The Franciscan missionaries built the Church of Mae de Deus in 1568 at Sonarkhett hill, situated between Siolim and Assagao. Its central location was ideal to serve the spiritual needs of the Catholic faithful in the surrounding villages of Anjuna, Assagao, Siolim and Oxel. However, the church survived for just 32 years, probably because it was made of a makeshift kutcha structure, that too, on a hill. All that remains of it today is a black stone cross at Sonarkhett.
The first chapel of Gaunsavaddo was built by the people of this ward in 1847, and blessed in 1859. The extension of the chapel was done in 1890 and 1905. The present structure was blessed in August 1972, and lies on the plot of the first church of Siolim. There is a plaque commemorating this fact in the chapel compound.
The Chapel of Mae de Deus (Mother of God) serves the ward of Gaunsavaddo, in Siolim, and the feast is celebrated on first Sunday in May.
A unique tradition, held in May, in this chapel involves the presence of a bride. No, it’s not a wedding ceremony, but a 70-year-old tradition involving a bride and her flower girls.
BEHIND THE BRIDAL TRADITION
In the courtyard of the Mae de Deus Chapel, there is a beautiful, life-sized statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which is placed on a pedestal. The statue was fashioned by the late Valentino Pinto, a Mangalorean master sculptor. It was installed on December 8, 1943, by Fr Lazarus Andrade, the then chaplain of the Mae de Deus Chapel; his purpose being that the people of Gaunsavaddo should gather to pray as one family, rather than have a small statue of Our Lady being taken from house to house (a Goan tradition called Saibinn).
And so, to this day, Gaunsavaddo is perhaps the only part of Goa, where the tradition of house-to-house Saibinn is not followed. Instead, the people of the ward gather together as one big family before the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and pray every evening, during the entire month of October.
On the first day of May, a bride (the first girl from the ward to be married after May 1) and her flower girls, all dressed in white, stand in front of the statue, reciting the rosary, along with fellow ward members.
Following the rosary, the bride climbs up the ladder and places a crown of white roses on the statue, with due ceremony. Upon her descent, the congregation enters the chapel, where mass is then celebrated. This tradition has been followed every year since 1944, and is still observed today.
This year, the feast of Mae de Deus (Mother of God) will be celebrated on May 1, 2022. The ceremony of the crowning of Our Lady of Fatima’s statue will be held at 8 am, followed by the feast mass.