‘Unbeaten Paths’ Autobiography of Fr Fernandes Released

‘Unbeaten Paths’ Autobiography of Fr Fernandes Released

A tell-all Memoir “Unbeaten Paths” – an autobiography by Fr John Fernandes was released on 22 September to mark his 80th Birthday at Padua College Hall, Nanthoor here at 5 pm by Dr Olinda Pereira, Director of Vishwas Trust, and the book was reviewed by Prof. Dr Valerian Rodrigues. The autobiography “Unbeaten Paths” – Theological Reflections on Times of Transition has threefold subtitle – ‘Living on the Periphery’; ‘Crossing Borders’; and ‘Building Bridges’ which aptly summarizes the various aspects of the life and action of Fr Fernandes.

Mangaluru: Rev Dr John Fernandes, a 80 years young Diocesan priest belonging to Mangaluru Diocese, a native of Udyavar near Udupi has written his autobiography titled “Unbeaten Paths”- Theological Reflections on Times of Transition. A tell-all Memoir “Unbeaten Paths” – an autobiography by Fr John Fernandes was released on 22 September to mark his 80th Birthday at Padua College Hall, Nanthoor here at 5 pm by Dr Olinda Pereira, Director of Vishwas Trust, and the book was reviewed by Prof. Dr Valerian Rodrigues. The autobiography ” Unbeaten Paths” – Theological Reflections on Times of Transition has threefold subtitle- ‘Living on the Periphery’; ‘Crossing Borders’; and ‘Building Bridges’ which aptly summarizes the various aspects of the life and action of Fr Fernandes.

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With initial remarks by Eric Ozario-the Gurkar of Maand Sobhaan who compered the function, the programme began with invoking God’s blessings through a prayer song rendered by students of Padua College, Nanthoor. A power point presentation briefing about the book was done by Oswald Lasrado. Fr Alwyn Serrao, who was taught by Fr John Fernandes welcomed the gathering and shared some of his thoughts on Fr Fernandes. The autobiography was then released by Dr Olinda Pereira, along with Dr Valerian D’Souza on the dais.

Releasing the book, Dr Olinda Pereira said, “Fr John Fernandes has done an excellent job in bringing out this book, which narrates his life journey throughout his 80 years of life on this Earth. Writing a book is not easy, and that too a big volume, but Fr Fernandes has achieved his dream of bringing out this autobiography which he was waiting for so long. He has explained about his tremendous path in his life in this book, and he has done it with no fear of his upper management. He has done a hero’s task in creating a unique autobiography. Although he had gone through hardships, a couple of controversies, other troubles in life, but he has been fighting for the human rights and justice even as of today. We all should appreciate and admire his achievements, and support him in his future endeavours, and his commitment to the society”.

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While reviewing the book, Prof. Dr Valerian D’Souza spoke out of his heart, and pointed out a few negativity on the contents of the book, but he said he has done it with good thoughts and thorough reviewing of the book. Since Fr Fernandes was celebrating his 80th birthday today (actual birthday was 7 March), his close friends Sreelatha UA, and his German friend Barbara Roeber delivered birthday messages and honoured him with a fruit basket and a memento. Speaking about his book Fr Fernandes said, “Unbeaten Paths’ are those which were not clearly marked because very few people had walked on them before me. I managed to do it in the course of my life. This autobiography traces paths and reflects on them from a theological perspective. It is also a witness to our changing times”.

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He further said, “In this book, I have attempted to present a contextual theology in the context of a multi-religious, multicultural society and in an unjust, ecologically precarious world. It contains also an account of a lived liberation theology. I was personally involved at the grass-roots level in liberative praxis, both in town and village areas. Further, it gives an account of my experience of a lived ecumenical and inter-religious cooperation at the grass-roots level”. Fr Fernandes through his theological training in Austria and Germany and the pastoral and teaching work in India, was able to present a way of ‘building bridges’ between the various religions and cultures across the borders.

In an incident that happened in the year 1963, while he was at Bejai parish, he said after he came back from Germany, he usually wears Cassock during mass, but any other time he is attired in his signature white Kurtha. It so happened that while he was in his office, a little boy peeped into his office, and noticing Fr Fernandes in his informal Kutha attire, he went and told his friends saying that the priest has become a man (Human Being)- which led the audience to laughter. Fr Fernandes also mentioned that this boy later became a priest, and had passed away a few years back.

In yet another incident in 2001, a slight controversy erupted when Fr John Fernandes shared a seat on the dais with the then RSS Chief Sudarshan during an RSS mega rally in Udupi attended by over 23,000 RSS members in their uniforms, and speaking on this issue, Fr Fernandes said, “I agreed with RSS leader Sudarshan on the Hindutva idea not being religious, but a cultural goal. Because every nation and people have their own culture, Indian Christians should be patriotically Indian. But I regret to say that Post Church attacks in Mangaluru, the relationship suffered, and the ground level thinking that a religion should monopolize over all matters is not in tune with thinking at the high level”. It should be noted that Fr Fernandes also fought for the Workers Rights of the Workers of Jeppu Workshop, where he agitated in front of the Bishop’s House, and also launched a Forum of like-minded priests – but he never faced any disciplinary action from the Diocese.

Fr John Fernandes service to the society was his involvement at the grass-roots level in the fields of social justice, inter-religious and co-operation and environment. He was also the Founder president of ‘Catholic Priests’ conference of India (CPCI). He retired in 2011, and is presently enjoying his retired life at the Senior Priests’ Home – St Anthony’s Institutions, Jeppu, Mangaluru. Fr Fernandes has published various books on Doctoral Thesis; was editor of many Journals in Mangaluru; has written many Theological articles, and also articles in Magazines and Newspapers in Konkani and Kannada. He is a recipient of the Herbert Haag-Preis Fur Award in Luzern, Germany in 2007; CPCI Award for Excellence, Mumbai in 2008; and Talent Research Foundation Award for Lifetime Achievement in Mangaluru in 2011.

Regarding “Unbeaten Paths”, Fr Francis D’Sa in his foreword has said, “In his riveting autobiography Fr John Fernandes delivers what he promises…The autobiography is a veritable pastoral-theological manual that could help initiate and guide young theologians in the meaning and praxis of pastoral theology. His autobiography makes it amply clear that whatever he did he never lost sight of the ‘option for the poor’..John has written about his life and work ‘with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right”. Jyoti Sahi, an internationally known Indian artist has done the illustrations on the cover and in the book.

The book is published by Rev Dr Ashish Amos of the Indian society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (ISPCK) in Delhi- the book having xxx + 423 pages of text including 32 pages of photos and 12 illustrations by Jyoti Sahi is priced at Rs 480- and will be available on amazon.in, and also in Mangaluru at Fr John Fernandes residence at Senior Priests’ Home in the premises of St Anthony’s Institutions, Jeppu. Call 9448328242 or Email : anugraha1936@gmail.com

Fr John Fernandes who completed 80 years of life, but did not celebrate the day then because his autobiography which he wanted to be released on that occasion was not out of the press. Since it was ready now, Fr Fernandes wanted to offer this book as his legacy to the coming generations. And September being a “World Alzheimer’s Month”- The proceeds from the sale of the books will go towards running a home for people with Alzheimer’s at Susheg Charitable Trust at Ferar (near Ganjimutt), off Mangaluru-Moodbidri highway. Fr John also gifted few copies of his book to his well-wishers and supporters, including Eric Ozario, Louis Pinto, Fr Alwyn Serrao, among few others. Yours truly was also gifted a copy by Fr Fernandes.

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