‘Unbeaten Paths’ of Fr Fernandes Revealed on his 80th B-day

‘Unbeaten Paths’ of Fr Fernandes Revealed on his 80th B-day

A tell-all Memoir “Unbeaten Paths” – a autobiography by Fr John Fernandes will be 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 will be 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: Here is a Catholic priest- Who is very passionate about environment; Who loves and adores Indian Culture; Who strictly practices what he preaches; Who created awareness and fought for the rights of the villagers; who fought for rights of the workers of Jeppu Workshop and agitated outside the Mangaluru Bishop’s House; who launched a Forum of like-minded Catholic priests; who created a controversy in the year 2001, when he sat on the dais along with RSS chief Sudarshan at a RSS Rally in Udupi; Who strongly believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ on ensuring Human Dignity, Justice, Fraternity, and Liberty; Who cares for the poor and the downtrodden; Who is a Trustee of ‘Susheg Charitable Trust’, a NGO established to help enrich life in all living beings- Humans, Plants and Animals, and plans build a 25-bedded assisted living facility for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/Dementia.

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This Catholic priest is none other than Fr John Fernandes, a 80 years young Diocesan priest belonging to Mangaluru Diocese, a native of Udyavara near Udupi is all set to release his autobiography titled “Unbeaten Paths”- Theological Reflections on Times of Transition. The book has threefold subtitle namely ‘Living on the Periphery’, Crossing Borders’, and ‘ Building Bridges’ which aptly summarizes the various aspects of life and action of Fr John Fernandes. 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 grassroots level”. Fr Fernandes through his theological training in Austria and Germany and the pastoral and teaching work in India, he was able to present a way of ‘building bridges’ between the various religions and cultures across the borders.

Born in Udyavara near Udupi on 7-3-1936, Fr John Fernandes studied Philosophy and Theology in Pune, Innsbruck (Austria) and Trier (Germany), did his Doctorate in Theology (University of Trier, Germany); and Licentiate in Philosophy (Pune). He was ordained in Trier-Germany in the year 1963, and later he served as the Director of the Diocesan Biblical Liturgical Catechetical Centre-Mangaluru; Parish priest at Holy Cross Church in Hosabettu near Moodbidri (1976-1984), St Vincent De Paul (1984-1986), and at St Joseph’s Church- Belman from 1986-1994; Professor of Theology in St Joseph’s Seminary-Mangaluru; Professor and Head of Chair in Christianity-Mangaluru University.

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His service to the society was his involvement at the grassroots level in the fields of social justice, inter-religious co-operation and environment. He was also the Founder president of ‘Catholic Priests’ conference of India (CPCI). He retired in 2011, and 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.

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. Speaking on this issue, Fr Fernandes said, “I agreed with 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”.

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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 he also launched a Forum of like-minded priests- but he never faced any disciplinary action from the Diocese. Presently Fr Fernandes is also a Trustee of the Susheg Charitable Trust – an NGO established to help enrich life in all living beings- Humans, Plants and Animals, and plans to build a 25-bedded assisted living facility for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s/Dementia. And Fr Fernandes has said on the occasion of his 80th Birthday and release of his autobiography ‘Unbeaten Paths”,-” I would be grateful if you buy the book/s and/or support the Trust because the Trust will be running a home for people with Dementia.Alzheimer’s. No gifts or flowers please”.

Regarding “Unbeaten Paths”, Fr Francis D’Sa in his foreword has said, ” In his riveting autobiography Fr John Fernandes delivers what h 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.

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Fr John Fernandes who completed 80 years of life, but he 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 is ready now, Fr Fernandes would like to offer this book as his legacy to the coming generations. The book releasing will be done by Dr Olinda Pereira-Director of Vishwas Trust for the Elderly, and will be reviewed by Prof. Dr Valerian Rodrigues, at a “Book Release and Celebration of 80 Years” function to be held on 22 September at Padua College Hall, Nanthoor-Mangaluru at 5pm. And September being a “World Alzheimer’s Month”- The proceeds from the sale of books will go towards running a home for people with Alzheimer’s at Susheg Charitable Trust at Ferar (near Ganjimutt), off Mangaluru-Moodbidri highway. Come One, Come All and join in this double Celebrations!

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