’s High School and College, Puttur, and later graduated in BSc from St Aloysius College, Mangalore. His younger brother Roman studied with me in BSc at SAC. Soon after college he joined the Novitiate. This is what Fr Denzil had to say,” I always wanted to be a priest. Initially my dad was against me joining the priesthood. But then he fell sick. After reflection he gave me permission to join the Jesuits. I had the desire to serve others. I used to say to myself, ? I may do very well in life, have a good position and a lot of money. But what is the use of it? I will not be able to take anything when I die!!? I wanted to serve. in 1968 I wrote to Fr Provincial expressing my desire to join the Society. After four-sheet exam I was accepted into the Society in June 1969″.
Fr Denzil did his one year Novitiate at Mount St Joseph, Bangalore, then moved to XTC, Belguam for the second year Novitiate and Juniorate. In 1972 April-May he spent time in Bombay learning music under the guidance of Fr Fernandes SJ. He came to St Aloysius College in 1972 to do B Sc( Chemistry), and secured second rank in B Sc.1976?He joined Loyola, Madras for M Sc in chemistry, where he received Gold medal in Chemistry at Loyola. Fr Denzil who got ordained in 1983, was assigned to St Jospeh?s College for a year where he taught Chemistry there. He was transferred to St Aloysius , Mangalore in 1984, and has been here since then.
Fr Denzil went to USA for pursue higher studies-In1988-91 he joined Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA to do studies in MS(Computer Engineering). After he got back from US, Fr Leo put him in charge of the Computer Centre in 1986-the center was a gift by Mr Aubrey D?Souza to St Aloysius College. That computer Centre has grown into an independent Institute and now a new campus for Management and IT studies at Beeri, Kotekar. Fr Denzil Lobo, was the Director of Aloysian Institute of Management and Information Technology (AIMIT); and was also the Vice Principal of St Aloysius College. A friendly person, friend of thousands of alumni of the College- he is a person with vision for quality education for the young people of our Country. He, almost single handed built up the new campus of AIMIT at Kotekar- Beeri. That’s amazing!
Post SAC Centenary in 1980s- major advancement has taken place at this great institution, like the introduction of Computers in 1987, 1990, the opening of a hi-tech computer section with a PG Department. Beginning of 2000, the new IT building and the PG Science block ?Xavier? inaugurated in March 2003 by Dr A P J Abdul Kalam. Year 2009 saw the extension of SAC – the AIMIT at Beeri Kotekar, based on the architecture of SAC Mangalore. An amalgamation of AIBA (Aloysius Institute of Business Administration) and AICS (Aloysius Institute of Computer Science) both under the Directorship of Fr.Denzil Lobo continued to be his baby.
Following are the excerpts from the interview that I had with Fr Denzil Lobo SJ:
I just want to ask first of all your calling to the priesthood, at what age you became aware of it ?
When I was in the High School itself I had a desire to become a priest. And after my PUC in 1969, I decided to join the Society of Jesus. My desire was to serve Jesus, and preach his teachings to the people.
Who was the priest then, and what did you think the priest saw in you at that age? Also who was the Bishop then?
I was studying at St Philomena High School and then College. It was Msgr Antony Patrao who was the Parish priest…and Bishop Basil D?Souza was the Bishop of Mangalore, who ordained me as a priest..
Did you have any thoughts about perhaps having a vocation to married life, say, a bit later on ?
No. I was always determined. Always asked the basic question in life ?I may have a well paying job, very good position in life..and all the amenities possible . But what is the use of all that If I am not able to reach out to the poor and down trodden.
When did you tell your parents about wanting to become a priest? What was their reaction, and also from your family members?
Yes, my mother always prayed that I might become a priest. But when I told my family that I was intending to join the Jesuits, my father was against, he wanted me to be an engineer and earn a lot. But then he fell sick. He was hospitalized. He also started reflecting and then he gave me permission to join the Jesuits. He was very happy later about my decision. My family members fully supported me on my decision to join the priesthood.
Did you ever had a time when you stopped going to Church ?
Narrate your experiences as a Catholic priest?
I am very happy that I am a Jesuit priest in the Society of Jesus. Most of my life I have been in the Institutions and not much of parish ministry. But being with students and motivating them, helping them and guiding them has been a very rewarding experiences. Celebrating Mass and sharing my reflections has also added colour to my life. My experiences have run the gamut from ordinary to extraordinary and from heartwarming to heart-wrenching all in the context of priestly life. I just keep leaving the doors open every day to learn more about myself, my faith and the people I serve in the Church/Chapel.
Has anything changed in your personal life as a priest, as a man of God and Church?
Yes. Being a priest my outlook to life is very different. It is always how I can be of service to people , especially youth whom I come in contact with. As a man of God I need to be a priest who prays and administers sacraments to people.
What should be the qualities of a good Catholic priest?
Love, understanding, affectionate, and closely associate and interact with the people. A priest should be a man of prayer. A person who is concerned about people. Always available when needed. Should not be over conscious of his position but be at the service of people. He should love the poor and the needy. I you really love serving God as a priest, it will show in your celebration of the Mass and the Sacraments as well as in bringing Christ to others. If you love God and your vocation, then love will sustain you in the “mountains and valleys” of ones life.
Would you like to share any bad experiences while as a priest?
I am lucky that I have not had any bad experiences as a priest. It has been wonderful all the time..and very rewarding.
If someone would ask you to say one sentence about Mangalore Catholic Diocese, what would be that?
Mangalore Diocese has grown so much due to the leadership given by the Bishops-It is one of the leading Dioceses in India providing so many vocations to the priesthood and the religious, and has done a great service to the education sector by starting so many high schools and colleges and the engineering and the medical collages..
I know you still look young, active and quite energetic, what’s your advice to those seeking a vocation for priesthood?
? The harvest is great but the labourers are few?, said Jesus. we need many young boys and girls to come forward to work in the vineyard of the Lord. Come and join the priesthood and religious life and influence the lives of so many and be at the service of the community.
You have been a priest for 30 years, what would be your advice for young priests today?
Be men of prayer and be available to people. Believe in your faith-we must live our faith, not have faith without action.
Now that you are taking up the responsibilities as a Rector, are you quiting your post at AIMIT? What would be your parting words for the students there?
No, I am not leaving AIMIT. I will still continue as the Director and will be coming here at least two times a week. But my message to our students is that ?Nothing is impossible in life. Have big dreams. Have faith in God, in you and others. Work hard to achieve the goals in your life?
How does your experiences as a priest to date fit you for the role of Rector at St Aloysius?
I have been at St Aloysius for 30 years and I am familiar with this Institution. During the last 15-20 years it has grown so much and poised to be one of the TOP Institutions in India…..may be a University. As Rector I will have to plan , along with all the stake holder, to take this Institution to the next stage.
How would you describe your lifestyle of leadership?
I shall try to be simple and open to suggestions. Listen to people. Be available and get support form all our alumni and friends.
Is there anything unusual about your pathway to ministry as Rector of St Aloysius?
What are your expectations that you like to put forward?
My expectations are that all of us, the Management, the faculty, students, parents and benefactors and well wishers should join hands to make St Aloysius College the best.
This year being ‘The Year of Faith”, in your opinion how can Church best prepare the Catholic faithful for true commitment of their faith?
I feel that we should to go back to the documents of VAT II- being the 50th anniversary and try to rediscover the message of that ecumenical council and restart the process of renewal in our personal life, community life and parish life.
What is that could strengthen the faith by Catholics in Mangalore and around?
Regret to say that family prayer is suffering very much in our families. Our youth is not getting proper guidance by their parents. This is a serious concern. Something has to be done soon, before it is too late.
What are your opinions on the past Pope who just resigned; and also on the newly appointed Pope?
Pope Benedict was a great person, a thinker and a theologian. We appreciate his gesture to resign when he realized that his health was failing and that the Church should not suffer due to his ill health. Pope Francis, right form the first day has shown that the Church is for the poor and and the down trodden. His great example has inspired so many and good to see that people are coming back to Church. Unfortunately many times people leave the Church due to their bad experiences with one or two priests…which is usually generalized.
What’s in your opinion is a good Catholic?
It’s an interesting question, but this is a question that every Catholic should ask himself/herself every morning when he/she gets up, and every evening when he/she goes to bed. Every Catholic priest confronts this question when he prays his daily Liturgy of the Hours(a book of psalms, prayers and readings which priests and deacons are required to pray at different times daily. Lay people are also invited to pray from this book as well). A good Catholic is a person who is first of all a person of prayer and is concerned about the poor and is ready to help them.
What’s your opinion on Roman Catholic priests and celibacy?
Celibacy is something to be valued and something that makes you stand out. I think celibacy is a gift; it certainly is a charism. Very happy to see so many Roman Catholic priests who are very much committed to their vocation. Most of them are at the series of people. There have been aberrations but being human , we have to understand the situation. There will be celibate priests in the Church.
There has been a lack in praying practice. How can Catholics learn to pray better?
True- there has been a decline in the practice of family prayer. It is very important that we revive this practice in our families. Prayer is the communication between you and God. Prayer is a time to empty ourselves of whatever is going on in our lives. Everyone should find some time to pray. In the quietness and calm, you can meet God in a very deep way and relate the things that are in your heart to him. Talk to God, listen to him, and wait patiently for his answers. But at the same time with basic Christian community groups and the charismatic movement, many people are spontaneous in their prayers and come forward to organize prayer meetings. I see it also among the youth.
In some Western Countries they are pushing to have women ordained as priests-what is your opinion on that?
May be eventually we will have women ordained to the ministry.
What’s your message to the Catholics who are losing faith in their religion, and joining other Christian organizations?
Don?t base your faith on persons but on Christ. It is due to misunderstanding and bad experiences with some priests people decide to leave the Church. Church is not priests , it is all of us together form the community of faithful. Believe firm in your faith, and stay with your faith and religion.
What is your message as a Rector, especially to the young generation ?
You have a great future. We in India are lucky that we have so many youth bubbling with energy. Have big goals in life, think big and try to achieve those goals. Work hard, be self motivated.
Those were great answers and words of wisdom from Fr Denzil Lobo to my queries, for which I thank him very gratefully. Fr Denzil’s achievements as a priest, is actually not about him. It’s about his priesthood. It’s about Christ, whom he exemplifies. It’s about the wonderful work of a priest and the way he touches the lives of so many. I congratulate Fr Denzil Lobo for his greatest achievements as a dynamic preacher, impressive celebrant, effective healer, sensitive listener, able administrator, friendly person and dedicated caretaker of the Catholic Institutions, and I wish him all success and God’s blessings while he is at the helm as Rector of St Aloysius Institutions.
I end this tribute to Dear Fr Denzil Lobo SJ with a thought-provoking message: “Almighty Father, I implore thee, continue to grant this servant, the dignity of the priesthood. Renew within him the spirit of holiness, that he may keep the rank of thy service which he has received from thee for all these years, and by his conduct afford a pattern of holy living. Grant him peace, look upon him kindly, and help him to be a faithful teacher and a holy priest. I ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen”
May God grant this devoted servant more wonderful and fruitful years of dedicated service to Jesus and his Church. Long live Fr Denzil Lobo SJ.
Author: Alfie DSouza- Illinois