Udupi: The diocese will be organising the canonization celebration of Goa-born missionary Blessed Joseph Vaz who was raised to sainthood by Pope Francis in Sri Lanka on January 14, said Fr Anil D’Souza, dean of Kundapur Deanery.
He was addressing the mediapersons at the press club on Thursday, January 15. He said that Blessed Joseph Vaz, who served in various places of Coastal Karnataka and performed miracles, was a priest from the coastal region. He was raised to the altar of sainthood for the first time in the history of Coastal Karnataka. The occasion will be celebrated on January 18 in Udupi Diocese under the leadership of the Kundapur Deanery. A diocesan level vehicle rally has been organised from Gangolli Church to Holy Rosary Church Kundapur at 3.30 pm on January 18. Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo Bishop of Udupi Diocese will lead the solemn celebration mass at 5 pm at Kundapur Church ground, he said.
Joseph Vaz was born on April 21, 1651 as the son of Christopher Vaz and Maria Miranda at Goa in a devout family. Responding to the call of Lord Jesus as a youth, he was ordained a priest at 25 after ecclesiastical training in the seminary.
During this time, he learnt that the Catholics of Sri Lanka had been deprived of the services of priests. He requested his superiors to send him to Sri Lanka. However, his superiors, without heeding his request, sent him to the Canara coastal area to give his priestly service.
Obedient to the order of his superiors, he came bare feet to our coastal belt in 1681 A.D. in order to give his precious service. While serving at Kundapur Church, he also served Gangolli and the neighbourhood. While at Holy Rosary Church Kundapur, it is recorded in history that during his meditation he was floating in the air.
During his service at the Panir Church of Mangalore, his enemies tried to assassinate him at Mudipu, Bantwal Taluk. During that day at midnight, lightning broke out and caused three springs of water to gush out. Frightened by the miracle, the would-be assassins escaped. To this day, the three wells exist at Mudipu out of which water springs out miraculously from one of them. After serving our coast selflessly, he returned to Goa in 1684.
Subsequently he went to Sri Lanka with his companion, John, disguised as a coolie and met the Christians in hiding and served them. Even there his enemies suspected him to be a spy and produced him before the king. The king, Vimala Dharma Surya, arrested and placed Joseph Vaz and John in prison.
At this time Sri Lanka was badly affected by drought. With no water to drink and food to eat, human beings as well as animals began to die. When the efforts to appease the gods by sacrifice and bring rain failed, the King appealed to Joseph Vaz. When Joseph Vaz prayed for rain, rain poured down immensely in a miraculous manner. The delighted King granted Joseph Vaz complete independence along with great honour and praise. Later, many more priests joined him and served the people through many welfare schemes. Weakened by his continual service activities, Joseph Vaz gave up his spirit in the hands of the Lord on January 16, 1711.
Recognizing his miraculous life and service, the Catholic Church had already declared him as BLESSED. His canonization as a SAINT by Pope Francis on January 14, 2015 in Sri Lanka has brought great joy to the Christian community, particularly that of the west coast of India.
Johnson D’Almeida, vice president of Parish Pastoral council was also present during the press meet.