Our Dear Departed, March 2020
Thanking God for these heroic lives!
The Bombay Jesuits have in the last four months seen four wonderful Jesuits go back into the arms of the Lord: Fr Edwin Rasquinha, Fr Louis Menezes, Br Pascual Colaco, and Fr Errol D'Lima. All four were men of zeal, warmth and yet fierce dedication to the Lord. Read this little write up about each of them here below.
Remembering Edwin Rasquinha SJ
- Homily delivered by Fr Joseph Feliu, at the funeral of Fr Edwin Rasquinha SJ:
I will speak mainly from my heart, and I will do it of a man who had a big heart. My experience of Edwin was mainly of the years when he was Provincial of Bombay and I was his Socius. For reasons known only to God he proposed me to Fr. General although we hardly knew each other. However, during our years at the Provincial Curia in St. Xavier's High School Dhobi Talao, we got to know each other intimately, and I learned to admire and love him much; and more than once also to fear him a little. Edwin was a pakka Jesuit, from head to toe; his heart belonged to the Society. The eighties were a tough time for the Society, and I lived that time very close to my Provincial. Those were years of initiatives and experiments, some of them risky; also years of joy and pain; at times much pain. The relationships in Rome between the Church and the Society had become strained, even stormy. We all know that and there is no one to blame here; on the one side John Paul II, now declared a saint, a determined leader of the universal Church and the supreme head of the Society; on the other, Pedro Arrupe, also a saint in his own way, a mystic and a visionary. The two men had their differences, and Father Rasquinha was caught in a double fidelity. God alone knows how much he suffered. That was a time when many of us learned a fantastic lesson of how the Society of Jesus, being at the frontline of the Church, has to move forward, under the holy mother the hierarchical Church, under and with the Roman Pontiff. Edwin had the many qualities needed in one who has to lead in difficult times. Of course Edwin was subject to his own limitations, and I thank God for having witnessed how he combined these qualities and limitations - a task not always easy, at times simply not possible. I remember how he called me on one occasion with a poignant question: "What do you feel and what do I say to the Province in the present situation?" My first answer was polite, but certainly not to his liking. I must have replied that "if the Church wants something, we have to do it, even if hard". I remember that he thundered back: "This is what you and I say in public: but right here what do you feel and think?" I had to be honest and almost crying replied "They have touched our General, the apple of the eye of our Society, something most dear to us". I still see his eyes shining with relief. He replied, "This is what I want to hear from you; now we can go and preach obedience, and all this". When working with Edwin there was never an idle moment. I recall his honesty, mainly his honesty, his trust in persons and his demands too, his deep humility and also the occasional
manifestations of the harshness of his character. I will mention one incident as testimony of his great personality. He usually passed on to me the drafts of his letters, with the request to soften some of his expressions. I knew how he wanted me to combine more palatable language with accurate fidelity to his
thoughts. He once gave me a draft and asked me to have that letter typed without telling me to revise it. As always, I modified a couple of words. He disliked that and admonished me, "You correct my letters when I ask you to do it. If I don't say that, don't correct them!" A man consistent to the very end. When he entered into the twilight of his life, his good qualities became more visible, especially his tenderness. After his provincialship our meetings were sincere as always and our friendship increased. His time in the infirmary has been an example of a genuine Jesuit, even to those of you who did not experience those years when he was 'A lion of Judah.' In his first encounter today face to face with God, I am sure that the good Jesus has embraced him saying: "I was waiting for you, Edwin. The Society of Jesus, my Society, has always been the passion of your life." I can imagine that Fr. Rasquinha agreed, and just
before entering heaven signed the final document of his identity: Edwin Rasquinha S.J.
- J.M. Feliu SJ
OUR BELOVED BRO. PACU COLACO SJ
By Tony George SJ
Br. Pascoal Colaco SJ was born on the 16th of February 1941. He was fondly called 'Pacu' from his childhood days, which carried on in the Society of Jesus till today. Pacu's very name recalls the feast of Easter and he really was all alive and fresh during all his days spent in the missions with the poor of God. Surprisingly, it is not at all coincidence that he was very intimately close to JESUS as HIS beloved Jesuit. His name is the event of the RISEN LORD. He entered the Bombay Province of the Society of Jesus on the eve of Christmas on 24th of December 1964, the year of the Eucharistic Congress in Mumbai. He dies on the last day of the year and is buried at St. Michael's Manickpur on the feast of the naming of Jesus, the very name of the Society of Jesus. His daily reciting of the Rosary saw that he bade happy farewell on the Feast of Mary, Mother of God.
On the 16th of February Br. Pacu would have been 80 years of age and would have completed 56 years in the Society. Except for a few years in Vinayalaya, and 4 - 5 years at Holy Cross in Nashik, Br. Pacu spent all his apostolic years in various missions of the Bombay Province - Ambatha, Manor, Nandurbar, Shirpur being the last. This good Samaritan Pacu spent 7 to 8 years approximately in every mission station.
His simplicity was remarkable. He had a small suit case consisting of few pants, a shirt or two, and few kurtas some vets and a muffler. I suppose in Shirpur being very cold, he must have got an old sweater from someone. He had a copy of the New Testament, a rosary, a pair of glasses which he hardly used, may be only to read. His favourite and dearest apostolate was visiting people, chiefly in the missions; to visit the parents and when the boarding boys were at vacations to go and see what they were busy with. Some of them would struggle to get food being away from the Boarding. 'Pacu Bhau', was always awaited by people for his joy was contagious. He recalls in these rounds two nightmares on his visits to faraway villages. Once he was carried away by a very strong current while crossing the river during the monsoon at Ambatha. Though a good swimmer he was carried quite far. Finally a wave pushed him near the bank where he could tug on to a strong bush and was saved. In the struggle he had to forgo his chappals, his sling bag with a few rupees in it, and his wrist watch. I don't think after that he wore a watch afterwards. The second incident was when he was returning home late evening from a village; he tucked his pants and was about to wash his face he saw a tiger drinking water on the other side. He ran for his life, went to the village back and spent the night. These fears never left him, so he always belted out his pet line: आठवणी विसरायच्या असतात,पण विसरण्याच्या वाटा सापडत नसतात ! Memories are great glory and tragedies of humankind; you cannot easily wipe them away. Man cannot be human without his memories.
I was Parish priest in Holy Cross Nashik, when after a year he was transferred from Nandurbar for a change of work and a change of rural to urban life. He was simply worn out but in a month's time he was feeling fit. He simply loved the poor. He was in-charge of the टिळक वाचनाल (Tilak Vachnalay.) So his poor included not only the parishioners of Holy Cross but all the people coming to Tilak Vachnalay. It was his silent way of carrying out Inter religious dialogue. Thus he had a wide 'Mitra Parivar' and was known as 'Bhartiya Ekatmata Samiti' which initiated the celebration of Christmas and celebration of Gandhi Jayanti. He has been a pioneer of inter cultural programmes in Holy Cross, Nashik, which are carried on on a big scale today. Thus you will know Br. Pacu with a vision of his own silently promoting what we are called today to opt for in the UAPs. Pacu enjoyed reading. He chose to read spiritual books in English and Literature in Marathi, of which novels and poetry and नाटक were his favourites. On the way to the bazaar and to purchase new books and magazines he used to pass the famous Kalidas Natyamandir and Parshuram Saikhedkar Natyagruha to see the posters of Marathi plays. He never went alone, always encouraged others to come along with him. Whenever he dropped by in Nashik he went for Marathi plays. Many who accompanied him started to enjoy Marathi Drama and the language, so much so that those who came in contact with him this way began to speak good Marathi, that too quite spontaneously. This is another good contribution of Pacu to our Bombay Province. Fr. Tony D'mello SJ was Rector of Vinayalaya when I was a novice and Br. Pacu was the sub-minister with Fr. Serrano. Vinayalaya was a great hub of group prayers, with tertians in the house with Fr. Tony D'mello. Right from my first year of the novitiate till the end of the juniorate we had a small group of prayer that met in Pacu's room, presently room J11. We sat on a mat with Pacu's vows crucifix and a diya for more than an hour every week. We really got a taste for prayer during those hours, praying and reflecting on the Word of God. In Holy Cross again I had the opportunity to pray together with him every week. Before every Parish Council we prayed like this together.
On the last day of the year, 31st December, he had a severe back ache, and at around 1-00 in the morning he went to Br. Maxim's room, asked him to put balm on his back. Maxim hardly finish massaging Pacu, when Pacu collapsed into Br. Maxim's arms. By falling into the arms of Br. Maxim it was as if Br. Pacu was saying that we Brothers in the Society of Jesus are still very important even today. He always cherished being a Brother in the Society. Fr. Diago's sister, Sr. Sheela D'Souza, went to see him on the 30th of December with lots of Christmas gifts. She was surprised to see him so happy and heartily laughing at her jokes. For her it was a great surprise that he was no more the next day. My sister Sr. Margaret as she stepped in the jeep which came along with the ambulance all the way from Shirpur to Vasai said to me. She said that I observed something, that is - 'Pacu waving his hands to Sr. Sheela and saying loudly, "Sheela, I appreciate your kind visit," but never added his usual "COME AGAIN"!
Our Dearest Br. Pacu, a very happy birthday to you on the 16th of February 2020. On that day you will complete 79 and enter the 80th year of your birth. We truly appreciate you for being with us. Do intercede for more young men to be BROTHERS in the Bombay Province of the Society of Jesus. खरच पाकु आठवणी विसरायच्या असतात, पण तुला विसरण्याच्या वाटा मुळी सापडणारच नाहीत !
REQUIEM FOR A JESUIT MISSIONARY
Fr Louis Menezes SJ (1934-2019)
By Myron Pereira SJ
(Taken from the Bombay Samachar, Jan 2020)
In the late 60s, the English Jesuits working as missionaries in Guyana, South America, asked their confreres in Bombay to help them with personnel. The Bombay Province accordingly sent many Jesuits to this distant land. Louis Menezes was one of these.
During the twenty years - 1971 to 1993 - he spent in that beautiful, tragic country, Louis moved from parish to parish, preaching, organizing, inspiring, healing and helping, as most pastors do. Most of his years were spent in the coastal areas, where the bulk of the people lived. But he also put in many years ministering to an indigenous people living along the Orinoco river, which divides Guyana from Venezuela. They were the Warao - and so closely did Louis identify with them that years later in Mazagaon, he published a dictionary in their language, with an accompanying grammar.
Mission was Louis's overwhelming preoccupation, and so it broke his heart to have to return to India in 1993. This had become sadly inevitable however, for the privations in Guyana during the years of the Referendum broke his health, both physically and emotionally.
It was then that we first met, when I invited him to St Mary's in the early 90s to help in the parish.
But Louis did much more, both here and later at St Xavier's - he re-organized the library, he tutored the scholastics, set himself to translate anew Lakshmibai Tilak's pioneering autobiography, Smriti Chitre, subsequently published by Katha (1998). For years he served unostentatiously as a proof-reader and book-editor for numerous publications of Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand. And then in 2003, with a little nudging from me, he published One Day at a Time, a diary of his twenty years in Guyana, written with great tenderness and transparency, and interwoven with a number of his poems. It is truly the "diary of a country priest" for today.
Louis had chosen as his priestly motto those words of St Paul, "to spend and be spent in the service of God's people". God took him at his word. The dedication of such men and their total availability for mission, tell us that we are in the presence of a grace-filled life. All that remains for us is to echo those words from the Gospel, "Well done, good and faithful servant, Louis. Enter now into the joy of the Lord!"
ERROL: A BROTHERLY PAEAN
by Godfrey D'Lima SJ (Errol's Brother)
When speaking to each one of you
On Errol's health & spirit
I sense a depth of love for him
No feat of life can merit.
A love enduring years and years
In journeys far and near
As brother, friend and confidant
Sage or simple peer.
Heaven calls to him today
In weakened health enduring
Errol answers in his heart
Not sure of strength or curing.
But this we want him to know well
No matter what transpires
We hold him firmly in our heart
Whether he soars or tires.
And Christ His Lord will never part
His power forever leavens
Keeping with him in every breath
From here unto the heavens.
The care of many reaches him
From dawn to eventide
May all be blessed for love and care
God's peace in you abide.
- Godfrey D'Lima
Photo credit: DNC Times, Pune