In the light of modern circumstances the life of Joseph Vaz can be seen in its full glory, with all its social and religious implications. Besides his life of evident holiness and prayer, and determination to do whatever was necessary to further the Gospel, he founded the first religious community comprised of local native people, as opposed to missionary priests from far away, and was a pioneer of the idea of full adaptation to local conditions. In 1835 the Oratory at Goa was suppressed and with it died also the Oratorian mission to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). But the descendants of those whom Joseph and his Oratorian community had served never forgot what he had done for them, and on 21st January 1995 Joseph Vaz was beatified by Pope John Paul II. On January 14, 2015 Fr Joseph Vaz will be canonized as Saint by Pope Francis in Sri Lanka.
“It was when Fr Joseph Vaz was a parish priest at Ullal Panir church, some deviant people plotted to eliminate him and one night they requested him to inunct a dying person. Fr Joseph readily agreed and set out to visit the sick person with them. As they were approaching the deserted area on the hill, they tried to kill him. Fr Joseph suddenly hit his stick to the ground, knelt down and prayed, it was then water sprang from the hard rock on the top of the hill. People who came to eliminate him said to have fled the place with fear and these three little springs still bear the witness to this miracle because a 60 feet well dug near to these ponds has no traces of water! ” – The Miracle Hill of Mudipu
Mangaluru: The canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz will be commemorated at St Joseph Vaz Shrine, Mudipu, near Mangaluru on January 14, 15 and 16. The Goa-born missionary will be raised to sainthood by Pope Francis in Sri Lanka on January 14. Blessed Joseph Vaz, who performed miracles on the hill of Mudipu, is the first priest from coastal region raised to the altar of Sainthood. The occasion will be celebrated on the Miracle Hill of Mudipu, in the outskirts of Mangaluru, about 25 km away from here. The bishop of Mangaluru will lead a solemn festal mass on January 14. Rev Msgr Dennis Moras Prabhu, Vicar General of Mangalore Diocese, and Most Rev Bernard Moras, Archbishop of Bangalore Diocese, will lead solemn festal masses on January 15 and 16 respectively. Stage programmes with ministers and dignitaries will be held on all days of the celebration.
History of Mudipu Hill Shrine:
Mudipu which is about 8 km from Fajir Church is in between and borders Fajir, Ammembal and Vorkady parishes. Mudipu is an extensive village out of the 19 wards of Fajir Parish, 4 wards come under Mudipu Chapel. They are Pandikatta, Yermatti, Arkan and Kurnad. There are about a hundred families coming under these 4 wards.
Besides there are 25 families of Ammembal and Vorkady, who are living closer to Mudipu Chapel and later joined to Mudipu Parish made into Ira, Church, Sunangala and Kanthoor Kutatajje wards. Earlier Mudipu was a part of Panir Parish which was known as Pandikatta. Now it is divided into 4 wards. There is a hill in Mudipu which also belonged to Panir Parish. In 14.9.1937 the Pandikatta ward of Panir Parish was handed over to Fajir Parish together with the hill, the later as a donation.
Mudipu hill is a place of great importance which has a special history behind it. Rev.Fr. 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 the “Blessed” in 1995. Ten years later he is canonized as a saint and given the honor of the Altar and 14 January 2015 will be a great day for the people of Mudipu.
This inauguration and the blessing of the Mudipu Chapel were held on May 10, 1993. The day’s programme began with the formal inauguration of the chapel by Rt. Rev.Msgr.Aloysius D’Souza, the Vicar General of the Diocese. The inaugural programme followed by the concelebrated Eucharistic celebration presided over by very Rt.Rev.Basil D’Souza, The Bishop of Mangalore then. The Bishop in his message to the participants and the parish members said, “The church which is built on this holy land where Venerable Fr. Joseph Vaz himself had once walked, is dedicated to St. Joseph. May Venerable Joseph Vaz dedicated life is an inspiration to the people of this parish to grow in love of God through the service of the neighbour”.
The New Mudipu Parish was erected as parish on June 29,1997 on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul by Rt. Rev.Dr.Aloysius P. D’Souza; Fr. Alwyn D’Cunha was appointed as the First Parish Priest. The new Parish was dedicated to Blessed Joseph Vaz.The New Parish Council came into existence on Sept. 7, 1997. November 30, 1997 was a historical day in the history of Mudipu Parish. On that day a small Shrine of Blessed Joseph Vaz was inaugurated in front of the church. The life size statue of Blessed Joseph Vaz was brought in procession from Mudipu bus stand to the shrine, and was blessed Rt.Rev.Dr.Aloysius D’Souza. Nearly 3500 people took part in the event. On Aug.23,2001 the foundation stone was laid for the chapel in Mudipu Hill, and the chapel was inaugurated on Feb.12, 2004.
Rev. Fr. Andrew D’Souza took over the charge on May 21, 2004. He beautified the whole campus. He tried to build the communication between Sri Lanka and Goa. The relic of Blessed Joseph Vaz was brought from Srilanka. Counseling was started in the shrine and also on the eve of Tri-Death centenary of Blessed Joseph vaz the novena day was changed to Fridays. Foundation for the ‘Sahuardha Bhavanan’ and the dining hall was laid on April 17, 2008. 60 cents of land was bought and the grottos and entrances were constructed. Rev. Fr. Gregory D’Souza took the charge on June 01, 2011. He is committed to the progress of the shrine. ‘Friday Meals’ are still served to the devotees. There are many more projects need to be implemented under the guidance of present director.
About Blessed Joseph Vaz:
Joseph Vaz was born on April 21, 1651 in Benovlim, Goa as the third son of Christopher Vaz and Miranda. He became a priest in 1676 and served in different parishes of Goa till 1681. Later he was sent to Canara. Fr Joseph Vaz travelled from Goa barefoot and served in Honnavar, Basrur, Kundapur, Gangoli, Mulki, Mangaluru and Ullal Panir. He survived an attempt on his life in 1684, when he was serving as the parish priest of Panir Church. His ambition was to work as a missionary in Sri Lanka.
Life of Blessed Joseph Vaz – Apostle of Kanara and Sri Lanka:
1651 – Born in Benaulim, Goa, India, on April 21.
1676 – Is ordained a priest. Shortly after, volunteers to go to Sri Lanka where the Dutch were persecuting Catholics and had banned all priests from entering the island. The Chapter of Goa refuses his offer because the mission would have meant certain death for him.
1681 – Is sent to rescue the almost extinct mission in Kanara, present-day Karnataka in India. Rebuilds the Church in Mangalore and Kanara, establishes missions, tends to the sick, ransoms prisoners.
1684 – Returns to Goa and joins a band of native Indian priests who formed a community.
1685 – Founds a religious Congregation, the ‘Oratory of St. Philip Neri’, on September 25.
1686 – Leaves Goa secretly and sets out for Sri Lanka.
1687 – Arrives in Jaffna in the Tamil region of Sri Lanka, with a servant, John Vaz, both disguised as coolies. He works with a price on his head.
1691 – Is almost captured by the Dutch and is advised to go to Kandy. Is brought into Kandy in chains and imprisoned as a Portuguese spy by the Buddhist King, Vimaladharna Surya II.
1693 – Works a miracle of rain during a severe drought. The King releases him and gives him protection and freedom to preach in his kingdom. As in Goa and in Mangalore, is often seen in ecstasy in prayer. The people call him “Sammana Swami” or Angelic Father.
1697 – Is joined by three of his Indian Oratorians from Goa. During a small-pox epidemic in Kandy, the King and the people flee the capital. Fr. Vaz and Fr. Carvalho, tend to the dying and abandoned victims for almost two years.
1705 – Dedicates the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu.
1711 – Dies in Kandy on January 16, after 23 years of arduous missionary work in Sri Lanka.
The Work of Blessed Joseph Vaz:
His missionary work was not colonial, not helped, authorized, associated with conquest by a colonial power. He gained the protection of a non-Christian King, Vimaladharma Surya II, a devout Buddhist. He used Inculturation as a missionary method. He founded a Catholic para-liturgy and literature using the two languages and cultures of Sri Lanka, Tamil and Sinhalese; he practiced and taught Meditation.
He educated his servant John Vaz, a member of the Indigenous tribe of Kunbis, and sent him back to Goa with a letter of recommendation to the priesthood. At that time, the Portuguese Church Councils reserved the priesthood only for the two higher castes in Goa. He rescued and expanded the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, one of the 5 officially crowned Marian Shrines of the Church. It was crowned for its fame for miracles and for pilgrimages in 1924, even before Fatima.
He is the first non-European native in modern times to found a Mission and Church in a “Third World” country; to found a fully native Catholic Religious Congregation; and to be given the official title of “Apostle” (of Kanara and Sri Lanka) by the Church, for his work in rescuing th Church there. His Indian Oratorian Mission is the only fully native, non-European Catholic Mission of our colonial era.
The Church he re-founded in Sri Lanka was persecuted and survived isolation from Rome for 140 years: “Here is a country in which the faith was first preached, and a Church founded with great success to flourish for over a century, by missionaries who, being afterwards forced by the political failure of their nation to abandon the field, left this island for good and their converts without churches or priests and under the heel of a persecutor; and a single priest (Joseph Vaz) from another country, came here of his own accord and labouring heroically with a price upon his head, revived the faith and made many conversions in the subsequent political, social and ecclesiastical changes in the country were ever able to undo his work. It must be stated with caution and subject to correction, but no other instance of such an achievement is known in Christendom.”
The Process for his Recognition as a Saint:
1711 – Father Joseph Vaz dies a saintly death in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and is honored with a public funeral.
1713 – The Jesuit Bishop of Cochin begins his Cause.
1896 – Mons, Zalesky, Papal Nuncio and founder of the Papal Seminary in India, suggests that a new Cause be started. It begun by the Goan Church.
1953 – The diocesan ordinary process is sealed and sent to Rome. It contains volumes of miracles, including the three required outstanding miracles.
1954 – All 78 Bishops of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka sign a Petition to Pope Pius XII to beatify him.
1976 – Cardinal Cooray of Sri Lanka petitions Pope Paul VI for action. A Positio Historica, summary of the historical documents relating to the life and work of Father Joseph Vaz, is requested.
1985 – The Positio is submitted and the Bishops of Sri Lanka petition Pope John Paul II to beatify Vaz.
1993 – The miracle required for Beatification is approved by the Sacred Congregation for the Saints and the Pope issues the Decree of Beatification.
1995 – The Government and Bishops of Sri Lanka host the visit of Pope John Paul II to Sri Lanka for the official Beatification of Blessed Joseph Vaz.
2015 – Pope Francis on January 14 will canonize Fr Vaz as Saint in Sri Lanka.
I end this column with a Novena prayer to Blessed Joseph Vaz:
O God of infinite goodness! Full of confidence in Your kindness and in the mercy which You showed to Your faithful servant, Blessed Joseph Vaz, we humbly implore You to inspire our Holy Church to take into consideration the meritorious life and apostolic works of this Servant of God and to grant him the full honors of the altar and public devotion, if this is for Your greater glory and for our salvation, so that imitating his virtues and placing ourselves under his patronage, we will reach Eternal Glory. Amen.
O God, through the intercession of Blessed Joseph Vaz grant me the grace of ……….Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father.