Joe D’Abreo is an 80-year-old Jesuit Priest who has distinguished himself as educationist, school principal, neo-catechumenate animator for youth and an erudite preacher.

Hebrews 3:13, “Everyday as long as today lasts, keep encouraging one another”,aptly sums up his long and eventful life.

If I were hanged on the highest hill, Mother of mine, Mother of mine I know whose love would follow me still,Mother of mine, O Mother of mine! If I were drowned in the deepest sea,Mother of mine, O Mother of mine I know whose tears would come down to me,Mother of mine, O Mother of mine! If I were damned of body and soul,Mother of mine, O Mother of mine I know whose prayers would make me whole,Mother of mine, O Mother of mine!”

My Family

I was born in the year 1932 on the 27th August and that very year Dad built his own little home and since it was completed in May, he gave the name” MAY FAIR” and even to this day the now six storey building stands strong and pretty on St Dominic Road in the Bandra Salsette Scheme.

How and why “May Fair “was built is quite another story. My Grand Father Ignatius Braz D’Abreo was a wealthy man who owned buildings and property, lands that made him a personality to be reckoned with. I still remember the solid teak wood coffin and the Vicar General of the Diocese who officiated at his funeral and how when they were putting into his coffin a bottle of whisky, I could not help pointing out to my Dad, I was only nine years at that time, what would my dead grand father want to do with a bottle of whisky but was slapped by Dad and asked to just keep stoic silence.

My grand father in the evening of his life, after marrying twice and attempting a third, turned to the Jesuit Fathers in St Peter’s and with a huge Missal that he faithfully carried on his person to impress one and all, he was soon nicknamed” POPE”, a name that came right down to me his grandson studying for the priesthood. I was always known as “Pope’s Grandson” not a very cordial name and so reminiscent of some of the Popes in Church history.

My Dad, with his hard earned money and with the encouragement of my Mother who before marriage was a teacher in St Stanislaus under the German Jesuits and was in her own right an S.T.C, allowing her to teach both at primary and secondary level in school level.Both Dad and Mum with great sacrifice and great courage and without the help of my wealthy grand father whose purse strings were very hard to be loosened, built “May Fair”.

Here in this quiet street of Bandra, a small town, an over grown village that was frowned upon even by the Jesuits at that time and I was secretly told that if any Jesuit was to be punished for any wrong demeanor, he was sent across the Mahim Bridge that separated Bombay from Bandra, to St Stanislaus Communityto cool his heels. Maybe I am wrong, but my childhood years were spent in quiet oblivion and as soon as I was of age, I was thrust into St Andrew’s School either to do or to die.

Here in this quiet street of Bandra, a small town, an over grown village that was frowned upon even by the Jesuits at that time and I was secretly told that if any Jesuit was to be punished for any wrong demeanor, he was sent across the Mahim Bridge that separated Bombay from Bandra, to St Stanislaus Communityto cool his heels. Maybe I am wrong, but my childhood years were spent in quiet oblivion and as soon as I was of age, I was thrust into St Andrew’s School either to do or to die.

At home we were four siblings, two of my brothers were far senior both in age and in wisdom and did well by carrying a number of Prizes at theAnnual Prize Day. My sister excelled and she was the talk of the town for her academic excellence and also for her grace and beauty. I did bask in her shadow. But I had one saving grace: I could talk! Sometimes when I look back on life I wonder how I ever became Principal of some of Bombay’s leading schools after such a dismal early years of stumbling and struggling to pass: what an encouragement to many who may feel discouraged by failure.

Remember:”There can be no real freedom without freedom to fail”.’Yes, I did not throw up my hands and give up but with His grace, I grew.

My Youth

“Those were the days, my friend, we thought they would never end.”

O Yes! High School had its joys and sorrows, its successes and defeats, its high points and its low but “Those were the days. What made life so interesting and so enjoyable? It was at this point of time that my Dad would want me to put aside my childish and girlish ways and become what he would often say “A He Man”, and with great pains he enrolled me with the Gymnastic Master who when introduced to him by my dad gave me such a disdainful look and his sonorous voice together with his piercing eyes put the fright into my life.

We had to learn to tumble on the mats, to stand on our heads, to do pull ups on the parallel bars and to stretch our muscles till at night my mother had to gently massage my aching back and the taut muscles that refused to relax. It was only the scornful looks and the jeers of fellow Andreans that made me determined to be a hero. I never excelled either on the bars or in athletics or in football and hockey for the simple reason that age wise I was far too small to compete withboys who came from rough and tough homes ,and were much older and obviously much stronger than myself. Be that as it may. I tried and if I failed to become the “hero” my dad had envisaged for me, at least it helped me to put on weight and height.

But there was another area in which I was able to excel and that was in Elocution and in Debates. I had good and encouraging Masters, two of them, who took great pains to build up myself-confidence and also how to throw my voice which was already reaching “booming proportions.”

I will not forget what a Master from St Stanislaus School who presided at a debate between St Andrews and St Stanislaus, a very sensitive topic “Women is at the root of all evil” and I as leader of the proposition dancing whilst speaking. We lost miserably to St Stanislaus because all the girls, including many of the boys raised their hands in favor of St Stanislaus but the one who presided gave me a shot in the arm when he graciously commenting, on each speaker said:” If the leader of the Proposition Master Joe will keep his dancing to himself he will one day be an eminent speaker. One of the few prophecies that have materialized on my behalf.

At that point of time, St Andrews was a coed school and even though the girls were a distant mile away from St Andrews Boys Section, we had many an occasion to intermingle with the fairer sex at Picnics and during dramatics in which I certainly was a keen participant. We put up many a dance both Indian and Western and quite a few Plays meant for school going students and in the process many a puppy love developed during these magical moments. I had very few options and on one occasion when two of us fell for the same maiden, we decided it in a strange way. We would battle it out in a wrestling match and the one who won would have the maiden’s hand whilst the loser would have to join the priest hood. I lost.

Ball room dancing like the Fox Trot, the Waltz, the Cha chacha soon became a rage and many, if not most would make use of Wedding Parties and smaller Get-to-gathers to dance our way to glory. I can still remember my last dance before I left to join the Bombay Seminary when I told my partner whom I had just begun to like a little more, that I was joining to be a priest, her response was:”Joe, knowing you, you will come back” Here was one prophecy made, that did not come true.

There were inter school Pageants and interschool Competitions and Exhibitions of Art and Craft galore but school days were fun and though studies and books were kept under the pillow to be absorbed by osmosis, it did not happen and I had to repeat the Final Year which was the last of the Matriculation Examination but praise God I managed to pass with second class marks, quite creditable in those helicon days.” Those were the days, we thought they would never end, but end they did at last.

Something I hold closely:” Getting what you go after is success; but liking it while you are getting it is happiness.”

My Books

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All glorious within!

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Achieving personal greatness

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Jesus my changeless friend

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Seek & Carve

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Four rules of life

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The impossible dream

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Why not your best?

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Is life worth living today?

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Mary's yes to god what about you?

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Praying the 7 last words

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Heroic leaders

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The nine talismans

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Who am I?

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Gossip By Candle Light

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Why not learn to pray well

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Catch that Smile

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You are precious to me

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The Power to Heal

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THE FORGOTTEN PARACLETE

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Colors of excellence

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Satan Never Sleeps

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Are You a Fan of Jesus

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Born Free, Stay Free, Live Free

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You are the wind beneath my wings

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YOUR GUIDE TO WELNESS

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UP IN THE AIR

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A QUEST FOR EXCELLENCE!

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EXCELLENCE IN ACTION! COME FOLLOW ME

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IS EXCELLENCE IN LIFE POSSIBLE TODAY?

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RADIATING CHRIST

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My Works

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A CALL WTHIN A CALL

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“THOU ART A PRIEST FOREVER”

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VINAYALAYA :IN FOCUS!

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BASSEIN :THE LAND BLESSED BY FRANCISXAVIER

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DE NOBILI A VISIONARY AND DREAMER

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Holy Family School

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Memorable Events

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My Days at St Marys

St. Mary’s has from days gone by been an Institution to be reckoned with in the field of Education and of Sport. The Newspapers would blazingly print the successes in football and hockey , not withstanding the remarkable winning of the Tata Sports Shield year after year under a Sports Director Jal Pardiwalla whose name was a by word in the Bombay High School Association.At that time St Mary’s had two Sections: The I.S.C (Cambridge examination) and the S.S.C (Secondary School Certificate of the Maharashtra Board), but both Sections went as one St Mary’s School and with Anglo India talent on the Cambridge side coupled with Indigenous talent from the S.S.C side, the Team was formidableand it excelled in every area of sporting activities.

A Jesuit-in- formation has to spend two or three years called: years of Regency, both as a testing ground for one’s vocation and at the same time an exposure to what life in future will be in store for him. It was to this Institution that I was accredited to for two highly energized years .The Regents who could command the respect and loyalty of the boys were usually in charge of the three tier Boarding meant mostly for Anglo Indian students but not exclusive, for there were boys from Iraq and also from the local milieu. Two of us Regents were destined to teach in the senior classes in the S.S.C Section and part time Boarding supervision in the Cambridge Section.

It was in the S.S.C Section that Rev Fr Aloysius Pereira the Vocation Promoter for vocations to the Jesuit Order worked with enthusiasm and success.For most part the students were from good middle class families who would feel great joy and pride to have their son as a Jesuit priest or brother.There was the Sodality of Our Lady which Rev Fr” Aloo “as he was affectionately called would guide, direct and form our young and enthusiastic students of both Sections. At that time the Boys Choir comprising mainly of S.S.C students would sing one or two requiem Masses dailyin St Anne’s Church with good Bro Miniana.S.J and myself conducting the Gregorian Chant to glory. It was from the Sodality and the Choir that many a Jesuit vocation blossomed and bloomed to maturity.

What silently impressed the youngsters was the Unity and Solidarity shown by the Head Masters and us Regents, working as a Team with no one pulling one or other down but on the contrary magnifying the strengths that each one brought to the Team. Bro Arnold Gonsalves was a Sportsman par excellence and was a real role model for the boys; I had the gift of the gab in organizing and speaking and of course had interest in music, art and drama.It was this working together as a Team and the joy and happiness that the boys saw in our lives, that was paramount in winning for the Society of Jesus many an outstanding vocation.

At that hour another outstanding Regent Bro Anthony de Mello was making his mark as a writer and had just brought out a book on Jesuit life entitled:“Behind the S.J. Curtain”. The cover page needed the image of a cheerful and smiling lad and from my Class the VIII A, was chosen Ulhas Chavan strangely a Maharashtrian to be the frontal for the Jesuit Vocational book.

I was Class Master of Std VIII A and the then Head Master Fr Daniel Donnelly.S.J would put the well performing students in one division and therefore I did have the cream that did not grow sour but the Class developed many a leader both in the Academic field and on the Sports ground. We edited a Class Magazine entitled:” Behind the VIII A Curtain”; we had a Bank to teach our youngsters to save, we had outings to Mount Mary’s where the boys insisted on holding their nose as we neared the Bandra Slaughter House and very conveniently dubbed me as a “Bandra Pig” since Bandra was notorious for its many pigs that roamed freely the streets of Bandra.

What we as regents did pick up, was Punctuality, Efficiency in preparing our teaching, strictness with balm to ease situations. Regency was fun time as it was growth time and each one of us became aware of our strengths and also our weaknesses that stood us in good stead in our future formation as full fledged Jesuits. Hurrah! St.Mary’s tops in Sports and Academics but tops in giving outstanding vocations to the Jesuit Order. Long live St Mary’s.

It was time to pack our meager belongings and trudge to the Bombay Central Station to take us to our LANGUAGE STUDY at St Michael’s Parish, Manickpur, Bassein, now Vasai.

My Principles in Life

SEEK EXCELLENCE AND SUCCESS WILL FOLLOW

In Life’s Learning Certain Principles may be of help and guidance: These Principles have built me. May they help you.

  • Pursue Excellence rather than strive for success. Excellence always leads to success and is an inspiration for continual improvement. A wise approach is never to run after success but let it happen automatically in life, for success is a by product and will be the result and outcome of your pursuit of Excellence.
  • Believe that Life is beautiful and Life is free. Be ready to live every moment to the fullest as if today was your last. Life is a gift to you and therefore live life happily and to the full.
  • Develop a passion for life and this will lead up to excellence. You will achieve satisfaction, joy, pleasure and love which will be the natural outcome of your passion for life and you will surely become somebody one day.
  • Never to stop Learning. If one is truly humble, learning will not be difficult or complicated. Teachers may fail but Learners, never.
  • Realize that education is not just at head level but is also at heart level. If this is well understood then education well understood is bringing out the best in each one, it will not be at the cost of one’s health and life.
  • Life is not just optimization of the intellect but management and balance of our emotions. Memory and regular study have a definite value and a tremendous help to a good and meaningful life. The developing of the genius in our lives demands ninety-nine percent perspiration and just one percent of inspiration.
  • Simplicity of Life. Indian Culture stresses simple living and high thinking and another axiom is:” Legs down to the earth and eyes looking beyond to the sky.”
  • Love is not time bound or space bound: Love is time free, space free and unconditional. Love and a sense of Trust go together. Build your relationships on Trust.
  • Build your Leadership, your own typical leadership but on sound Principles of Truth and Justice with eternal values and ideals that will spur you on to further heights.
  • Good Communication. Much of our success will depend on how well we can communicate with others. Human relationships are the foundation and basis of all successful careers.
  • Shun Mediocrity in all that one does. One should not die as a mediocre person but one must die having brought out the genius in oneself and one’s potentiality to the optimum level.
  • Seek Excellence and Success will follow.

Vinayalaya……… my heart throb

Andheri more than fifty years ago was a suburb of the metropolis Bombay and those many years ago was still in the process of awakening to modern city life.But in the heart of East Andheri on a hillock arose the stately building of Vinayalaya and as one enters the hallowed precincts the Statue of the Sacred Heart served as a welcoming gesture to each aspirant who desired to join this world wide Society of Jesus with a history of five hundred years of dedicated and committed service to the Catholic Church and to the world.

As a boy and even as a seminarian I would often frequent the home of Keith Rodrigues whose Dad was the Administrator General of Bombay before and after Independence and hewas overjoyed when I told him I was joining the Jesuits. I still remember with nostalgia the many happy moments I spent with that family but specially that last meal before I joined Vinayalaya whenMr.Rodrigues and his wife Bridget unfolded their plans for their only son Keith, to be sent to the United Kingdom or the United States to study law and come back to practice law like his Dad. Keith was already studying to graduate through St Xavier’s College, our Jesuit Institution, anoutstanding college in the Bombay University.

My parents, brothers and sister all accompanied me and Fr AloysiusLamolla who was now Rector and Novice Master in Vinayalaya was there to welcome not only me but a host of young graduates from St Xavier’s who were joining on that memorable day the 20th June 1949.The very next day of our joining was the Feast of St Aloysius Gonzaga a Youthful Jesuit Saint and happened to be the Rector’s Feast Day. The lunch that we enjoyed was “FiveStar” and all the new arrivals were wondering what had we left behind with such royal treatment meted out to us on that very next day.

That very day we began our two years of Jesuit probation, called the Novitiate and all of us a royal band of nine, joined with a “Bang!” Life in the Novitiate was not easy, it was tough to follow a regular routine with an hour of prayer and then the Eucharist and throughout the day study of the Jesuit Rules and Constitutions but it was a training that has vibrated in our lives all through these many years as a Jesuit. Besides the absolute seriousness which each Novice placed on prayer and study, therewere also lighter moments that made life highly interesting. We were introduced to small penances like beating ourselves with a discipline made of rods that we had to beat ourselves with , or to put a chain round our legs that embedded itself into our flesh making walking a pain, kneeling down in front of all the Novices and being told our “faults” that needed correction, kissing the feet of the elder fathers at lunch time, saying the Grace before and after meals with outstretched hands and kneeling and eating our food ,and if we did break a broken cup or plate to publicly admit our “crime”. But all of us were “Saints-in- a hurry” and we vied with each other in kneeling for hours without batting an eye lid, or at table leaving the best and juicy fruit for the last at table or out of a false notion of charity allowing a fellow novice to have the glory of shooting a goal or walking with our heads so low that we dashed even the solid walls and created dents in them.Our false thinking that all this is what St Stanislaus and St John Berchmans did and became Saints.All this and much more after we had undergone the experience of the thirty days Long Retreat of the Exercises of St Ignatius.

Can you imagine us Novices, working in the Kitchen washing plates, and cleaning even the waste that filled the gutters! None of us imagined we would be cleaning not only our own rooms but the Toilets and vied with each other to do it to the best of perfection. But after two strenuous years we were all granted our First Vows and in one of the most beautiful Chapels on the first floor of Vinayalaya with the altar and the way of the Cross all in pure marble donated by generous donors from Spain, we took our First Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience and could now proudly put behind our names S J. We were now members of the Society of Jesus and with subtle pride we did show off our SJs. Gossip we did, but feelings of pride that we were now Jesuits ready to march ahead keeping our Jesuit Motto firmly entrenched in our hearts and in our lives: ALL FOR THE GREATER GLORY OF GOD.

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My Current Days at Vinayalaya

Strange are the ways of the Lord but are even stranger are “happenings” that take us by storm. In the months of November, I had undertaken quite a few Program’s outside the quiet walls and precincts of Vinayalaya. Talks to Parents on “Who will cry when you die” with a sane philosophy:”When you were born, you cried whilst the world rejoiced, so live your lives that when you die others with cry and you will rejoice with the Lord”, Half Day-Recollection and Motivation to Staff of various schools, a Christ the King Sermon in far away Mulund where the Services for Christ the King beginning with an hour of prayer for the various Basic Christian Communities led by the Parish priest before Jesus in the Eucharist and then a procession around the Parish culminating in an open air Service that was a beautiful organized and still more beautifully conducted, all praise to the Parish Priest and his Team at Pius X Parish Mulund.

But I thought that I was still young and handsome, hardly realizing that 12 years had passed where I was given a new lease of life after a serious Scooter accident on the main Cause way that saw me hospitalized in the Aga Khan Hospital and took me months to regain my stamina and strength. I will not forget what I over heard when one of the Parishioners of St Anne’s had one look at me in the hospital and under his breath told his companions” Fr.Joe is finished, he will never be the same again”. It took me months before I was able to use my vocal Chords and preach in the church and then at the Easter Services as the scooter accident with its impact on the curb stone shifted the vocal chords and one rascal of a Jesuit friend playfully noted:” With the vocal chords out of place, Fr Joe could speak so much less. Praise God.”

However, recover I did and for 12 years in spite of “serious happenings” I was able not only to carry out my pastoral work but even build the Church of St Ignatius Loyola at Ambadi Vasai. But that will be another Gossip story.

I was soon down with heavy fever and a rash that simply would not be cured .A good ex student Doctor, a skin specialist and his brother doctorwho is a dentist were a tremendous support, not to say the Sister in Charge of the Jesuit Nursing Home and of course our Jesuit Provincial, the Treasurer of the Bombay Province who now new the seriousness of my illness that had erupted after twelve years but took its toll at the age of seventy seven plus.

How did I get well? That is a million dollar question and needs a million dollar answer. The entire month of November and far into December saw me struggling and at the same time keeping as brave a face as I could possible put. I had to give up all Pastoral Ministry outside Vinayalaya and lived like a cloistered nun practically confined to the four walls of my very spacious but neat and clean room.

In order to get well and continue work as Minister of Vinayalaya, it required me to deepen my Faith in the healing power of Jesus and this Faith was strengthened by the Sisters of the Carmelite Cloister, another lay sister from St Anthony’s and a host of ex-students and friends that felt it was not just time for Fr Joe to go back to his Creator.

Things would have improved fast but for the tension in the Vinayalaya Community brought about by a well meaning Superior who was all head but little heart. He had his way in every area and felt the weight of responsibility a bit too seriously. An obsession to regain control of a road that for years was being trespassed by people from the Wadi and now even more by a multi national company in Car repairs and maintenance. The CompanyMahindra’smade tall and very enticing promises to do up the road their vehicles were using, to post a Security Guard to stop people trespassing and to ensure and the Fathers of Sneshadan were caught in this quagmire of promises but like the Knight of La Mancha the superior had a mind of his own and an ‘obsession” to get things going his wayand when I politely but firmly told the Community that my health did not permit me to take on a job that would bring the rural community in face to face conflict. Alas! All these explanations only seemed to strengthen the Superior’s view that all the wrongs of the past had to be righted immediately. Gossip is an interesting word that brings out the best and the worst and I was astonished my limited vocabulary of slang words not found anywhere were used to express anger and resentment: Gossip by Candle Light.

My Priesthood Call

Some years ago I read a story about ‘Young Oliver’ who had the courage and audacity at his first breakfast in a very strict Boarding School to ask for MORE porridge, a request that was curtly put aside but this word MORE did strike a cord in my young and frivolous heart as I struggled to put aside my childish, rather girlish ways of behavior and grow into young manhood.

I was studying for my Final School year when a famous Belgian Jesuit who was responsible for the Retreat House at Bandra and the delightful one at Baga in Goa invited us to make a closed three-day Retreat at the Bandra retreat House. My good mother somehow had an inner sense that God may still call this highly mischievous, self willed son to be his priest, a desire that I had long put away, hopefully for good.

Rev Fr Letelier.S.J who put the fear of hell fire and a threat to eternal damnation with the devils, was an experience to be believed. “Do not come to your coffin in a coat if God wants you to come to your coffin in a cassock” and “There is a hell and a life everlasting and there is a place waiting for you.”

As if his thunderous voice was not enough to put the fear of hell fire right down to our very toes but he took us to St Andrew’s graveyard late in the evening and pretended to dig up a newly buried person in his or her grave.You can imagine the state of our mind and our feelings that we were all damned unless we decided to follow Jesus in his priesthood.

He did not stop at that but when back in the retreat House and in the darkness of the Chapel he lit a single candle and challenged us that he would give the Rs 100 note he held in his hand if any of the retreatants would dare to hold his finger for just one minute in the candle flame “How will your bear the eternal fires of hell if you can’t bear one single minute of this earthly flame?”

That night sleep took a second place and the “fear of eternal damnation” loomed before my eyes. The only way out to save my soul is to be a priest! The last day of the Retreat at the closing Eucharist Fr Letelier challenged us to come to the altar and take one of the ready made cigarette boxes that had neatly inscribed:” For my Chalice when I become a priest!” I in fear and trembling but knowing that my salvation was at stake slowly rose from behind and went and took the Money Box with a strong desire to give up all my likings for sweets and chocolates and save all that money for the day I would hold the Chalice of Salvation in my anointed hands.

The days that followed were daily mass, regular confession, shunning bad friends, avoiding the company of girls and putting on the looks of a young and becoming Saint like St Stanislaus or St Aloysius Gonzaga. But the fervor of the retreat did not last very long and soon I went back to my carefree ways but had already saved quite some money in that precious box:”For my Chalice when I become a priest” that was neatly sealed.

But such are the ways of all flesh and very soon I needed money for my simple but expensive enjoyments and being stark broke my only alternative was to break open the seal of the box and use its contents for salivary use. The box was thrown awayand forgotten and all desire for the priesthood vanished into thin air.

But Peace was not to be mine and as I neared the final and fatal Exams that would seal my fate. Fr Letelier happened to pass my home and Mum and Dad invited him to pray formy success for the final exam, whentold that I had made the Vocation Retreat with him, he asked whether I had taken a box and I sheepishly had to say “Yes”. “Where is the Box for the Chalice” he asked. I had to give some excuse but I had another oval shaped box and at that he asked for it and from his purse he took one silver rupee, placed it in the box and then placed it on the altar” For your Chalice when you become a priest”

Good Fr Letelier S.J must have turned in his grave as he saw me noose dive into the ways of the world with the thoughts of the priesthood left far behind. into the oblivioun of the unconscious.

My Seminary Days

School Days were over and when the results came and I had managed to pass the Matric Examination I was all set to join the Bombay Seminary that trains Diocesan priests. We were two from St Andrew’s High School, one the apple of the eye of the Cardinal, Rufus Pereira whose brilliance and academic record in school was second to none and myself with hardly any worthwhile credentials to my self.

Our Parents reached us to the Portals of the Seminary that was situated then in Parel, a large but dilapidated building that housed the Jesuit Fathers who were the Professors, the Seminarians studying Theology, others studying Philosophy and the Latinist who had to learn the language of the Gods.Latin at that time to study for the priest hood was a must, workable use of the Latin language was a need and if your ambitions were to be a bishop or cardinal then fluency and brilliance was a much needed requirement in Latin and languages.

The Rector of the Seminary was a Jesuit Fr Aloysius Lamolla, both he and the other Jesuit professors were for the greater part models of Jesuit piety and modesty and we Seminarians looked at them with awe and admiration as Saints in the making, later to be canonized.

Be that as it may, life in the Seminary was enjoyable; we had no secluded rooms of our own but one vast dormitory with our belongings neatly tucked in our trunks and common wash rooms that we had to get used to, after the comforts of home.The food was good and wholesome but I missed home cooking and very soon had to fill my pockets with broken biscuits that were easily available and whilst studying on the grounds feeding the mind Ialso fed the body.However,the crumbs remained in our pockets and the next morning our new and best pants, the rats that roamed galore had eaten, not only the crumbs but left gaping holes that were so obvious and brought a lot of laughter and fun at our expense.

There were also tense moments when the lights were off and very soon with fifty Seminarians in one big dormitory what could one expect but night mares of shouts of thieves and cries for help that awoke every single Seminarian from their peaceful slumber. Of course, after a hard day of study and hockey played on the grounds with champion players from St Xavier’s college and more so the whacks and bruises on our shins that these unforgiving players perpetrated on us innocent lambs,we were dead tired, each night only to be awaken time and again with snores of peaceful consciences at high and prolonged decibels.

But life was fun and very soon there was a close bonding between us Seminarians with a lot of encouragements of our seniors and also a lot of mild teasing and ragging. It was also interesting for those who could read reasonably well at table and for the fathers at their meals because the reader was rewarded with a cup of soup, the specialty of the Jesuits Fathers and a Jesuit meal, if we read at their dinning table. Oh! How we longed for our turn to come!

Time came when at the year ending, quite a few Seminarians opted to join Religious Orders like the Redemptorists, the Franciscans and the Jesuits. With heavy hearts we said our “Good byes” wondering whether all the hilarity and joy would accompany us to our new homes in various Religious Orders.

The bonding and friendships lasted long after we had chosen different ways to serve the Lord and further his Kingdom but that one year gave each one of us a feel of the need for brotherly support. Most of my students have opted for the Diocesan Clergy and I can proudly say that Bombay has a Diocesan clergy that can boast of bonding and excellence and the best.

I will never forget the Rosary said in common, the brief Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary and how the “Memorare” became our watchword whenever we left to journey by train or bus. Devotion to Our Blessed Mother was dear to every Seminarian’s heart. If today devotion to the Mother of God is so dear to me, it was inculcated and developed in the Seminary and I am sure every priest who perseveres in his vocation, owes it to Our Blessed Mother.

My Ordination to Priesthood

After three years of hectic study of Theology I was looking forward to my ordination to the priesthood. At that era we Jesuits had the privilege of being ordained at the end of the third year of theology and therefore the 24th March1962 was the much awaited day. Besides a week of Retreat to prepare ourselves for the ordination to the priesthood, our fellow Jesuits in St Mary’s Mazagaon took on themselves the onus of having the Ordination ceremony on the grounds of St. Mary’s, an open air Cathedral.

We were 35 “Ordinandi” one of the largest groups to be ordained on one and the same time and spot. Thank God it was St Mary’s, for who better than our artist Bro Pardo could do better justice to make a stage that was extended as it was strong. With his band of committed workers, he saw to the minutest detail of beauty and art.Looking down on us was the massive picture of Our Lady of Valdaimir of Russia for at that time the specter of atheistic communism was amajor threat and needed the powerful prayers of the Mother of God to undo the damage of atheistic communism which was backed by a powerful military and was able to threaten the free world and therefore was most appropriate for the occasion. Later, time showed that no powerful nation can sustain itself without the concept of God and today ‘communist Russia” no longer exists, thank to the Mother of God.

The Ordination was held in the evening and very soon 35 to-be ordained priests knelt in silence awaiting his Eminence Cardinal Valerian Gracias who was to ordain us. The entire ambience made one and all feel the presence of God’s Spirit, the host of concelebrant priests, the smartly dressed altar servers,the ever lilting Choir of St Anne’s made the occasion a day to remember with joy and happiness.

And as the Choir intoned the “Ecce Sacherdos” to welcome the presiding Bishop, the St Anne’s bells rang in joyful peals and the ceremony of 35 newly ordained priests came to be.The ceremony lasted an hour and a half and was climaxed as the Cardinal lay his hands on each one of us: “Thou are a priest for ever.”. Present at the ceremony were our parents, relatives and two thousand strong well wishers who witnessed a most touching ceremony: The Ordination to the Priesthood.

We had spent nine years of Jesuit training awaiting this memorable day. A further high point of the ceremony was when together with the Cardinal we consecrated bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus and at last in one glorious last Blessing, all thirty-five ordained priests blessed our Parents, our relative and all present.We were from now on missionaries of Christ’s love.

On the Feast of the Annunciation the 25th March I celebrated my First Mass in St Andrew’s Church where I was christened, given the bread of life in Holy Communion, anointed with holy chrism in the Sacrament of Confirmation and now as priest was offering my First Mass. At that time the Mass was said facing the altar and not the people and of course in Latin. I had my Parish priest, Msg George Farnandes, whose cause has been lately introduced, he was by my side together with my spiritual guide Fr Ignatius Errasquin.S.J.

Feelings f joy and at the same time unworthiness filled my heart through out the Mass. It was with a sense of awe and admiration that I offered with my own hand the “Bread of Life” holy communion to my Dad and Mum, brothers and in laws and a host of friends. How unworthy I felt as one and all came to kiss my newly anointed hands after Mass!

Dad and my brothers had arranged a grand reception to felicitate me at the Bandra Gymkhana which lasted through the morning. Fr Daniel Donnelly S.J whom I loved and admired as an outstanding Jesuit educationist raised the “Toast” to my health and service as a priest and educationist. His Blessings still carries on!There were speeches and poems and songs but the climax of the morning were the East Indian Dances professionally put up by a troupe headed by Mr. D’Mello. My brother an ace photographer prepared a full Album recalling memories to live and enjoy.It was thus I was launched as a priest and fulfil my dreams.

I still had a year of theological studies to go through but the holy oils that anointed my hands, gave me a new impetus to give and to give and to give more of myself to Jesus. My favorite prayer still remains the Prayer of Cardinal Newman:

“Dear Lord,

Help me to spread Thy fragrance every where I go Flood my soul with Thy spirit and life, penetrate and Possess my being so utterly, That all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me, That every soul I come in contact with, May feel Thy presence in their soul, Let them look on me and see no longer me, But only Thee O Lord Jesus.”

A Motto to keep before me daily as a priest!

You are writing a Gospel, a Chapter each day. By the deeds that you do and the words that you say, Men read what you write, whether faithless or true, Pray and reflect daily what is the Gospel according to you!

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