A Visit to ‘Servant of God’ Mgr Raymond F C Mascarenhas Museum at Bethany Convent-Bendore
A Visit to ‘Servant of God’ Mgr Raymond F C Mascarenhas (the Founder of Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany Congregation) Museum at Bethany Convent-Bendore
Mangaluru :Few days ago, on 28 June 2019 during my visit to Bethany Complex/Convent, Bendore-Mangaluru for a coverage on the inauguration of Bethany Heritage Park on the Feast Day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and also the enthronement of the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, my eyes set on the nearby museum of Mgr Raymond F C Mascarenhas-the Founder of Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany Congregation, and with the help of a Bethany nun,Sr Severine, I took a complete tour of the in and out of the museum- and it was worth my time spending at the museum.
Mgr Raymond Museum, set up in the residence of the Servant of God Raymond Francis Camillus Mascarenhas, the former Vicar General of the Diocese of Mangaluru and founder of Bethany Congregation at Bethany, Bendore-Mnagaluru is a haven of peace and serenity. Sr Severine who took me around the museum explained to me the various exhibits and artifacts of the museum. Each one of them exemplifies the personality of the great luminary of Mangaluru, Servant of God Mgr Raymond Francis Camillus Mascarenhas.
One section of the museum consists of glimpses of his literary works in Konkani. He deserves a debt of gratitude from the society for the rich contribution that he has made in terms of Translation of the New Testament into Konkani, when the people then had hardly any religious Konkani literature. The New Testament translation was the first of its kind. The appreciation letters from the Holy See for this and other translations adorned the bulletin boards of the museum. The photos of the two Churches Msgr Raymond built in Udyavar and Bendore, the schools he built, the associations he started in Bendore, the contribution that Mgr Raymond has made to the Catholic Association of Mangaluru, spotlights the multifaceted personality of this spiritual giant of Mangaluru.
A portion of the mortal remains placed in a casket at the center of the museum below the elegant canvas painting of the Servant of God draws the devotees to bow down for a blessing. I found the visitors, including a few Bethany sisters in deep prayer mood in different rooms of the museum. The museum displays the attires of the celebrity namely, the official garment that Mgr Raymond had received from Rome on the occasion of his receiving the honour of Domestic Prelate.The section on spirituality of Mgr Raymond comprises of his prayer books, rosary, holy articles used for offering Eucharist such as chalice, ciborium and the crucifix that he used .
The small and neatly kept bed room of the Servant of God wherein he breathed his last holds a cot covered with white bed sheet, his easy chair, the cupboard displaying his simple wardrobe, the ink pot, spectacles, and medicine bottle, speaking volumes about the last days of his life. The photographs of the death scene depicted on the bulletin board with a quotation from poet Shelly, moves one to tears. Numerous photographs in the other cupboards depict the association the Servant of God Raymond FC Mascarenhas had with different categories of people. The letters and prayers written in neat and diligent handwriting are very inspiring.
The statue of Monsignor with the children outside the museum is parallel to the one of Jesus with the children. The statue of the Holy family at work in Nazareth depicts the ideal that the Servant of God upheld regarding the dignity of all sorts of work. Sr. Lillis, the Asst superior General told me that the museum was set up on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee of the Congregation twenty five years ago and was inaugurated by His Eminence Cardinal Lourdusami in the year 1996. It is renovated and has turned out to be pilgrim centre . Since he is the founding visionary and life member of Bethany Educational society, hundreds of students from various institutions from all over India visit the place” said Sr Lillis.
The Servant of God Raymond Francis Camillus Mascarenhas was born in Shivamogga on 23rd January 1875 and was baptized on 27th of the same month at the Sacred Heart Church, Shivamogga. He was the seventh among the 13 children of Lazarus and Joanna. One could perceive that this was an exceptional child, destined for great things, and pioneering works. In his school career and the seminary which he joined at 16 he has left brilliant record of his intellectual acumen. He was ordained priest at the age of 25 for the Diocese of Mangaluru on March, 1900.
A man of vision, he worked to meet challenges present and future, in the Church and society. A man of holiness he worked for the spiritual welfare of his people. An eminent speaker gifted with a sharp memory and eloquence, he preached impressive sermons and gave eloquent speeches and was called the Bossuet of Mangaluru. His passion for the word of God led him to translate the entire New Testament into Konkani and made it available to the ordinary people. He has authored also other books on spirituality.
He served the Church as parish priest in Udyavar from 1903 to 1910 and Agrar from 1910 to t0 1914, and the newly carved out parish of Bendore for 17 years from 1914 to 1931. As a zealous pastor he worked to meet the spiritual, intellectual and even material needs of his people. The two church edifices he built at Udyavar and Bendore, and several schools speak volumes about his zeal for God’s glory and welfare of humanity. His service as Vicar General of the Diocese of Mangaluru and Vice President of the Catholic Board of Education is laudable.
Among his pioneering works, his ‘Magnus Opus’ the Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany, to serve the cause of the poor and marginalized has won him laurels and has rendered his memory immortal. The Sisters of this Congregation serve in three continents – Asia, Europe and Africa in 176 communities and many centres, and work for the uplift of the least and the lost. Having lived a life of holiness, achieved through hard work, suffering and sacrifice endured for God and above all, his trust and confidence in the Eucharistic Lord and Mother Marty, he rendered his immortal soul to his Maker on 23rd December 1960 at his residence.
A bird’s eye view of his life and creditable service to the Church and society can be had through the milestones of his life : 1875 January 23-Birth at Shivamogga; 1875 January 27-Baptism at Sacred Heart Church, Shimoga, Karnataka; 1885-First Holy Communion at Milagres Church; 1891 February 23-Joins St Joseph’s Seminary, Mangaluru; 1900 March 4-Ordained Priest at Rosario Cathedral, Mangaluru; 1900 March 11- First Mass at Milagres Church, Mangaluru; 1900-Assistant Vicar of Milagres Church, Mangaluru; 1900 July – 1901 April- Assistant Vicar to Mount Rosary Church, Kallianpur.
1901 March – 1903 May- Assistant Vicar at Milagres Church, Kallianpur; 1903 May 31 – 1910 Mar 3- Vicar of St Francis Xavier Church, Udyavar; 1903-Writes the first Literacy Book in Konkani; 1910 May 5 – 1914 Aug 18- Vicar of the Most Holy Saviour Church, Agrar; 1914 Aug 23- First Parish Priest of St Sebastian’s Church, Bendur, Mangaluru; 1921 July 16- Founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany at Bendur, Mangaluru; 1921 – 1927- Director Mangalore Roman Catholic Pioneering Fund; 1925 January 23- Golden Jubilee of his life; 1925 March 4- Celebrates Silver Jubilee of his Ordination; 1921 – 1927- Member, District Educational Council of South Kanara; 1931 – 1941- Vicar General of Mangaluru Diocese; 1931 – 1941- President, Catholic Association of South Kanara (CASK)
1932 – 1942-Vice- President, of Catholic Board of Education Diocese of Mangaluru; 1932 – 1936- Diocesan Supervisor of Catholic Elementary & Secondary. Schools of the Diocese of Mangaluru; 1937 – 1941- President, Mangalore Roman Catholic Provident Fund (MRCP Fund); 1949 -Translation and Publication of Four Gospels – Havn Waat, Sath, Jeevith – Char Evangel translated into Konkani; 1950 March 14-Twin Jubilee Celebration (Golden Jubilee of his Ordination and Platinum Jubilee of his life); 20.06.1955- Receives the honour from Pope Pius XII as Domestic Prelate to the Pope; 1952- Publication of New Testament –Amcha Somi Jezu Christacho Novo Testament- Dhodtya Shatamanic Utsavachen Voras- First Translation into Konkani; 1960 February 29- Sacerdotal Diamond Jubilee; 1960 December 23- Slept in the Lord; burial at St Sebastian’s Church, Bendore; and 03.06.2008-Declared Servant of God.
The delegates of the thirteenth General Chapter who met at Bethany Convent, Mangaluru in 1998 deliberated to request the Bishop of the Diocese of Mangaluru to initiate the Cause of Beatification of the Founder, Mgr Raymond FC Mascarenhas. Communicating the desire of the delegates of the Chapter to the Bishop, Sr Jyoti, BS, the Superior General set up a preparatory committee in 2001 under the leadership of Sr Lillis, BS and Sr Benedict BS to reset the documents in the archives of Bethany Generalate and to set up a spiritual and cultural centre. Subsequently with the approval of the Bishop, Sr Jyoti appointed Sr Lillis as the postulator for the Cause of the Beatification and Canonization of Mgr Raymond FC Mascarenhas. Sr Miriam B.S. was appointed as the Vice Postulator.
Having followed the norms laid down by the Church for the Cause, the Bishop of Mangaluru Most Rev Aloysius Paul D’Souza, announced through a pastoral letter to the clergy and the faithful of the Diocese of Mangaluru on 3 June 2008 that Mgr Raymond Francis Camillus Mascarenhas as the Servant of God. The same was proclaimed during the Eucharistic celebration on 16 June, 2008.
At the outset, the Bishop of Mangaluru, Most Rev Aloysius Paul D’Souza set up a Theological Commission. Thereafter on 17 August 2008, he opened the Diocesan Board of Inquiry for the Cause of the Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God. Rev Fr Henry Sequeira was appointed the Episcopal Delegate, Fr John Mendonca, the Promoterof Justice and Fr Maxim Rosario, the Notary. Fr John Baptist Saldanha, Fr Vincent Pinto, SJ and Sr Mariette, BS were appointed the members of the Historical Commission. In 2010 Fr Peter Mascarenhas was appointed a member of this commission. Sr Rose Celine, the then newly elected Superior General of the Congregation in February 2016, pursued the Cause zealously for the glory of God and the good of the Church.
About the The Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany :
The Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany was founded in the year 1921 on 16th July by Rev. Mgr R.F.C Mascarenhas, the then parish priest of Bendore, Mangaluru. This indigenous Congregation founded by an Indian priest began to spread its branches to the remotest village parishes of the Diocese of Mangaluru. The Founder ventured to carry the branches of the Congregation outside Mangaluru and thus to Meppadi in the Diocese of Cailcut in 1937 and West Hill in 1938. Later the house at Meppadi was closed. The apostolate at West Hill flourished in course of time and eventually other houses too were opened in the Diocese.
In the year 1939, two houses were opened in the Diocese of Pune (present Belgaum Diocese) at Dharwad and Guledgudd. In the 1940’s more foundations were made in the villages of Belgaum district, North Kanara and Shimoga district. There was an expansion also in the village of Mysore State. By the year, 1958 there were 22 communities in the Congregation serving the people through different apostolates. A house was opened in Rome in 1970 making the Congregation International. By 1970 the number of houses rose to 53 with a great scope for future expansion. So far the Congregation was one unit governed directly by the Superior General with the help of her General Council.
The Mangalore Region came into existence in February 1970 with Sr Agnella as the first Regional Superior who was to carry on her responsibility until the General Chapter that would take place in 1971. After the General Chapter, Sr Honoratha was appointed the Regional Superior for a term of three years. The Mangalore Region comprising of 19 houses in the Diocese of Mangalore except the Mother House and Rosa Mystica, were entrusted to her care, which she administered from the Mother House.
With inputs from Sr. Lillis, the Asst Superior General, Bethany Convent