Pilar Society celebrates 125 years

September 26 is a red-letter day for the Society of Pilar as it will be celebrating 125 years of its existence. Over the years, the society has grown by leaps and bounds and the innumerable services rendered by its members across the state and country are commendable.

On September 26, 1887, late Fr Bento Martins founded the Society of Missionaries of St Francis Xavier (Society of Pilar) with the permission of the then archbishop patriarch of Goa, Antonio Sebastiao Valente. Martins was ordained a priest by archbishop Ornelas on February 9, 1879. He was a priest of great spirituality and zeal and so he was found worthy to become the first superior of the Society of Pilar. In his own capacity, he served as a roaring missionary in Valpoi from 1881 to 1883. Thereafter, he was transferred to the Agonda chapel in Canacona taluka in 1884.

After having served as parish priest of Agonda and Cabo da Rama, he was re-appointed as the superior of the Society of Pilar in 1891. He was appointed parish priest of Shiroda in 1894. While serving with extra zeal and enthusiasm, he got ill with exhaustion and died in the monastery of Pilar on August 16, 1896.

Martins was laid to rest in the Goa Velha cemetery and later on August 16, 1901, his remains were transferred to the Pilar monastery, which is now the tomb in the cenetophium.

The Society of Pilar has rendered excellent services in the befit of the souls in the Archdiocese of Goa and elsewhere. This society sprouted, bloomed and blossomed. Archbishop Valente accepted with joy and enthusiasm Martins' services. In spite of being sickly, Martins was an active and zealous missionary. He continued his roving mission in Valpoi and Agonda, Usgao, Shiroda. The Shiroda mission extended up to Collem and Mollem.

Martins was born a missionary. His heart was aflame with the love of missions. 'Bene omnia fecit' (he did well to everyone)-these words are engraved on his tomb in the cenatophium chapel. He did not live very long, but he left indelible footprints on the soil he treaded with a society that he started in Goa. This society spread to the whole of India and is now spreading even beyond the Indian Ocean and the Himalaya range to the American and the European continents.

Speaking about Martins, who is lesser known among the present generation, the former vice-postulator for the cause of the beatification of the venerable Fr Agnelo D'Souza, Fr Sergio Mascarenhas, who has compiled a book on the life and works of Martins said, "Fr Bento Martins was exceptional, but very humble. The only two missionaries who, in different situations of persecution by irreligious, founded a religious institute of missionaries were Martins-Society of Pilar-and Blessed Joseph Vaz-Oratorians of Goa."

"We need to stress that Martins was a man of extra-ordinary virtue and after his death, many favours were obtained through his intercession, which have not been published," he added. [TOI]