50 Years of My Journey in the Society of Jesus

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50 Years of My Journey in the Society of Jesus

Panjim-Goa: I joined the Society of Jesus (the members are called Jesuits) on Monday 28th June 1971, after completing B.Sc. I joined, then called the Goa – Pune Jesuit Province and now I belong to the Goa Province. By God’s grace coincidentally on Monday 28th June 2021, I completed 50 years as a Jesuit. Abraham Lincoln has rightly said, “In the end, it is not the years in your life that count. It is life in your years.” Or in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson “It is not length of life, but depth of life.” I firmly believe the saying “A life spent worthily should be measured by deeds, not by years.” Hence, my life as a Jesuit should be counted and measured not merely on the basis of 50 years in the Society of Jesus (SJ) but based on my quality of life, my contribution to the Society of Jesus, and to others.

I always believed what Albert Einstein said, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” I am a man of a few talents. With these limited talents, I must honestly admit that I have contributed to the best of my ability and continue to contribute, especially in the field of Konknni for which I was chosen, encouraged, trained and supported by the SJ. I was first moulded in positive values by my family, later on by the SJ and through my own consistent and dedicated hard work. I don’t want to list here my contributions and their importance. Let others enumerate and evaluate them. However, in all humility I must accept and say that a vast majority of people consider me as the authority in Konknni language, its grammar, Konknni linguistics and consult me for their questions and doubts.

My contribution goes far beyond Konknni linguistics and extends to ecology, eco-spirituality, horticulture, promotion of Konknni language and culture through mass media and social media, care for domestic and wild animals including reptiles which most of the people are scared and avoid, guiding and encouraging people to grow in positive values, sharing of my thoughts, quotations, videos of music, dance, and short movies through social media, and reaching out 3L namely, the least, last, lost students and their poor families irrespective of religion, region, language, and culture.

Throughout my life before joining the SJ and afterwards I was guided by the teachings of the Bible. Besides this, I was influenced by the thoughts of great thinkers and teachers of different religions. “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company,” said George Washington. His sound advice I have followed till date.

Till I reached the tenth standard, I had never thought of becoming a priest. I wanted to be a teacher because I was helping my siblings and others in their studies while studying. While I had my own plan for my life, God had a master plan for me. That is how I joined the SJ. First, I opted for the Darjeeling region and later within a year seeing the greater need, I joined the Goa-Pune Province to work in the Kannada region. When I finished my philosophy studies and a year of regency, my superiors and fellow Jesuits thought that I must be set aside for Konknni work. With a little initial reluctance, finally, I accepted the challenge and never looked back.

I proposed the concept of establishing Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr (TSKK) and worked with the late Fr Matthew Almeida for all the aspects connected with TSKK and its campus, including constructing the aesthetic building. For me life is not what I want, but what God decrees. Hence, I accepted the saying, “When life isn’t the way you like, like it the way it is.” Life in SJ gave me ample opportunities to bloom and spread the fragrance. There were moments of jubilant sense of reaching the Mount Everest peak and at times thrown down to the frightening and descending unknown abyss of the ocean. During these moments I reminded myself of the sound words of Gautama Buddha, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Living in the present moment and swimming against the powerful current of worldly culture and standard was a great challenge for me.

From my childhood I had an independent mind of my own and never pleased others including the elders and superiors to receive favours. I always preferred to take the path less travelled or dare to go off the beaten path by others. I liked to be a trendsetter than a trend follower. To follow this way of thinking and living was not easy. Here I was reminded of the words of the American writer Henry Wheeler Shaw who wrote with the pen name Josh Billings “Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold.” I always played cards which I got and believed not to defeat others but to create as far as possible a “win-win situation”, without counting the cost or consequences.

As far as I am concerned, completing 50 years in the SJ is not an achievement or an occasion for jubilation or celebration, but an excellent occasion for self-introspection, thanksgiving and gratitude to God. I always avoided my celebrations. I never celebrated or encouraged others to celebrate my birthdays. Since I wanted my ordination in Konknni, I joined with my theology companions, Denzil Lobo and Francis D’Souza for the ordination on Thursday 21st April 1983 at St. Aloysius College, Mangaluru. After the ordination in the evening everybody was served a piece of cake, a batatawada, a little chuda and a cup of tea in ceramic cups by the Jesuit Community. I spent Rs. 500/- for printing the invitation card, postage, and for the travel.

When I presented the bill to the Province Treasurer he was really surprised and took time to believe it. My parents spent 900 rupees to hire a bus for the transport of family members and friends. After the ordination, there were no other celebrations anywhere. No first mass or kissing of hands, etc. I told the parents to spend the amount which they had budgeted for the celebration for the cause of the needy. In the same line of thinking, I requested the Provincial and my local Jesuit community not to have any celebration for the Golden Jubilee, rather spend the amount for the needs of poor students. Keeping in mind the teaching of Jesus with the help of friends of 3L, I arranged meals for eight families of 3L on 28th June. They prepared the food of their choice and taste. Since I am a firm believer in spirituality and not in ritualism, I spent 27th and 28th June 2021, in prayer, reflection, and silence of solitude to thank God for his grace, mercy, and love towards me.

If God extends my lifespan and health, I want to complete Amčhi Bhas Xikat: Konknni Basic Course (In modified Roman Orthography) in 2022 and a Learner’s English – Konknni Dictionary of 50,000 plus entries based on modern lexicography methods by 2030. This is my dream. With dreams begins the responsibility. So, I have to constantly remind myself of the proverb, “If you want your dreams to come true, don’t sleep.” At the same time, I have to keep in mind the saying of the American writer Robert James Waller, “Life is never easy for those who dream.”

Let me conclude with the words of American humorist writer Erma Bombeck “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.”

Thank you for becoming a fellow pilgrim in my life journey. Your presence, absence or even the shadow has contributed to my growth. There is no better thanksgiving hymn for me, other than the traditionally ascribed fourth-century Latin hymn “Te Deum Laudamus” (O God, We Praise Thee) sung with the Gregorian chant. Here below I have shared a video of “Te Deum Laudamus” sung by the Cistercian monks of Stift Heiligenkreuz, Austria.


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