Margao: It was a Wednesday like no other for the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. The pealing of church bells across the State at around 9 am was just a minor manifestation of the enormity of what was occurring. There was no festive lunch on the table or a holiday mood in the air. The celebrations were more spiritual – masses and prayers. It was a moment when the hearts of many Goans skipped a beat as Pope Francis declared Blessed Joseph Vaz a Saint at Colombo.
Parish priest of Porvorim, Fr Tomas Lobo said, “To me, it is a matter of great pride and joy that we are getting our first Goan Saint and that too, from our beloved Pope Francis. His missionary dynamism is truly exceptional and inspirational. God bless our church in the present times with such courageous, dynamic and joyful missionaries.” With the canonization event happening in Sri Lanka, does not reduce its importance. Bl Joseph Vaz is the first Goan to be raised to the altar of the Universal Church and the Goa Archdiocese has been waiting for this for centuries.
“Canonization would project the Patron of our Archdiocese as a saint for the whole Church, with Catholics everywhere invoking him as Saint Joseph Vaz. This remains our dream to this day,” wrote Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao in August last year, asking for prayers for the canonization. The prayers were answered and that dream has been fulfilled.
A few hundreds of Goans – clerics and laity – from across the world have travelled to Colombo for the Canonization. Besides Archbishop Ferrao, there are other bishops of Goan origin including Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi, Bishop Allwyn Barreto of Sindhudurg, Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas auxiliary bishop of Ranchi and other priests and religions.
Fr Romualdo Robin Rodrigues, parish priest of Candolim who was earlier the Vice-Postulator for the cause is also in Colombo, had said, “This trip to Sri Lanka is a pilgrimage, not a tour. We will live the humble life of Bl Joseph Vaz. We will visit the places, including the place where he landed in Mannar on the beach – tired and exhausted – where he began his ministry after leaving Goa as a coolie.”
Goa finally has an intercessor of its own in heaven, its patron saint who is also its son. Later on Wednesday, after the rite of Canonization was completed, Catholics across the world prayed to St Joseph Vaz and Churches anywhere were dedicated to him. As long as he remained ‘Blessed’ there could be devotion to him only in the dioceses where he lived and worked. From Wednesday, the Universal Church can invoke the Goan Saint’s name in their prayers.
Devotion to the Saint in Goa has increased in the past few years and since the announcement of his canonization, it has grown faster. Sancoale, his village and where the Sanctuary dedicated to him is located, drew a large number of people and the Church plans to include a Basilica dedicated to Goa’s own Saint in the village.
“Sancoale has been the epicentre of the devotion of Bl Joseph Vaz since there exists the oratory room of his paternal house, the shrine and also the façade of the old Church of Sancoale where he surrendered his life to Mother Mary. Since there is no land available to develop the place around the existing shrine to cater to the growing numbers of devotees, executing any plans at the present shrine are out of question as things stand now,” Fr Eremito Rebello the Vice-Postulator for the Cause of Canonization said.
St Joseph Vaz is described as a man much ahead of his times, introducing inculturation centuries before the Vatican would begin to promote it after its Second Council in the 1960s.
Pilgrim from Goa Attending Fr Vaz Canonization in Sri Lanka Dies of Heart Attack
The excitement of attending the Canonization ceremony of Blessed Joseph Vaz ended in tragedy for a Goan family, when a 79-year-old man from Panjim died of a massive heart attack on Wednesday morning.
Cypriano Jose Monteiro of St Tome, Panjim, along with his wife and their son, Neville, had left for Sri Lanka on Sunday to attend the historic event. According to his daughter, Elaine-“This was his first trip to Sri Lanka and he was hale and hearty, with no health issues whatsoever. Our family had gone in a group to Sri Lanka and had attended a Mass in a chapel dedicated to Blessed Joseph Vaz in Kandy on Monday. This morning, they were to travel from Kandy to Colombo. My father suddenly felt uneasy and a doctor in our group tried to revive him. He was shifted to a local hospital, but it was too late and he was declared dead,” .
“It was not easy to communicate with the hospital staff, as they were not familiar in English. Since we are in a foreign country, there are various formalities to complete. Our minister, Avertano Furtado, who is also in Sri Lanka, has been in constant touch with me and the Indian Embassy in Colombo. Our tour operator, Paul from Zion Tours and Travels, has also been in close contact with me,” had said Jose’s son, Neville. “Perhaps, it must have been God’s will that my father died in the same place where Blessed Joseph Vaz had breathed his last,” said Neville.
The family hopes to complete the different formalities and bring the body back to Goa by Friday.