By His Grace Bishop Thomas Dabre, Bishop of Poona –
The Spirit of St Gonsalo is handed on to Vasai — his example of Faith, commitment, patience and readiness to sacrifice is an enduring legacy.
From my early childhood, I had been taught to have a devotion to St Gonsalo Garcia (1557-1597), as he was born and brought up in Vasai, historically known as Bassein or Baçaim is a historical suburban town in Palghar district of Maharashtra state in Konkan division. In 1990, when I began my Episcopal ministry in Vasai, I saw that the devotion to St Gonsalo was well rooted there. We then sought to build on that and to make it an important feature of the diocese by promoting it all the more. Taking into account all suggestions and comments, we made plans to set up a museum, library and shrine of the Saint.
Saints are those in whom God manifests his holiness. The Spirit is truly the dwelling of the saints, and the saints are for the Spirit a place where He dwells as in His own home. They offer themselves as a dwelling place for God and are called His temple. They care for those on earth. They are examples of holiness. Their intercession is their service to us. Thus they continue to help the work of salvation. Patrons are examples of fidelity unto the last, models of charity and powerful intercessors. Patrons are those who lived lives of exemplary fidelity to the Lord, they are models of charity. We are assured of their intercession (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1717, 2156, 2684, 1474 – 77: 2030) I have experienced all this teaching in my personal relationship with St Gonsalo and contacts with the faithful of Vasai.
When the Diocese of Vasai was established by Pope John Paul II in 1998, we adopted St Gonsalo Garcia as principal patron of the diocese of Vasai. From the inception of the diocese, I felt assured in the innermost depths of my being that the diocese would cruise along safely in the right direction, because of our own native-born Patron. I felt confident that Gonsalo would act as our effective intercessor in the heavenly court.
Until December 19, 2009, when I handed over charge of the diocese to my successor Archbishop Felix Machado, my inner confidence remained intact; in fact, it progressively grew and going by facts, was proved right and well-founded.
Setting up a new diocese
Setting up a new diocese is by no means an easy enterprise. A modern day diocese in the spirit of the new evangelisation and in keeping with the directions of the Second Vatican Council is quite a complex and demanding mandate. With the collaboration of the clergy, the religious and the laity, we were able to proceed well in the various sectors and areas of the diocese. For this, I give thanks to St Gonsalo Garcia.
Assuredly, the diocese as a Church is called to be holy, as the Second Vatican Council has taught us (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church n. 39). However, the Church’s liturgy reminds us that we are sinners. Not surprisingly therefore, failings, shortcomings and hurdles did appear during the process of development of the new Diocese of Vasai. But we, as a community, never felt discouraged. Our onward march continued unhindered. All the time, I would intensely feel that Gonsalo Garcia, our brother will always protect and promote our (his) diocese.
We planted the statue of St Gonsalo right at the entrance of Bishop’s House. While exiting and entering the House, I would say to myself “No need to fear – Our protector is pleading for us before the Lord. He will guard the diocese.” As Bishop of Vasai, I have always felt that Gonsalo is our Saint; it is his diocese.
That Vasai has progressed impressively, as a Church and society, is thanks to the faith that our ancestors adopted.
1. The good number of vocations to priestly and religious life,
2. The fervour of the laity,
3. The active pastoral life and,
4. The emergence of the adivasis and the collaboration of priests, religious and laity for the development of impoverished areas are some of the notable features of the Diocese of Vasai.
Legacy of St Gonsalo
Gonsalo’s example of faith and commitment, patience and readiness to sacrifice is his enduring legacy to Vasai. Elijah’s spirit was handed to Elisha. (2 Kings 2:9) So also in the Church in Vasai, the spirit of St Gonsalo is handed on to Vasai. It is my deep conviction that Vasai will achieve remarkable heights as long as it continues to be faithful to the Lord, who will never let us down.
With all that Vasai has come to be, its identity is shaped by its faith in the Lord. With all that Vasai has achieved in various fields, what I value above all is its faith. Gonsalo’s lasting legacy is his faith. He let faith sink in him from his childhood. He was a malleable vessel in the hand of his mentors and formators. He was a pliable instrument in the hands of the Lord. Only a person of undying faith can remain open to the call of the Lord in the midst of storms in life in a hostile environ, and only a person of tenacious faith can follow the Lord wherever He leads, in spite of rejection from those who ought to have known better, as in the case of Gonsalo.
The story of Gonsalo’s last moments moistens my eyes with tears of sorrow and of joy. Such a prolonged and excruciating agony leading up to his martyrdom, can be borne by a person with heroic depth and height of faith. Only a person of extraordinary faith can sing the praises of the Lord, for the gift of martyrdom, like Gonsalo and his other companions did. Like St Peter, St Gonsalo did not bequeath any gold or silver to us. (Acts 3:6) His faith is his legacy to us. “This is the victory which overcomes the world – our faith.” (cf. 1 John 5:4) From St Gonsalo, I realised more palpably the Church’s wisdom in recommending patron Saints to the believers. He has inspired me and so many others to take the faith, evangelisation and all aspects of the ministry seriously. Through his efficacious intercession, He has strengthened my belief that no challenges and obstacles are insurmountable.
Therefore, St Gonsalo is truly our pride and glory.
Article courtesy: Examiner