Mangaluru: Mudipu Church/Shrine built on picturesque Mudipu hill is a place of great importance which has a special history behind it. F. Joseph Vaz, born in Goa in the year 1651, April 21, worked in the Diocese of Mangalore from the year 1681 to 1684 and reached Mudipu preaching the Good News. He went house to house teaching catechism and serving the poor and the marginalized. This brought great joy to the people and was eagerly looking forward to his coming. But some people were against him and were trying to destroy him and his work. The place where they tried to harm him and kill him for his faith is marked even today upon the hill at Mudipu. Even today the faithful visit this place with great reverence and devotion.
Later Fr Joseph Vaz went to Sri Lanka and died there. For his virtues and the kind of life he led, he was made venerable in 1989 and declared “Blessed” in 1995. This morning he was canonized a saint and given the honor of the Altar, which was a great and joyous day for the people of Mudipu. A 300-year-old aspiration of Catholics in Sri Lanka, Goa, Kanara, Kundapur, Karwar, Mudipu/Mangaluru and elsewhere for declaration/crowning of Blessed Joseph Vaz by Pope Francis as a Saint of the universal church became a reality in Sri Lanka this morning, Wednesday 14 January 2015 at 9am. The Pope canonized the illustrious Goan priest at a Eucharistic mass in Colombo this morning in what many regard as an official stamp to the sainthood already declared by the people even during his life time.
To commemorate the canonization of Father Joseph Vaz, Mudipu Church/Shrine has organized three days of celebrations on this joyous occasion- today being the first day, Rev Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza celebrated the festal mass at 10.30am at the church, along with parish priest Fr Gregory D’Souza, Fr Peter Noronha and many other priests. Prior to the mass, the Bishop along with state minister U T Khader were escorted by the brass band into the church premises, where both the Bishop and the minister offered prayers to Saint Joseph Vaz.
Chatting with me while having coffee, minister UT Khader said, ” I am honored to be here at this great occasion. I am very much associated with the Catholic community, and the news of Fr Joseph Vaz being canonized as a Saint brings great joy in me. The Catholic community has done so much to the society through education and other social work, which needs to be appreciated and commended. I wish the parishioners of this Church a joyous and blessed celebrations during these three days, and may God bless them all”.
During the homily Bishop Aloysius D’Souza said, ” Living a simple life, Vaz soldiered on to strengthen the Catholic church and minister to the sick and the poor during plagues even as others fled from the scene. In the past, the Church had declared even martyrs as saints, but Blessed Vaz had to wait for three centuries for the honour. The preparation which began six years ago has been successful, and finishing touches are finally done. We should all be glad, especially the faithful of this church on this joyous news of Fr Vaz being canonized as a Saint. ”
The Bishop further said, ” We should all follow the footsteps of Saint Joseph Vaz. We should respect our faith and strictly believe in our religion. Like Fr Vaz was a great devotee of God and always engaged in prayers, we should also be sincere devotees and indulge ourselves in prayers, and also spread the good news about our faith and religion among others. Fr Vaz is our own priest, he was among us, he gave us sacrament, he took care of the sick, helped the poor, and he was a friend of everyone on this sacred Hill”.
“Let us ask Saint Joseph Vaz to make us lead a good and religious life, bless and protect us, and make us good Catholics” said Bishop before concluding his homily. The mass was followed by a stage programme, which ended with a sumptuous lunch.
About Saint Joseph Vaz : Saint Joseph Vaz, born on 21 April 1651 in Benaulim (Goa, Portuguese India) and died on the 16 January 1711 in Kandy (Ceylon, now Sri Lanka), was an Oratorian priest and missionary in Ceylon (today’s Sri Lanka).
Vaz entered Ceylon during the Dutch occupation, when Calvinism had been imposed as the official religion, after taking over from the Portuguese. He travelled throughout the island bringing the Eucharist and the sacraments to clandestine groups of Catholics. Later in his mission, he found shelter in the Kingdom of Kandy where he was able to work freely. By the time of his death, Vaz had managed to rebuild the Catholic Church on the island.
As a result of his labors, Vaz is known as the Apostle of Ceylon. On 21 January 1995, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Colombo. He was canonized on 14 January 2015 by Pope Francis in an open Mass ceremony at the Galle Face Green park in Colombo.
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