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Divar islanders all set to keep alive Fr Jacome Gonsalves’ memory

Panaji: Divarkars are dusting up and cleaning the stone plaque on their church facade marking Fr Jacome Gonsalves’ 210th death anniversary. With the 275th death anniversary of the illustrious priest around the corner, some wonder how he had been forgotten for decades.The faithful in Divar will commemorate this milestone on Sunday, July 16. “It will be a simple but solemn ceremony and Holy mass will be celebrated at Our Lady of Piety Church at 7am,” parish priest Fr Jose Dias says.Gonsalves, who along with St Joseph Vaz was one of the pre-eminent figures in Sri Lanka’s Catholic history, wrote 22 books in Sinhala, 15 in Tamil and a few more in other languages. St Jospeh Vaz, along with the Divar priest, is credited with the revival of Catholic faith on the island nation.After the mass, a new plaque fixed below the old one, to remind future generations of the 275th commemoration, will be unveiled. “After the solemn second death century commemoration in 1942 in Sri Lanka and 210th anniversary in 1952 in Divar, Fr Jacome’s memory was gradually allowed to fade,” former PWD chief engineer and vice-president of executive committee for the cause of Fr Jacome Gonsalves, Jose De Albuquerque, says.The new plaque will contain a translation of the Portuguese text inscribed on the old one. “This will be in English as Sri Lankan pilgrims visit the island,” Dias says.In 1705, Gonsalves left his home to join St Joseph Vaz in Sri Lanka. As a missionary of Congregation of Oratory of the Holy Miraculous Cross, he left his footprints deep in the island. He died on July 17, 1742, and his tomb is preserved in Bolawate Church, Sri Lankan.
After St Joseph Vaz’ canonization by Pope Francis in January 2015, Gonsalves’ role as a missionary has come into focus once again. Hopes of his beatification have been raised after Fr Eremito Rebello, former vice-postulator for the cause of canonization of St Joseph Vaz, initiated in 2015 some preliminary steps towards this dream, say Divar islanders.At an annual commemoration day in 2015, a 200-year-old portrait of the saintly priest was garlanded and placed below the altar. It was significant, as an executive committee headed by parish priest was formed and a prayer group started to pray for the Cause.In recent weeks, developments in Sri Lanka have brought some joy to the islanders. “The Lankan church authorities have recently formed a committee to look into cause of Fr Jacome Gonsalves’ canonization,” Dias said. [TOI]

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