Monsignor Lucio Mascarenhas
Belgaum, August 2, 2019: Every year on August 4 the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Saint John Marie Vianney, the universal patron of the priests.
On Vianney Sunday, the people in a very special way pray for their priests and appreciate their services. The priests, in their turn, thank the people and praise and thank God for giving them a share in the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ, the eternal High Priest. The priests thank God for the joys they experience in their priestly service.
My priestly joys
The motto of my ordination was “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22:27 ). On June 29, 1971, Bishop Ignatius Lobo of Belgaum ordained me as a priest and appointed me as assistant parish priest to San Salvador Church, Honavar.
Keeping my motto before my eyes I entered San Salvador Church. Parish priest Monsignor Michael Ciriaco Menezes of happy memory, extended a warm welcome to me and in the days that followed briefed me about the life of the people, area of the parish, number of substations, and other related matters. The area was large.
Today Honavar has nine churches. Those days we had just one parish.
I shall briefly share my joys under the following: Joy of celebrating the sacraments; Joy of visiting the families; Joy of bringing out the best in everyone.
Joy of celebrating the Sacraments
From the day of my ordination I strove to celebrate the Sacraments. I gave always a brief reflection on the Word of God.
In the celebration of the Baptism I tried to make it as personal as possible. To give just one example, instead of just saying, “Parents, what do you want for your child,” I take their names and say, “Joe and Philomena, what do you want for your child?” The same to the god parents, “Francis and Maria, are you ready to help Joe and Philomena, the parents of Christina in their duty as Christian parents”. It becomes so personal.
The same way, I prepared myself for the celebration of all sacraments as well as for all liturgical and para liturgical celebrations. Vatican II reminds the priests that their daily priestly ministry is the source of their sanctification. Through my daily ministry I drew strength for my daily life.
Joy of visiting the families
Honavar consisted of nearly 3,000 families. It had 10 islands. I visited those islands, spent an evening and night, collected the children, helped them to understand our Christian faith (catechism), taught them some hymns, celebrated sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, spent the night of local catholic leader’s home and next morning returned to the headquarters.
Those days there were no motorized boats; we had just simple boats rowed not by oars but just bamboos. In the towns I visited the families more often. I was happy to spend some time with them, listening to them, my visits helped me to know their real life situations as well as to discover their talents and motivate them to make use of them for the building of their communities.
Joy of bringing out the best in everyone
There were many associations well established in the parish such as: “Crusaders” for the boys, Legion of Mary for different groups such as children, youth and adults, merry makers. I attended these meetings and with short exhortations breathed in a new enthusiasm. Picnics, outings, skits for some occasion, were regular features that enabled the people to come closer to me and helped me to maintain my youthful vigor.
After four years in the active pastoral work I was asked to do my B Ed and appointed to different schools. Whenever I went I tried to motivate the people to make best use of their talents. In the schools too I always thought of myself as a priest and then only a teacher, headmaster, administrator. I was always available for sermons, talks, recollections, retreats. One of the books that influenced me was “The Priest is not his own” by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
I served as parish priest of different parishes as well as vicar general of the diocese. As parish priest I made time to visit the families of the parish. On the completion of 48 years of my priesthood I feel great joy that with the grace of God I could live up to my ordination motto and serve the people with joy wherever I went.
On the Vianney Sunday I praise and thank God for though unworthy he ordained me as a priest and stood by me in the ups and downs of my life.
I appeal the lay faithful to pray for us as we too are weak like you. We priests pray for you. Together let us collaborate with Jesus in the establishment of His Kingdom of love, justice and peace. I appeal my brother priests to take as top priority to visit regularly the families of our parishes/mission stations and thus convert them with a new enthusiasm into spirit filled communities.
May St. John Marie Vianney intercede for us.
Courtesy: Renovacao/Renewal, Goa