Fr Joseph Vaz, also called the apostle of Ceylon, was born in Benaulim on April 21, 1651. He attended the parochial school of Sancoale, and later studied Latin in Benaulim, Humanities at the College of St Paul, and Philosophy and Theology at the College of St Thomas Aquinas, in Old Goa.
Ordained in 1675, he was a highly sought after preacher, and desired to follow in the footsteps of the great apostle of the Indies, St Francis Xavier. He was pious, spending much time in prayer, and caring for the poor and sick.
The Portuguese government wanted to propagate Catholicism in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), which was under Dutch (Protestant) rule in those days. Fr Vaz, who had just established the congregation of Oratorians of India, voluntered to go to Ceylon as a missionary. Accordingly, he left for Ceylon in March 1686 accompanied by a priest, a lay brother and a boy named Joao. The travelled on foot, and obtained food from devotees, as vowed by Fr Vaz. They travelled via Canara, the Malabar Coast, Cochin, Travancore and Tuticorin before reaching their destination, Colombo. Only Fr Vaz and Joao (disguised as beggars) reached Colombo since the other two left them midway and returned to Goa.
WORKING AGAINST THE ODDS
Fearing persecution by the Dutch, Fr Vaz worked under the cover of darkness, converting and reviving the faith of many. The Dutch got to know about his missionary work and issued warrants for his arrest. However, they were unsuccessful in capturing him.
In spite of a paralytic attack as well as the obstacles created by the Dutch, he continued his work as best as he could.
He was also a pioneer in his methods of evangelization, and practiced inculturation, wherein the positive aspects of our culture could be absorbed by the Catholic religion, without going against Gospel values.
Another important innovation came in the formation of lay leaders and catechists by Fr Vaz. He entrusted the local churches to the laity -- something that was unheard of and unthinkable in his day.
He breathed his last on January 16, 1711, at Ceylon. After his death, Fr Vaz was made a candidate for sainthood, and he was finally beatified on January 21, 1995 at Galle Face Green, in Colombo.
He was canonized on January 14, 2015 by Pope Francis at Galle Face Green, Sri Lanka.
Feast mass timings on Sunday, January 16, 2022 are as follows:
5.00 am; 6.15 am; 7.30 am; 8.30 am
10.00 am: Concelebrated Solemn High Mass, presided over by Most Rev Alwyn Barreto, the Bishop of Sindhudurg
4.00 pm: Konkani
5.30 pm: English
The Sanctuary of St Joseph Vaz, Sancoale, will be open to devotees for the veneration of the statue, relic from 7.30 am to 1.00 pm and from 3.00 pm to 7.00 pm.