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Servant of God Mgr Raymond Francis Camillus Mascarenhas, the former Vicar General of the Diocese of Mangalore and the Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany was a holy priest of the Diocese of Mangalore. His memory is fresh in us, though he went to his eternal abode in the year 1960. He is remembered for his pastoral zeal and commitment.
Mgr Mascarenhas was a renowned educationist of his time and visualized education as a means to give life and transform the ignorant, especially the poor and the girls.
Kanarites, past and present, are known for diverse achievements. A few months ago a Konkani group secured an entry into the Guinness Book Of World Records. Now, a saintly priest and son of Mangalore has reached unique heights, being declared ‘Servant of God’. It is the first of three steps towards canonization; an entry, so to say, into the ‘Guinness Book Of Saints’ of the Roman Catholic Church.
Though Christianity came to India about 2000 years ago, probably not after it did in Europe, it is estimated the Catholic Church came to Mangalore about 440 years ago. Historians think that probably the first Holy Mass to be celebrated in Mangalore was on 6 January 1568.
India has one canonized Saint in St Gonsalo Garacia of Vasai near Mumbai. The second to be canonized (in October 2008) will be Bl Sr Alphonso of Kerala. We have from time to time heard of many saintly people in our community over the years, but one wonders why are there so many Saints from the West and so few from our side of the world? Probably because of the distance from Rome and perhaps a lack of will in the years gone by to further the case for our saintly folk.
The Historic Declaration of June 2008
June 3, 2008 is a historic date for Kanara, when Msgr Raymond F C Mascarenhas was declared ‘Servant Of God’ by the Roman Catholic Church. This holy priest is known for his landmark achievements and contributions to the Church. He founded the order of The Sisters Of The Little Flower Of Bethany on 16 July 1921, the first indigenous order of its kind in Mangalore.
Msgr Mascarenhas was instrumental and founding and forming the Bendur Parish and was its first Vicar in 1914. Many Mangalorean elders will have known, or would have had some family connections and pleasant encounters with this holy priest.
The solemn declaration pronouncing Msgr Raymond F C Mascarenhas as A Servant Of God was read out by the Bishop of Mangalore, Rt Rev Dr Aloysius P D’ Souza who celebrated Holy Mass at Bendur Church on 16 June 2008. A large number of members of religious congregations and a cross section of the laity attended the event.
The acceptance by the Sacred Congregation For the Cause Of Saints in the Vatican, and the effort of the Bishop of the Diocese of Mangalore towards this effort were acknowledged, not forgetting the yeoman efforts over the last 8 years of Rev Sr M Jyoti, Superior General of the Sisters of The Little Flower Of Bethany and her team.
CASK President 1931-41
For the Catholic Association of South Kanara (CASK) and its members spread all over the world this is indeed a significant event. Msgr Raymond Mascarenhas was President of CASK for ten years from 1931 to 1941.
CASK was founded in 1914 and in its early years had the Bishop as its titular head.
In 1931 Bishop Victor Fernandes nominated his new Vicar General Msgr Raymond Mascarenhas as the President of CASK, surely in recognition of the reputation he earned for his ability and contribution as Parish Priest of Bendur Parish.
The then Vice President of CASK M. S. Sreshta in 1914 said this about the CASK President: ‘After you became President of our Association, you took a most active interest in its good works. Your breadth of vision, grasp of needs, mastery of detail, your ability to discriminate between essentials and non-essentials, your courage, availability and patience with all, your decisions arrived at, along with many other special qualities all contributed to the superior work that was turned out for and by the Association during your regime’. This fairly sums up the stature, qualities and contribution of our now ‘Servant Of God’.
Roots and Family
Msgr R F C Mascarenhas, the 7th of 13 children of Lazarus Mascarenhas (0f the Mascarenhas Prabhus of Falnir) and Joanna Castelino was born on Saturday, 23rd January 1875 in Shimoga where his father had been posted for a short while at the Commissioner’s office on deputation from Mangalore.
His great grandfather Paul Mascarenhas (1775-1837), on his return from captivity at Srirangapattna, started a timber business in Mangalore which was in Mangalore which was carried on by his son Domingo Jose, Msgr Mascarenhas’ grandfather.
Msgr Mascarenhas was baptized on 27 January 1875 at Shimoga’s Sacred Heart Church (now Cathedral). His parents were devout and faithful catholics. Young Raymond received his first Holy Communion at Milagres Church in 1885. He studied in Milagres School and St Aloysius College, passing his matriculation with flying colours. At age 16 he joined St Joseph Seminary in Mangalore.
Msgr Raymond’s siblings have been prominent in the service of the community. One brother, John Joseph, was headmaster at a school in Kankanady. Another brother, Simon Lawrence (1870-1945), was an eminent medical practitioner and as a pioneer doctor at Fr Muller Hospital.
Another relative, noted social worker E. C. M. Mascarenhas (1865-1942), retired as Deputy Conservator of Forests. He was a member of the Madras Legislative Council and was conferred the title ‘Rai Sahib’. He was also the editor of ‘Mangalore’ in the 1920’s.
Msgr Mascarenhas In The Church
The intense piety, dedication and humility of this giant personality toward Cathlic ideals of Love and Charity became visible from his early years. Ordained a priest in Mangalore on 4th March 1900, he first served as Assistant at Milagres, then at Kallianpur making a mark as preacher and as an administrator. Soon he was appointed as Parish Priest at Udyavar (1903-10), and then to Agrar (1910-14) where his qualities as an organizer and builder came to the fore. He was then handpicked by the people to be the Founder Parish Priest of the newly established Bendur Parish where he served for 17 years until he was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese of Mangalore in 1931.
It was during this period that the depth of his intellect and understanding, and his proactive focus on the uplift of the poor was demonstratedly visible.
Msgr Mascarenhas was the first to translate the New Testament into Konkani in 1949, to bring the message of Christ more clearly to the flock in times when Church worship was in Latin. He also translated popular hymns from Latin into English and Konkani His writings in Konkani and English in areas of prayer, liturgy, language and education are so numerous that he came to be known as the “Apostle of the Media”. In recognition of his contribution, Pope Pius XII conferred on him the honour ‘Domestic Prelate’.
Msgr Mascarenhas’ crowning achievement, it is universally agreed, is his founding of an indigenous order of nuns in Mangalore in 1921, ‘Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany’, fulfilling a hope of the Konkani Catholics of Mangalore for a home-grown and relatively less sophisticated congregation of sisters. With the assistance of four dedicated educators from prominent local families an Apostolate was started near Bendur Church which grew into a community of dedicated sisters. On 25 March 1922 the order celebrated the Annunciation as their titular feast, and this still continues every year. The motto of the order is ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord’. The order received Canonical Erection in 1932 in record time, to further its goals.
After 1941 the Msgr directed his focus on the growth of the Congregation and efforts in the field of education. He took up residence in a cottage in the compound of the Motherhouse on the periphery of Bendur Church.
It is today called the ‘Founder’s Cottage’ and the good sisters have today transformed it into a virtual museum with precious pictures and relics of Msgr Mascarenhas who lived there until his death on 23rd December 1960. He was buried in front of the main altar of his beloved St Sebastian Church, Bedur. In 1988 when his cause to sainthood was investigated, a portion of his remains were shifted to the cottage where he died, and an impressive memorial was erected there.
In the 1960’s the order had 28 convents in 6 Dioceses, and many more schools and institutions. Today there are 1300 nuns in 162 convents in India and Abroad (14). They serve in the fields of Education, Medical Care, Development, Care for the Aged, and Pastoral work.
The saintly Cause of Servant of God Msgr RFC Mascarenhas is indeed a proud and joyful matter for the Mangalorean community and needs to be marked in a special way. In conformity with the norms in the cause of saints that have to be observed, the Bishop of Mangalore, and the Superior General of the Bethany Sisters have called upon the laity in general to have recourse for their needs to our Servant of God, and to report favours received and other useful information to further the Beatification and Canonization process. Let there be saintliness in the rich soil of our land.