Last Tuesday a cardinal, two archbishops and one auxiliary bishop joined more than 2,000 mourners, who came to bid farewell to my close friend Father Peter Raposo, a Catholic priest for 17 years, at the picturesque Pilar hill in Goa.
The young and dynamic priest suddenly passed away in Ohio in the US, where he was in the final year of completing PhD degree in journalism. He suffered from a heart attack. He was 43.
In his death, the Catholic Church in particular and the country has lost a progressive and forward looking man of God, who dreamt of bringing more people close to God. He told me stories of tribal people in Ranchi in Jharkhand and his love for them was obvious as he narrated many of his sweet encounters with them. The Indian tribal community has lost their great supporter and admirer.Funeral
He drew applause from none other than Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, Archdiocese of Ranchi in Jharkhand, where he was posted as his secretary from June 2006 – 2010. Because of him, I could interview the cardinal over the phone on several issues plaguing the country and offer solutions from the perspective of the Catholic Church.
One of the top officials of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) told me that they were trying to bring Father Raposo (after his PhD) to Delhi as a faculty to strengthen NISCORT (National Institute of Social Communications, Research and Training). The priest on his part always told me despite many offers in the US, he was clear that he wanted to return to India and work here for the Catholic Church and serve the people.
He would have been the right choice to inspire and produce crops of talented media personnel year after year. CBCI set up NISCORT to produce committed media persons of high caliber, who are ready to take the risk to act responsibly and with conviction, to support mainstream journalism and provide a counterweight to sensationalism.
Father Raposo, with his exposure overseas in media and communication, would have provided an alternative to counter the mushroom growth of communication institutes that are grossly business and profit oriented, by discouraging actively the craze for excessive profit so that the mass media can really serve and promote the common good of the nation.
Fr Raposo, member of the Pilar Society in Goa and former editor of the Konkani weekly Vauraddeancho Ixtt (workers friend) from 2001-2006, was an associate professor at the Ohio University. The dramatist-musician priest, who played an active role in the production of film-maker Pooja Bhatt’s movie Holiday had completed his Masters in Organizational Communication and Training and Development at DePaul University at Chicago and in 2012, and was awarded a scholarship by the Ohio University.
As an associate professor of communication at the university, he was popular among students and was pursuing the third year of doctoral studies on “Servant Leadership” as opposed to leadership propagated by the world. The priest pointed out that Jesus style of leadership was selfless and that style would help even political leaders today.
I met Father Raposo, who also studied journalism at the prestigious Xavier Institute of Communication, Mumbai, when I was president of the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA). He sought help to revamp the paper and soon gave it a new dynamic look, focusing on real stories of the people with photographs from across the country. He made the paper professional by hiring professional journalists and paying them well. For he knew, if you pay peanuts, you get only monkeys, as it were.
Father Raposo pulsated with the aspiration of young India acquired in a pan India exposure as he undertook philosophy studies at Varanasi, graduating in the Allahabad University. He undertook pastoral ministry in Mumbai and Ranchi. He even studied Hindi Literature, obtaining a BA from the Allahabad University in 1993.
Since 2010, he was a member of National Communication Association and Eastern Communication Association and from 2003 onwards a member of Indian Catholic Press Association and its governing council from 2004-2009. He was a member of International Catholics Organization of the Media and from 2004-2006 and was member of Dalgado Konkani Academy, Goa.Michael Gonsalves
The priest was awarded the 2012 Top Three Paper Award by Communication Education Interest Group of the Central States Communication Association (CSCA) which strives to unite and educate people with both an affinity to the central region of the United States and a scholarly interest in all areas of communication for promotion of their mutual goals and advancement of their field.
While in 2007, Father Raposo received the UCIP International Award for Photo Journalism from international professional organization for Catholic journalists, publishers, and professors of journalism or communication and in 2005, he was conferred the ICPA National Award for outstanding contribution in Journalism during his tenure at Vauraddeancho Ixtt.
But above all, he was a man of God, holy and human. His true greatness was that he brought the divinity of Christ to people whom he met in various capacities. I will remember him as a holy priest, for on many occasions, just the two of us celebrating Mass in the chapel during my stay as media consultant at Pilar hill in Goa.
Farewell Father Raposo.
(The writer is senior assistant editor at Financial Chronicle, a multi-city edition business newspaper and former president of Indian Catholic Press Association -ICPA)