Crusader of Konknni Fr Vasco do Rego sj Left for His Heavenly Abode
Crusader of Konknni Fr Vasco do Rego sj Left for His Heavenly Abode (08 January 1925 – 17 February 2021)
Panaji-Goa : It is a Herculean task to write the obituary of a multifaceted and multi talented personality like that of Fr. Vasco do Rego, S.J., a Jesuit priest of Goa Province. He was fondly known as “Pitaji” (means father) among his friends and followers. He was born on 08th January 1925 at Panaji, Goa. His parents were Antonio Augusto do Rego and Aurora Maria Helena Correia Afonso do Rego. His father was a known Doctor. He was the grandson of Roque and Claudina Correia Afonso, a couple from Benaulim who had 7 priests among their 52 grandchildren. Fr. Renato do Rego of Goa Archdiocese was his brother.
He did his early studies Primeiro and Segundo Grau in Portuguese medium at Escola Massano de Amorim at Panaji. IV to VIII standards he studied in English medium in the boarding school of St. Joseph’s High school, Arpora. From 1938-45 he continued his studies at Rachol Seminary. While doing philosophy studies, he heard an inner voice telling him, “Trust in My Heart and go.”. He listened to this voice and joined the Jesuits to begin his novitiate at Vinayalaya, Andheri East, Mumbai on 05 August 1945. After completing his novitiate (1945-47) and juniorate (1947-49) he was sent to do his Licentiate in Philosophy at Sacred Heart College, Shembaganur, Tamil Nadu. 1950-52 he did regency at St. Paul High school, Belgaum (now Belgavi) and Loyola High Margao. Then he was sent to the Jesuit theologate St. Albert of Eegenhoven, Louvain, Belgium to do his theology studies (1952-56).
On 15th August 1955 he was ordained as a priest there. 1956-1957 he did his tertianship at the Institute of Bellarmine, Wépion, Belgium and returned to Pune in 1957. Being a brilliant, talented, and multi-facet Jesuit priest, his name was proposed to be a teaching staff member for Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth (those days Papal Athenaeum), but God had other plans for him. He served as a Student Counsellor of St. Vincent School, Pune from 1958 to 1963. Since then, he has served the Society and the Church in various positions such as Spiritual Father of Rachol Seminary, (1963-67), Student Counsellor (1967-68) and Rector of Loyola High Margao (1968-73), Rector & Novice Master at Xavier training College, Desur, Karnataka (1973-78), Director of Retreat House, Baga (1978-79), Rector of Bom Jesus Basilica, Old Goa (1979-95), Chaplain of Stella Maris Chapel, Miramar, Panaji (1995-98), Spiritual Ministries & translation of the Bible into Konknni (1998- ), Editor of Konknni monthly “Dor Mhoineachi Rotti” (01 May 2009- 17 February 2021).
All his activities, vision, and life were centred and focused around “Abba Father”. Trinitarian based spirituality guided his entire life and all apostolates. Throughout his life he promoted this Trinitarian rooted spirituality through various ministries. The greatest and most valuable contribution he rendered to the Church in Goa was in the fields of Liturgy in Konknni and translation and editing work of the Konknni Bible. The reform norms of Vatican II Council demanded that the liturgy and para-liturgy be celebrated in local languages. Translating Ordinary of the Mass canons from Latin into Konknni, he began at Belgaum at the request of the Bishop of Belgaum. This news reached the church authorities of Goa and they subsequently requested him to do the same in Goa. In Goa, switching over from Latin to Konknni needed learned, talented and dedicated persons.
At this critical juncture Fr. Vasco rendered his yeomen service. He was one of the members to translate, edit and publish the Roman Missal in Konknni as “Romi Misa-Gronth” (1981) and the Roman Missal as “Romi Vachpam-Gronth” (1983). Though he was brought up during his childhood, in Portuguese speaking atmosphere at home, he knew Konknni. Later he learnt Latin, Spanish, French, some Italian and Marathi. He had the working knowledge of Greek too. All these languages and his mastery over formal Konknni were his assets in his liturgical and biblical contributions. Due to his efforts emerged Konknni hymnal “Gaionacho Jhelo”, which is used in Goa and elsewhere by Konknni speaking Catholics. In it there are 511 hymns. Out of which he has contributed lyrics to 332 hymns (64.97%) and music to 52 of his own hymns. Besides these, on various themes he has composed lyrics for 21 and music for 6 Konknni hymns.
He has written 15 Konknni poems, 10 English hymns and poems and 2 Portuguese poems. For different parts of the Mass, he has composed music. His lyrics are not only rich in Konknni language but they are also based on profound modern theology and biblical themes. He worked for several years to complete his maternal uncle Mr. Pedro Correia Afonso’s translation of the Psalms in the book “Stotram ani Sevadhormik Prarthonam”. He has the lion’s share to translate a few books of the Bible and to edit the entire Bible. He worked on this project for several years. His St. Francis Xavier’s novena sermons of several years in Konknni have been compiled and published as “Sonvsarak Jezu diat” by Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr (TSKK), Alto Porvorim. The Devanagari version of his Konknni book “Nazaretkar Jezu” also been published by TSKK. His many articles in Konknni and English have been published in various magazines and newspapers. All his retreat and recollection talks, class notes of theology in Konknni and English remain unpublished.
He was a strong protagonist of the Konknni language. He motivated the seminarians, priests, nuns, and lay people to use more and more Konknni for conversation. He was a good preacher in Konknni, English and Portuguese. He also excelled as a Ignatian retreat director and was sought for recollection talks, and conferences. As a spiritual guide he has directed countless seminarians, priests and religious priests and nuns. While he was the rector of Loyola High School, Margao, he introduced Konknni as the medium of instruction at Loyola school and at Fatima Convent School, Margao facing much opposition and hurdles from the natives.
His several years of dedicated service to standardize the Konknni language was recognized and he was awarded the first award of Dalgado Konknni Akademi, Panaji on 08 March 2005. On 06 March 2014 Dalgado Konknni Akademi conferred Award for the Goa Jesuit Province who owns the Dor Mhoineachi Rotti, of which Fr. Vasco is the Editor since May 2009. The Art and cultural Directorate of government of Goa too recognized his contribution to Konknni and selected him for the “Goa State cultural Award of 2013-2014 and it was bestowed on him on 04 January 2015. The renowned film director and screenplay writer Shyam Benegal was the Chief Guest.
The Novenas and Feast of St. Francis Xavier is the most important event in every year in Goa. It was Fr. Vasco who restored the sanctity of the shrine and instrumental to conduct well organized liturgy during the novenas, feast and exposition of relics. There are no two opinions regarding his greatest contribution to this task. He cleared all the shops and vendors from the compound of the shrine. During novenas and feast, vendors and noisemakers were not allowed near the shrine. All this he achieved convincing the Panchayat members, civil authorities and various government departments. He had to pay a heavy price to achieve this by receiving abuses, curses, and threats. Maybe he still cherishes as a memento the big stone that was hurled and landed through the window into his room. It was meant for his head, but miraculously missed the target!!! During his term as the Rector of Bom Jesus Basilica many prominent global figures visited the shrine, chief among them being the Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of England Margaret Thatcher, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, President of Portugal Mario Soares, Pope John Paul II.
While he was in Pune, feeling called to found a new Religious Family in the Church, Fr. Vasco founded in 1961 Ishaprema-Vinamra-Sevika (Humble Servants of God’s Love), with the collaboration of Norberta Lobo (later known as Mataji Nirmala), to make all persons, particularly the most needy, know and experience our heavenly Father’s love and concern for each one. Their homes are known as Ishaprema-Niketan (Home of God’s Love). It has branches in Asagao and Goa Velha. He continued, till the end, as its silent, humble, hidden Pitaji passing to Mataji and the Tais (sisters) the inspiration he received from his ABBA.
He was one of the founders and great supporter of Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr (TSKK), a Jesuit institute which promotes Konknni language, literature and culture through research and other activities. Though he was not a trained linguist, he had the linguistic intuition of Konknni and he rendered his insights to trained Jesuit linguists of TSKK.
If one begins to count and write about Fr. Vasco and his contribution, it would fill up many pages. He fully believed and lived the Jesuit motto “Ad Maiorem, Dei Gloriam”, namely, all for the Greater Glory of God. Truly, a rarest gem in the Konknni world and a treasured gift for the Society of Jesus and Church in Goa.