On Tuesday, January 16, 65-year-old Candida Fernandes travelled all the way from Calangute to Sancoale and after participating in the High Mass was seen venerating the façade of the Church of Nossa Senhora de Saude (Our Lady of Health).
Devotees thronged Sancoale on Tuesday to celebrate the feast of St Joseph Vaz, the patron of the Archdiocese and the son of the soil. Like Candida, many knelt facing the majestic frontispiece of the old church, praying for their loved ones.
“I have been coming for this feast every year without fail. It’s the faith that brings me here, and when I come here, I whisper a prayer at the façade and it is always fulfilled,” says Candida.
Bishop of Daltonganj Diocese, Theodore Mascarenhas, was the main celebrant at the High Mass, along with four other Bishops, that included Archbishop Patriarch Reverend Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrao, Bishop of Agartala Lumen Monteiro, Emeritus Bishop of Port Blair Aleixo Dias and Bishop of Sindudurg Allwyn Barreto. Along with them was Vicar General Dr Jose Remedios Fernandes and around 50 other priests.
In his message, Bishop Mascarenhas urged hundreds of devotees to stay united and prayed that those few who are misguided, should see the light to maintain unity, peace and harmony among citizens.
“Goa has three saints that we look up to – St Francis Xavier, St Joseph Vaz and Fr Agnel – we have very good examples to lead our lives,” Bishop Theodore said, referring to the theme for this year that was, ‘Let us truly follow Jesus after the example of St Joseph Vaz’ (Bhagevont Juze Vazachi dekh gheun Jezucho niz pattlav korum-ia).
Theodore Mascarenhas, Bishop of Daltonganj Diocese
Among the devotees was 45-year-old Esperance, her husband and children, who attended the High Mass as her children had a holiday. “My mother was a staunch believer of St Joseph Vaz and she would attend novenas. Two years ago, she even walked barefoot for mass here. We are following in her footsteps,” says Esperance, as she walks ahead to buy some piping hot baked channa and kaddio boddio.
The barren land in front of the church façade was bustling with children, squealing in excitement, women bargaining and the men just accompanying them at the fair.
Santan Dias at the sausage pao stall kept telling the vendor, “ani ek choris ghall gho!” (add another piece of sausage). A little further, the potters sold their kunnes, dumples (earthenware) and home décor products.
“Going for a feast and not returning with chonne (grams) and biknna (groundnut) is not acceptable at my home. My grandkids are waiting for me, so I got them some grams, toys and hair clips too,” says Santan.
The church was built in 1606 and though it was destroyed in a mysterious fire in 1834, the façade has remained intact. St Joseph Vaz, Goa’s first and till now only saint, is also known as the Friday Boy – as various important events in his life occurred on a Friday.