Devotees of Venerable Agnelo D’Souza are excited after sending to Rome a report of a miracle attributed to the Goan priest. Venerable Agnelo Gustavo Adolfo de Souza, a member of the indigenous Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier, died in 1927 and his canonization process began 20 years later. Rome declared him venerable, the second stage in the canonization process, in 1986. Father Hilario Fernandes, vice postulator of the cause, says although thousands of miracles are attributed to the priest, his canonization process hit bottlenecks on at least eight occasions. In one instance, a blood sample sent to Rome was lost in transit.
The new miracle is about a 62-year-old woman, who suffered from metal poisoning. She was admitted in a hospital and doctors said she would die. But after the woman’s relatives prayed to Venerable Agnelo she recovered. Father Fernandes said they sent the case to Rome on Nov. 15. “We hope this will clinch his fate to be declared blessed,” he said. The priest, who belongs to the same congregation as Venerable Agnelo, said doctors fear their hospitals and profession would suffer if they certify a patient’s recovery is medically unexplainable.
Father Fernandes claims Venerable Agnelo is second only in popularity saint among people in Goa after Saint Francis Xavier. Fiona Carnerio, an Agnelo devotee, says having a saint of the soil would help keep people’s faith intact. Jesus Ribeiro, another Catholic, blamed Rome for going slow in processing the cases of candidates from developing countries. The canonization process begins with granting the title “Servant of God.” Candidates who fulfill certain criteria are declared “Venerable.” The next stage is beatification, for which a miracle attributed to the candidate is needed. Sainthood requires another miracle under the same condition.
BY CLARA A RODRIGUES |
Devotees have even more reason to rejoice as they celebrate the Day of Fr Agnel today. The process of putting venerable Fr Agnel on the road to sainthood has been fast tracked.
The cause has received a fillip in the form of a miracle which has been reported to Rome recently. This Pilar priest has been known to have interceded blessings and graces for all those who pray to him with fervour and unwavering faith.
The vice-postulator for the cause of venerable Fr Agnel, Fr Hilario Fernandes while revealing more about this miracle that has been reported to Rome says, “We recently sent one miracle to Rome. We call it an alleged miracle. It happened to a lady who was in coma after she suffered severe complications owing to a septic cut which turned poisonous. The doctors had given up hope and she was on the verge of death. At that moment, her relative prayed fervently to venerable Fr Agnel. The lady miraculously got cured. The doctor calls it as a difficult case to explain medically.”
Rosy D’Costa, the lady who was cured narrates, “Maka potri laglili” (I received a gash). “This took place in 2004,” says this middle-aged woman. “The cut got infected and turned poisonous. As a result of which I was unconscious and went into a coma. The doctors said that I would not survive the night. My relatives in the hospital broke the news to my family, who were devastated. My home was cleaned in preparation for my funeral. My cousin, Nancy Borges, remembered Fr Agnel and prayed for his intercession. Earlier, during my illness, another of my relative had offered a novena mass of Fr Agnel.”
In the Roman Catholic faith, there are four stages before a person is declared a saint. The process starts when the church authorities place before the Vatican the case for further perusal. At this stage the holy person is called Servant of God. In the next step, the Vatican deputes a special team to study the person’s virtues. At this stage the holy person is called venerable. The next step of Blessed requires a first class miracle to be performed through the intercession of the holy person. A first class miracle qualifies as a case where in a cure is obtained after the doctors have given up hope for survival. After becoming Blessed, another miracle must be performed before the pious person can be declared a saint by the Church.
Rosy in gratitude offers her service as a volunteer during the novenas of Fr Agnel at Pilar. Recalling the days of her infirmities, she says, “As I lay unconscious on my death bed, I saw an apparition where my soul was lifted out of my body and I was calling out to Mother Mary. A little later, I saw Fr Agnel with the Blessed Eucharist in a chalice of golden and silver. He gave me the Holy Communion and said, ‘This is Jesus Christ’s body.’”
Devotees of Venerable Agnel are spread all over the globe. Says Fr Fernandes, “The Goan expatriates abroad have Friends of Fr Agnel clubs in places like Paris, London and America. The devotion is followed by foreign nationals too. We got a report of a French childless couple who got a child after interceding with Fr Agnel.”
Fr Agnel was declared as venerable on November 10, 1986. The process for his sainthood began in 1947. Why has it taken so long for him to be declared a saint? Fr Fernandes answers, “It all depends on God’s ways. We must intercede with Fr Agnel especially in serious cases.”
Normally a saint is associated with a cause like you would in the cases of St Anthony who is prayed to in times when one wants to seek something they have lost. Depending on which favours are granted more a saint is associated with a certain favour explains Fr Fernandes adding that Fr Agnel can be prayed for all kinds of favours that one needs. He is a saint for all needs and as of now we cannot say he must be prayed for special causes.
Life of Fr. Agnelo 1869-1927
Agnelo Gustavo Adolfo was born on 21st January 1869, at 19:00 hrs IT, Wednesday in Anjuna Bardez Goa, western coast of the Arabian Sea. His father was Minguel Arcanjo Mariano de Souza (1826-1880) and mother Maria Sinforosa Perpetua Magalhaes (1834-1882), was married on 9th May 1854 (both from Anjuna), and blessed with eight boys and one girl. Twenty three days later Agnelo being weak in health was baptized on 13th February 1869 by Fr. Joao Batista de Souza, and his godfather was Gustavo Adolfo of Arpora and Anna Piedade from Anjuna. His day of birth coincided with the feast of St Agnes hence his parents named him Agnelo and was the sixth child among nine. His parents played a crucial role in bring up their children's and the fear of God surrounded during those periods. The middle class family worked on fields and managed a small farming area on which their livelihood depended, His mother was educated (Portuguese education) with a natural gift in music and played piano and violin hence it is noted that she may have devoted her time more in the church affairs. Besides her music talent she had was a tailor and had a fair amount of experience in embroidery any this also may be one of the ways, they generated income for a family of 11. Skeptics says she used all her talents for free to the village children and their house always remained packed from day to night due to catechism. During these secessions, Agnelo became engrossed or enlightened to read the holy scriptures, giving due importance to the church services and later taking initiative to teach others. His holy future was predicted during this period by his close relative Fr.Lazaro Souza. At the age of 8, Agnelo received the first holy communion which was unusual in those days of his age, and until death he receive it daily and devoted his time reconciling on every Thursday before the Holy Sacrament. At the age of 11 his father died and two years later his mother who was suffering from unknown illness understood her time to leave for heavenly abode. She summoned all her children's at her death bed and informed them about her end. She then pointed her finger to the picture of Virgin Mary, hanging above her head and said" From now onwards She will be your mother, and you ask all your needs to her and she will fulfill it to you." And thus she departed leaving behind all the children's orphans at a very young age. All the children were then under the custody of their paternal uncle, and after his death their eldest brother Manuelino who was a priest undertook the charge. On 17th November, 1883 he received the Sacrament of Confirmation from the hands of Patriarch and Archbishop of Goa, Dom Antonio Valente.
He began Portuguese language education in Anjuna under the care of teacher and priest Fr. Inacio Rebello who became so much impressed with the child's sheer intelligence that he began to sow the vocational ideas. After completing first grade, his elder brother questioned him about the future studies and promptly he replied "I want to become a Priest". Agnelo then completed his second grade examination and later attended Latin language studies for two years under Fr Luis Pais. He joined the Rachol Seminary, Mapusa to complete his Philosophy and then Rachol Patriarchal Seminary for the Theology studies. His health began to decline and this compelled to continue his studies as an external student, staying in a house outside the borders of his seminary. He completed his four year studies with distinction to his credit on 22nd March 1893, and was later invited by Fr, Jose Joaquim to tutor his nephews in Calangute, which he accepted with great affection and taught them including many village children Latin and Portuguese for three years for free of cost.
December 19, 1890 he was ordained as a Sub Deacon by the Archbishop of Goa and Patriarch of the East Indies, Dom Antonio Sebastiao Valente in the Convent of St. Monica, Old Goa. Practicing religion in those days remained restricted for goans and only the western missionaries functioned. Despite to this and under great stress he joined the Missionary Society of St. Francis Xavier in Pilar, Goa. July 17, 1897, on the feast day of Our Lady of Pilar he was admitted by the society.18th December 1897, he was ordained as a Deacon by the same Archbishop in Santa Monica convent, Old Goa. May 22, 1898 he made his first professional vow in the presence of Msgr. Lucio Vaz, the superior of the society. September 24,1899 the same Archbishop ordained him as "Priest" in the cathedral of Old Goa, and later celebrated his first Mass in the Monastery of Pilar, attended by society clergy, friends, his own brothers, relations and thousands of nearby villagers. He was appointed as the Confessors of the seminarians in Rachol by the Bishop and Administrator of the Archdiocese of Goa, Dom Teotonio Manual on 18th August 1908, and resided in the church of Shiroda as assistant to Fr. Jose Niclau and later to Fr. Passidio Gracias.
December 10, 1909, the new Patriarch of Goa, Dom Matheus de Oliviera Xavier appointed him as a missionary vicar of Kumta (primitive or backward region during that period), North Kanara, now Karwar and assumed the charge on January 6, 1910 and held it up to May 21, 1917. Less information is available of his life in Kanara most probably because of his unknown illness but history does reveal of his close contact with the Blessed Sacrament, as for hours he used to mediate and pray even at night. His relations with the parishioners were extraordinary, humble and devoted a lot of time serving even the non Christians. He preached tiredly in his sermons according to his theory and practice and his confessions were immaculate. He encountered many problems but his pious life kept it bay, and after serving for approx seven years, he was transferred back to Goa in Sanvordem as a Curate. He carried out number of development works by enlarging the priest's residence and a new baptistery in front of the church. Throughout his stay in Sanvordem, he remained inclined to help the people in need and this is recorded by the historians" His parishioner helpless to give dowry to his daughter, approached him, and without a blink in his eye, he gave what he had and the rest he burrowed from others and handed over to his parishioner". Even sick he respected his profession and superiors with great love, and this is demonstrated when he went to preach the sermon in Majorda. Goa then and today, starved for the preacher, and his legacy remains until this day in every church of Goa, and his preaching continued until 1927. History suggests of his greatest gifts of sermons, and the collections of interfaith multitudes before his arrival to any place.
Ending Chapters of Sermon
By early 1927 he knew of his ending days and his near and loved ones decided to treat him in their houses, but his superiors kept him in the monastery( may be he opted to stay in the monastery) and so his health improved marginally. He had lost most of his teeth's, and with great difficulty he kept preaching the good news. The seminarians celebrated the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Agnelo preached for every novenas. Then followed the evening of 19th November 1927, the church was packed to its capacity for vesper and most of the seminarians and the clergy of the society paid their annual visit. The Blessed Sacrament was exposed and the Vespers were chanted. At the Magnificent, Fr. Agnelo went on the pulpit to deliver his sermon. His voice that day robbed his sermon and began to faint and fade, silently the saintly figure bowed down his head and knelt to give the thanksgiving inside the pulpit and suddenly lost his balance. He collapsed in the pulpit, and then the standing priests rushed to his aid, and took him down from the pulpit in a conscious state. He pleaded to those who assisted him (including Msgr. Philip Neri Mendonca) to lay him on the bench in the corridor. As he lay with folded hands, he received the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and then followed the end of vespers. He suffered paralysis of the leg and arm and received the last rites and then went forever into coma. He died according to his wishes on the feast of Sacred Heart of Jesus. The following day the saintly figure was buried in Rachol, and people from all over Goa, irrespective of other faiths, thronged to pay their last respect to their beloved son of Goa. Thus ended the life and the chapters of sermons of a great preacher of Goa
Transfer of remains from Rachol to Pilar
His death was a fatal blow for his ardent fans and the aspiring seminarian to whom he cherished his love. He knew about his death and thus on numerous occasion spoke of his famous words during his sermons 1- Suffer intensely and talk less to become a saint. 2- Remember to be a saint; even the bones will be venerated. 3- Amusing ourselves, we will not reach heaven, the saints were not fools to do penance, 4-It’s difficult to love this world and save our soul. His death marked the birth of pilgrimage from all over Goa as thousands began to pour to kiss the ground he was buried. The ground itself began holy as even the dust began to cure thousands of their illness. People of all faith began to pour in multitudes and silent miracles in individuals occurred. The Patriarch of Goa, Dom Teotonio Viera de Castro on witnessing the impact of healing spoke “Fr. Agnelo is already Venerable".
January 10, 1939 the Pilar Society and Diocesan Society secretly planed to exhume his remain from Rachol and transferred to the Pilar Monastery. Miraculously during the transportation news spread like wildfire in hours and the route from Rachol to Pilar was surrounded by the people from all walks of life. After crossing the Zuari River, the route was blocked by unimaginable crowd and music bands played their unending chorus. The villagers of Agassiam mostly Hindus, themselves shouldered the coffin and with their own strength of love, carried it to the Pilar Seminary.
April 2, 1947
Fr. Augustine Virgine, appointed as the Postulator in Rome to follow the cause of Fr. Agnelo
April 4, 1956
Archbishop of Goa, Dr. Jose Alvernaz appointed a special tribunal to oversee the writings of Fr. Agnelo, and the miraculous causes taking place.
June 11, 1956
The tribunal sent the process to Rome
May 12, 1958
The process was approved by the Sacred Congregation Rites
May 29, 1958
Pope Pius XII approves it.
August 16, 1956
2nd Diocesan process on Sanctity and Virtues began after taking the oath of office.
The process was completed and sent to Rome.
July 9, 1968
The Sacred Congregation of Rites approves.
Nov 11, 1959
Third Diocesan Ecclesiastical Tribunal takes the oath of office
June 5, 1960
The recording process was sent to Rome
May 27, 1969
The Sacred Congregation of Rites approves.
Holy see appoints Aux. Bishop Dr. Raul Gonsalves as the President of Apostolic Tribunal
Process completed and sent to Rome
Nov 10, 1986
The Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saint declares Fr Agnelo Venerable.
Internal Faction and the decline of devotion
The public outcry continued to push the church to canonize Ven. Agnelo to sainthood while the eye of the storm began to revolve around the society. Fr. Agnelo the non controversial servant of God, legacies began to fade years later after his death with decline in pilgrims. Controversy aroused among the society clergy as goan clergy had a vision to have their own norms against the Portuguese missionaries. July 2nd, 1939 the society drafted new constitution and established themselves in different sectors or fields i.e. in education, orphanages, and health centers and had their own press publishing more than 40 to 50 different publication and periodicals in Portuguese and Konkani (Vauraddeancho Ixtt) under the editorial of Fr.Conceicao Rodrigues. The Konkani editorial provided a boon for the society to express social justice and other causes but it never wrote the article on the Liberation of Goa from the Portuguese, causing a lot of uproar among the goan masses. In 1957, Fr Agnel Ashram was established at Bandra, Mumbai and by 1961 the Government of Goa suppressed Vauradeanco Ixtt. The government in order to break the monopoly of the society began promoting and funding the infidels within the society and this led to the greatest controversy or the split in the society of Pilar Father in 1977. The two factions got separated and remained with their own idealistic views until this day. The actual cause of the break in the society still remains an unsolved mystery, while rumors surfaced that the Bombay Agnel Ashram father revolted against the Church.
Whatever the cause resulted, the venerable image itself inflicted suffering from canonization the great legacies of Fr. Agnelo. Can this rift be resolved amicably or lead to further development is a mystery to solve in the current situation. The Church instead of resolving the differences excommunicated the Bandra Ashram Priests. Yes the church teaches about reconciliation in marriage but landed into a deep shallow watery grave. The readers of goapost seeks this unity to forge and if it happen then the conflict within the clergy will canonized their own brother , and the son of Goa, India. Can the Pilar Fathers and the Fr. Agnel Ashram in Verna, Bandra Mumbai, reconcile together and show the world, the footsteps of beloved Venerable Agnelo?
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