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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.
Mangalore, a city in South Kanara District of Karnataka State, India, is situated on a coastal strip between the towering Western Ghats and the azure Arabian Sea. Various powers have fought for control over Mangalore. In 1520, the Portuguese took control of the area from Vijayanagara rulers. Hyder Ali, the ruler of Mysore conquered Mangalore in 1763, and it was under his administration until 1768, before being annexed by the British between 1768 and 1784. In 1784 Tippu Sultan again took control of the area, but it was re-conquered by the British upon the fall of Srirangapatna in 1799. It was a part of the Madras Presidency until India gained its independence. In 1956 Mangalore was merged into a unified Karnataka State.
The period from 1784 to 1799 forms a sad page in the history of the Christians of South Kanara. In 1784, Tippu Sultan invaded Mangalore and began his persecution of the Christians. The Christians were taken captive to Srirangapatna. Those who returned to their original villages found it difficult to get back their old possessions.
Since the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Mangalore ecclesiastical area, a part of the Kanara mission which became a Vicariate Apostolic in 1845 and a diocese in 1887, passed several times successively under the jurisdiction of Goa, Verapoly and Pondicherry. In 1879, the Kanara mission was entrusted by the Holy See to the care of the Jesuit Province of Venice. With the official proclamation of the establishment of the Indian Hierarchy, in the Council of the Bishops of Southern India at Bangalore on 25 January 1887, Mangalore took its place in the Indian Hierarchy as the Diocese of Mangalore.
Family, Birth and Education of Servant of God Raymond (1875 – 1890)
Raymond it is seen, hails from a devout Catholic family of Mangalore that had stood for the faith even in the face of persecution and death under Tippu Sultan. His roots can be traced to one of the several Christian families that emigrated from Goa to Mangalore in the 18 Century. Lazarus Mascarenhas and Joanna Castelino had thirteen children and Raymond was the seventh child of the family, born on 23 January 1875, on a Saturday at 12.30 pm at Shimoga, in Karnataka, where his father was working at the municipal commissioner’s office. He was baptized on the 27th of the same month in Sacred Heart Church, Shimoga and was named Raymond Camillus. Lazarus and Joanna, his parents were known for their piety and fidelity to the Christian faith. The sufferings and death of their ancestors under Tippu’s persecution and captivity at Srirangapatnam stood them in good stead to strengthen them in their faith and in the practice of virtues. This in turn had gone a long way in the training of their children.
Raymond’s parents Lazarus and Joanna belonged to Mangalore. After the retirement from government service in Shimoga, Lazarus returned to Mangalore with his wife and children. Raymond had his early education in Milagres Church School, Mangalore and received his first communion in Milagres Church in 1885. He passed his matriculation brilliantly with a first class from St Aloysius College, Mangalore.
From Msgr Raymond’s family there were many vocations for the priesthood and religious life. During his life time he had the joy of seeing his cousins, nieces, grand nieces, great grand nieces-32 of them being religious sisters in various Congregations, and nephews, cousins and great grand nephew - 6 of them becoming priests. Msgr Raymond is the great grand uncle of Fr Cedric Prakash, SJ of Gujarat Jesuit Province, and grand uncle of Miss Olinda Pereira who have all the admiration for their grand uncle. His two nephews Fr Stanley Mascarenhas and Fr Charles Mascarenhas had joined St Joseph’s Seminary, Allahabad about whom Msgr Raymond mentions in his letters to the sisters. They rendered their valuable and selfless services to the Diocese of Allahabad.
Priestly Vocation (1891-1914)
Inspite of every pressure to continue his studies, Raymond entered St Joseph’s Seminary, Mangalore on 23 February 1891 at the age of 16.
As a seminarian, he was pious and faithful and diligent in the practice of virtues and in the observance of the rules and regulations of the seminary life. He was ordained a priest for the diocese of Mangalore on 4 March 1900. As a young priest he worked as an assistant at Milagres, Mangalore, and at Mount Rosary at Kallianpur. He had made a mark as a great preacher and an able administrator in the early days. His reflections and wisdom won him the admiration of all those who came in contact with him.
In 1903, Fr Raymond was appointed the parish priest of Udyavar where he built a monumental church edifice. He brought the compassionate love of Jesus to the poor and the needy using all his talents of mind and heart together with intense prayer and penance. Money was scarce in those days and the parishioners were very poor. Fr. Raymond trusted in the Divine Providence and he completed the work overcoming all the obstacles meeting the expenses through loans. Later on he paid off these loans on his own even after he was transferred. He carried on all his priestly ministries with great sacrifice relying on divine help. His next appointment was to Agrar parish and in this difficult and vast parish he laboured selflessly. He was a true shepherd to his flock. The following testimony of Fr John Cornelio, the assistant parish priest of Derebail Church in 1950 confirms this fact. “The good example he set by his own priestly life, the vigilant eye he kept and the timely advice he gave to many young men must have, no doubt, brought many vocations to the priesthood among the men of the parish in which he was working .
In 1914, at the request of the people SD8 Raymond was appointed the first parish priest of St Sebastian Church, Bendur, then an underdeveloped area outside of Mangalore town. For 17 years he worked hard to build up this parish in his own unique way. Realizing that Catholic education, mainly for the poor, was an essential part of pastoral ministry, he set up in the parish St Sebastian School and St Margaret Mary School at Bendur and St Joseph’s School at Kankanady.
Founding of an Indigenous Congregation (1921)
SD Raymond was deeply pained to see the distress of many young women who had genuine vocation to religious life but could not get entry into the then existing Congregations because of the requirement of higher education and exorbitant patrimony9. He was ready to spend his life for the poor and the neglected, so dear to the heart of our Lord. The Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany (commonly known as Bethany Sisters), an indigenous Congregation for women, founded by him on 16 July 1921, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in the Diocese of Mangalore was an answer to this need.
With the encouragement from the then bishop, Rt Rev Paul Perini, SJ he modestly began the Institute with just four lady teachers of the Bendur Parish namely, Sr M Martha ( Marceline Menezes), Sr M Clare (Flora Mathias), Sr M Lourdes (Alice Mathias), and Sr M Gertrude (Regina Gertrude Gonsalves), and it witnessed a steady growth. This work could be considered as the ‘Magnum Opus’ - the crowning glory of Msgr Raymond’s accomplishments. It answered triple needs of that period, ie, providing Catholic education for the poor, especially the girls, presenting an opportunity for the girls who had genuine vocation to consecrate their lives to God as religious, irrespective of their status in society and to supply good, dedicated and qualified permanent teachers to teach in the schools and to impart Christian doctrine in schools and parishes in the rural areas.
As Vicar General of the Diocese (1931-1941)
On 1 August 1931, Bishop Victor Fernandes appointed SD Raymond, vicar general of Mangalore10. In the midst of all these direct works of the sacred ministry Msgr Raymond found time to devote himself to serving God’s people in many other capacities, ie, he was the President of Roman Catholic Pioneer Fund,11 the Municipal Councillor,12 the Officialis of the Diocese,13 the Founding Vice-president of the Catholic Board of Education (1932-1941),consultant to the bishop, the President of the Catholic Association of South Kanara(1931-1941), and such other associations and institutions for the benefit of the Catholic community. After his retirement from the vicar general’s office in 1941, SD Raymond devoted full attention to the growth of the Congregation he had founded.
More Zealous for the Kingdom (1941-1955)
Though retired in name, he totally dedicated himself to direct the Bethany Congregation to venture into new mission territories in the dioceses of Goa, Belgaum, Calicut and Mysore. In all these areas Bethany Sisters involved themselves in pastoral, social and educational activities. Great emphasis was laid on the education of poor girls. It was during this period (1948) that the Bethany Educational Society was formed and registered. SD Raymond became a life member of the society. He was also the founder and the president of Madeleine Educational Society that he established in 1948.
Obsessed with zeal for the spread of the Kingdom, in 1949 for the first time in the history of the diocese SD Raymond translated the four Gospels and the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Konkani. It was his 75th birthday and sacerdotal golden jubilee gift to Holy Mother the Church. On this occasion, his eminence Cardinal Fumasoni Biondi, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide, sent a letter of felicitation to Msgr Raymond dated 7 January 1950 appreciating his commendable contribution to Mother the Church. Various ecclesiastical authorities also congratulated SD Raymond for his praiseworthy contribution to the Church.
In 1952 Msgr Raymond completed and published the translation of the whole New Testament into Konkani. By 1954 he had finished the translation of five books of the Old Testament. All these activities reveal the ardent desire of SD Raymond to preach the word of God to the simple and the poor.
Domestic Prelate (1955)
Recognizing the commendable pastoral, educational and social activities of SD Raymond and his inspiring life, Rt Rev Dr Basil Peres, the then Bishop of Mangalore recommended him to the Holy See for the honour of ‘Domestic Prelate.’ Pope Pius XII presented a public token of his benevolence towards SD Raymond in June 1955, for his outstanding service to the Church by conferring on him the honour of ‘Domestic Prelate.’
Voyage to the Eternal Home (1960)
After this moment of glory SD Raymond had to pass through a period of intense suffering, trials and misunderstandings from various quarters. He faced the trials in great faith, joining in the sufferings of Jesus and Mother Mary. On the occasion of his anticipated diamond jubilee celebration on 29 February 1960 SD Raymond was struck by partial paralysis. In spite of it he was peaceful and serene and remained close to Jesus and Blessed Mother through repeated fervent ejaculatory prayers. SD Raymond left for His eternal home peacefully on 23 December 1960 and was buried before the high altar at St Sebastian Church, Bendur, Mangalore.
Reputation of Sanctity (1960)
As the news of Msgr Raymond’s passing away spread through the city, the most heard exclamation: “He was a holy priest!” Rt Rev Raymond D’Mello, the then Bishop of Mangalore said, “Msgr Mascarenhas was a great priest who has done great things for God. May the Lord grant him eternal rest.”14 Sr Noreen who was present at the funeral of Msgr Raymond reported of an instant cure from fever after she participated in the funeral service. As the years rolled by, many sisters and people began to recount the temporal and spiritual favours received by them through the intercession of Msgr Raymond.
Vocations to Bethany Institute increased threefold. Within a decade of SD Raymond’s death, the Institute founded by him spread all over India and also to Europe. In 1971 on the occasion of its Golden Jubilee, the Congregation was declared of Pontifical Rite by a Decree of Praise from Propaganda Fide, Rome.
Personality of Servant of God Raymond Anchored in Spirituality
SD Raymond is known to be a zealous and holy priest of God. The most striking factor about SD Raymond was his radiant spirituality, which was deep-rooted in faith, hope and charity. Prayer was the breath of his life. He was found praying for long hours before the Blessed Sacrament. A life of reflection, silence, simplicity, asceticism, and great zeal for souls were special traits of his personality. Annual retreats to him were occasions of re-dedication and renewal.
He was consistent, constant and active in the heroic practice of virtues, especially obedience, charity, humility, justice, and fortitude. All his apostolic activities exemplify his virtuous life. His constant union with the Incarnate Word illuminated the faith in Him and he pursued the will of God in all things. The poor had a special place in his life and he gave generously to the poor sacrificing his own needs.
A Devotee of Mother Mary
The Servant of God had a great devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary. During his free time and while travelling, he would always pray the Rosary. On 16 July 1946, on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the Bethany’s Foundation, Mgr Raymond solemnly consecrated the entire Congregation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and expressed a desire that sisters renew this consecration every year on the same day. He taught the sisters to invoke her as the ‘Queen Mother of Bethany’ and to adopt ‘Ecce Ancilla Domini’ (Behold the Handmaid of the Lord) of the Annunciation as their motto and ideal.The deep love that SD Raymond had for Our Lady of Lourdes is displayed in his writings: “Our Lady of Lourdes who on the Annunciation Day, 25 March manifested herself as being ‘The Immaculate Conception’ and whose last farewell visit to Bernadette occurred on the day on which the first four sisters had the happiness to enter together their new life viz, the feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, 16 July, will be the object of special love and veneration in the Congregation.” The sorrows of Mary as commemorated in the hymn Stabat Mater were a frequent subject of his meditation. He had instilled in the sisters a special devotion to Our Lady of Dolours which they expressed by praying the rosary of the Seven Sorrows, and the stations of the Seven Sorrows. He erected the Pieta and stations of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady in the Motherhouse Chapel. He was noted for a childlike devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. His special devotion to Our Lady of Fatima was evident when the statue of Our Lady of Fatima was brought to the Bethany motherhouse chapel on 21 December 1948.
Mgr Raymond’s personalised love for Lord Jesus was manifested in his devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the fervour and zeal at the Eucharistic celebration as well as devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. He was at his best when there was any opportunity to give public honour to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. His starting of perpetual adoration on 28 October 1935, in the newly founded Congregation speaks of his great faith and trust in Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Unfortunately the night adoration had to be discontinued six years later on 20 December 1942 due to sickness and death of the sisters. Once again the day adoration from 8 am to 10 pm was re-introduced on 16 July 1994 in Bethany Motherhouse and in the provinces for half day. In 1996, during the Platinum Jubilee year of the Institute, ‘round the clock adoration’ by the participation of every community of the Congregation was introduced.
During the last years of his life when he was confined to his room, he constantly begged to be carried to the chapel, and to be helped to sit before the Blessed Sacrament. In the sunset days of his earthly life, he prayed incessantly his favourite ejaculatory prayers to the Holy Eucharist and His Blessed Mother.
A Renowned Preacher
Gifted with a sharp memory and eloquence of speech, SD Raymond could speak on any topic of interest and expatiate on it at length with clarity of thought and precision. He was a dynamic preacher in English and Konkani. He preached retreats to the priests, religious and the lay people.
One sentence from the Bible was sufficient for reflection, and words of affection and devotion would naturally flow from him to stir the hearts of those who heard him. The homily that he preached at the First Diocesan Eucharistic Congress in the diocese of Mangalore on 29 December 1938 had left such an impact on the hearers that people even today quote from it.
Apostle of the Print Media
SD Raymond wanted to share his devotion to Jesus and the Blessed Mother through his writings. The renowned diocesan weekly, Raknno in the issue of January 1961 eulogized SD Raymond as ‘The Apostle of the Print Media’. He unceasingly worked for God’s glory and the salvation of souls through his writings. When the advancing years restricted the apostolic activities of the Servant of God he worked more with his pen. The most outstanding work of Mgr Raymond was the translation of The Four Gospels in 1949 and The New Testament in 1952 into Konkani, the language of the majority of the Catholics of South Kanara. It was for the first time, the Gospels and the New Testament were translated into Konkani 380 years after the advent of Christianity into Kanara. The Word of God reached the homes of the ordinary Christians. The Konkani translations enabled local people to meaningfully participate in worship and increased their desire to pray. That was an expression of his great zeal to make Jesus known to the people. The Holy See lauded his great achievement of the translation.
Beginning of the Process of Canonization:
Ever since the death of the Servant of God Raymond on 23 December 1960, the members of the Congregation and the people began to experience the power of his intercession. On 16 July 1996, on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee of the Congregation the Founder’s cottage was set up as Mgr Raymond Memorial and was inaugurated and blessed by His Eminence Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy. Gradually this cottage has turned out to be a place of prayer and pilgrimage.
The delegates of the thirteenth General Chapter who met at Bethany Convent, Mangalore in 1998 deliberated to request the Bishop of the Diocese of Mangalore to initiate the Cause of Beatification of the Founder, Mgr Raymond FC Mascarenhas. Communicating the desire of the delegates of the Chapter to the Bishop, Sr Jyoti, BS, the Superior General set up a preparatory committee in 2001 under the leadership of Sr Lillis, BS and Sr Benedict BS to reset the documents in the archives of Bethany Generalate and to set up a spiritual and cultural centre. Subsequently with the approval of the Bishop, Sr Jyoti appointed Sr Lillis as the postulator for the Cause of the Beatification and Canonization of Mgr Raymond FC Mascarenhas. Sr Miriam was appointed as the Vice Postulator. Having followed the norms laid down by the Church for the Cause, the Bishop of Mangalore Most Rev Aloysius Paul D’Souza, announced through a pastoral letter to the clergy and the faithful of the Diocese of Mangalore on 3 June 2008 that Mgr Raymond Francis Camillus Mascarenhas as the Servant of God. The same was proclaimed during the Eucharistic celebration on 16 June, 2008.
At the outset the Bishop of Mangalore, Most Rev Aloysius Paul D’ Souza set up a Theological Commission. Thereafter on 17 August 2008, he opened the Diocesan Board of Inquiry for the Cause of the Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God. Rev Fr Henry Sequeira was appointed the Episcopal Delegate, Fr John Mendonca, the Promotor of Justice and Fr Maxim Rosario, the Notary. Fr John Baptist Saldanha, Fr Vincent Pinto, SJ and Sr Mariette, BS were appointed as the members of the Historical Commission. In 2010 Fr Peter Mascarenhas was appointed as a member of this commission.
Sr Wilberta, the newly elected Superior General of the Congregation in February 2010, pursues the Cause zealously for the glory of God and the good of the Church.
May the Lord grant to His servant, the honours of the altar for the greater glory of God and for the spread of His Kingdom.