Pilar – Spanish name for a Goan village

Every year on October 12, the feast of our Lady of Pilar is celebrated in the Pilar Monastery. On the eve of the feast, there is a devout procession of the statue of Our Lady of Pilar, presently from Fr Agnel Apostolic School, Batim to the Pilar Seminary. Pilar, a silent hillock on the banks of the oldest port near Goa Velha, gets its name from the Patroness of the Monastery – Our Lady of Pilar. Pilar in Spanish means pillar.

Fr Cosme Costa, professor of Church History at Pilar Theological College, stated that, “the procession of Our Lady of Pilar, started by Fr Conceicao Rodrigues, a Pilar priest in 1948, was part of the spiritual journeying by the people of neighbouring parishes. From all neighbouring parishes, people carrying the statue of Our Lady of Pilar were walking to Pilar with a spirit of prayer and penance.”

The present statue that is carried for the procession was brought from Spain in 1961. “Before that, even the main statue was taken down and carried in procession,” recalls Fr Alexio Gracias, a diocesan judge for marriage in the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman, who had completed his novitiate in Pilar in 1951.

Pilar Monastery was built by the Reformed Franciscan Recollects (Capuchos) of the Custody of the Mother of God in 1613. In 1633, a University of Science, Arts and Theology, based on European system was established in the precincts of the Pilar Monastery. The Pilar Monastery will complete 400 years in July 2013.

The patroness of the monastery is Our Lady of Pilar – a devotion that began in Zaragoza, Spain. According to a very ancient tradition, Mother Mary was carried to Zaragoza on a Pillar by the angels to meet St James.  After the meeting Mother Mary left the Pillar as a symbol of strength to St James. Hence, the saying, ‘Columnam Ducem Habemus’ meaning we have a pillar to lead us.

In India, there are only two churches dedicated to Our Lady of Pilar, one at Seraulim near Margao, built by the Spanish Jesuits in 1630 and the other in Shantinagar, Bhopal built by the Pilar Fathers in 1986.

Besides the Pilar Monastery, which is a shrine, there are two chapels dedicated to Our Lady of Pilar in the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman: Neturlim in Sanguem (1970) and Sindoni in Nagar Haveli (1980), where Pilar Fathers are working. [H]