THE SOCIETY OF PILAR


1 THE BIGINNING

A Goan priest, Very Rev. Fr. Jose Mariano C. Bento Martins (figure 125a) from Orlim, Salcete, Goa , founded the Society of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier, in Agonda, Canacona on 26th September 1887. The first Patriarch of the East Indies, Archbisop D. Antonio Sebastiao Valente received secretely the commitment of Fr. Bento Martins and his three companions, in his Patriarchal Palace Chapel in Panjim, at 8 p.m., before the Blessed Sacrament exposed and appointed Fr. Bento Martins as the first Superior of the nascent Society.

  1. PILAR, The HEADQUARTERS OF THE NEW SOCIETY

In 1890, the same Patriaarch –Archbishop made the abandoned Pilar Monastery the headquarters of the Society and so since then it came to be known as the ‘Society of Pilar’.

Figure125(a) – The Founder The founder and first Superior, Fr. Bento Martins, built the first Parish Church at Valpoi and enlarged the Chapel at Agonda which was raised to a Parish soon afterwards. He also did pioneering work in Shiroda but died of malaria, at the young age of 49, on 16th August 1896, in the Pilar Monastery1. He was buried in the Goa Velha Cemetery. In 1901, his remains were exhumed and buried in the Chapel of the Chapter of the Capuchos in the Pilar Monastery. His confreres dedicated a marble epitaph to his memory, as the first Superior of the Society which he had founded. (figure 125b).

He was succeeded by Msgr. Lucio Vaz as the second Superior of the Society from 1896 to 1936. The Pilar Monastery building had been in bad shape. Even the corridor walls were coming down.

Figure125 (b) – The Epitaph

  1. SUDDEN DEATH OF D. VALENTE

In the meantime, the Patriarch D. S. Valente, came for a Pastoral visit to the Pilar Monastery in August 1908 and suddenly expired there. At this moment the existence of the Society came to the knowledge of the Portuguese Government officials.

The corpse of D. S. Valente was embalmed and the residues were buried in the same Chapel of the Chapter, in the Pilar Monastery, mentioned above. But as he was the 1st Patriarch, the Portuguese Government had to give him a fitting burial. Hence the embalmed corpse was solemnly buried in the SeCathedral at Old Goa.

2. NEW PERSECUTION OF MEMBERS OF RELIGIOUS ORDERS

However, the necrologies published on newspapers after the death of D. Valente sparked off a new persecution by the Portuguese Government against the religious in Goa from 1909.

Figure 125 (c) D. A. S. Valente

  1. DISPERSION OF MEMBERS

The next Archbishop- Patriarch D. Mateus O. Xavier, his successor, could not contain the tide as the Jesuits and the Hospitalier Sisters who had been invited to Goa by the late Patriarch (without Government’s knowledge), were forced to leave Goa overnight. Most of the members of Society of Pilar were working in Churches and missions outside Pilar. But the four members, who were helping Msgr Lucio Vaz in the Pilar Monastery had to be dispersed to Kanara missions, which, though part of the Goa diocese, were situated in British territory beyond Portuguese political jurisdiction.

Figure 125 (d) D. Mateus

Besides, the Portuguese Governmentobjected that more than one or two members stayed and prayed together as a community in the Pilar Monastery; also recruitment of new members to the Society was forbidden. Msgr Lucio Vaz had to carry on alone the activities and Retreats in Pilar, with the help of laymen.

  1. MEMBERSHIP OF THE SOCIETY

In the span of 22 years, from 1887 to 1909, only 16 members had taken the risk of joining the Pilar Society, in spite of the enforced ban on religious orders. Out of those who had joined prior to 1909, only eight Figue 125 (e) – 11 members of the Society in 1908. Msgr Lucio Vaz is seated 3rd from left and Ven. Fr Agnelo is firstst from left in the standing row

(8) had made their perpetual or life commitment, while others had left or were about to leave before, or after completing five years in the missions. Hence in 1908 there were in all only 11 members ( 8 perptual and 3 temporary) as seen in figure 125e . From 1909 to 1929, only 5 new candidates entered, four of whom left shortly afterwards. One of these was Fr. Guilherme F. X. T. J. Coutinho who served in the Society for 9 years (1919 to 1928). He was sent to Allahabad Seminary in 1923 as Professor, where he taught till 1927 and became Rector of that Seminary for one year. There he was known as Fr William. On return to Goa, he left the Society for health reasons. Later on, he was appointed the Professor of Rachol Seminary (Goa), taught there for 35 years and died in 1964 as a Canon of the Cathedral of Goa.

  1. SALVAGING THE MONASTERY BUILDING

However, in spite of all the hurdles put by the Portuguese Government officials, Msgr Lucio Vaz carried out extensive repairs and reinforced the Pilar Figure 125 (f) – Msgr Lucio Vaz

Monastery building. He cleansed its surroundings and saved the corridors from ruin. The Church roof was renovated, the altars and images of saints on them were also touched and gilt with the help of local artists in 19212

Besides the support of Patriarchs D, Valente and D. Mateus, one of the benefactors, who helped Msgr Lucio Vaz in this Figure 125 (g) – The Monastery Church roof under repairs in 1921

restoration work was Mrs Isabel Ribeiro Henriques, a widow, whose two only sons died one after the other in May-June 1923. They died at the very young age of 20 and 10 years respectively; they were the great grand sons of the Viscount of Bardez and to them a gravestone is dedicated by the inconsolable mother, shown in figure 125h, and placed in the Chapel of Figure 125 (h) – Grave stone of Henirques brothers

O. Lady of Mount Carmel in Pilar Monastery, shown in figure 124a in the previous Chapter.

  1. ALTAR OF OUR LADY OF SORROWS

On the left side of the main Altar, there was only a table with a small crucifix in olden times. In the Sacristy of the Monastery there was another big Crucifix. As we shall see in the next Section 3A , Fr, Agnelo joined the Society in 1897. Seeing that he had a great devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows, Msgr Lucio Vaz, by bringing together the above mentioned big Crucifix and the statue of Mother Mary and pieces of carved wooden columns from dilapidated altars in Pilar and also in Old Goa, erected, around 1902, the new Altar of Our Lady of Sorrows in the place where it stands at present. (See figure 125i). It is said that Fr, Agnelo used to celebrate often his daily Mass, on this Altar, especially when he was residing in Pilar from 1898 to 1908.

On each side of the Crucifix are later additions of St. Joseph Vaz, the Patron of Goa Archdiocese (see figure 139), and St. Therese of Lisieux, Patroness of the Missions (see figure 135).

Figure 125 (i) – The renovated and restored three altars in Pilar Monastery as they stand at present: O. Lady of Sorrows left); Main Altar (Centre) and St Anthony and Immaculate Conception (right). Below the main Altar is the Altar facing the Congregation as per the norms of Vatican II.

It is to be noted that before Vatican II Ecumenical Council introduced reforms in the Liturgy, each priest celebrated Mass individually; concelebration was allowed only on Moundy Thursday and at Priestly Ordinations. Each priest also used to celebrate Mass facing the Altar with his back to the Congregation; Mass facing the Congregation is Vatican II’s innovaton, which requires a cental altar facing the Congregation as can be seen below the main Altar in the Pilar Monasery Church in figure 125i.

  1. ALTAR OF ST ANTHONY

As mentioned in Chapter 11, section 16 A, when the Procession of Saints was taken over, in 1868, by the Goa-Velha parish, the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception also took away to their new Parish Church, the statue of the Immaculate Conception that was on the side Altar of St Anthony in the Pilar Monastery Church. The vacuum created above the image of St Anthony, was filled in, after 1921, by transfering to it, the image of the Immaculate Conception that was in the Chapel of Cabo in Panjim, the present Raj Bhavan (Governor’s Palace) that had fomerly belonged to the same Order of the Capuchos as of the Pilar Monastery.

However, one last change on the Altar was made by a member of the Reorganized Society (see next Chapter 13). That member felt that the majestic wooden stattue in the niche of St Anthony (Figure 97) was worn out and had to be substituted with a smaller statue of Plaster of Paris, as we see at present. Figure 125i, thus, shows the Altar of St Anthony with all these modifications on the right side of the main Altar.

3. VEN. FR. AGNELO DE SOUZA

If the Society of Pilar exists till at present , it is due to its saintly member, the Venerable Fr Agnelo D’Souza.

  1. FR. AGNELO’S BRIEF BIO-DATA

Agnelo was born in Anjuna on 21st January 1869. He studied at Rachol Seminary and obtained the coveted distinction “Accessit” on completing his philosophical and theological studies there in 1893. After teaching in his private school in Calangute for three years, he joined the Society of Pilar on 17-7-1897, was ordained a priest on 18-12-1898 at the Se Cathedral, Old Goa by the Patriarch D. Valente. He spent the first ten years of his priesthood (1898 to 1908) in the Pilar Monastery, completely submissive to his Superior and in a life of prayer. However, he was helping his Superior, Msgr. Lucio Vaz, in preaching the Retreats conducted for priests and lay people, during this time. After the death of D. Valente in the Pilar Monastery, he and his three priest-companions had to bear the brunt of the persecution of the Portuguese officials mentioned above in Section 2 B of this Chapter.

He then worked as a missionary in the Parish Churches of Shiroda (Goa, 1908-1909), Kumta,

. Karwar (1910 – 1917) and was then transferred to Sanvordem, Goa. While working in Sanvordem, he was appointed Spiritual Director of the Patriarchal Seminary of Rachol, in 1918. Besides he preached sermons, retreats, missions and novenas in most of the Churches and Chapels of Goa. His preaching ministry continued throughout his life. He preached his last nine-day Novena of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Rachol Seminary, as its Spiritual Director; he collapsed in the pulpit while preaching the last sermon on the

Figure 126(a) – Ven. Fr. Agnelo D’Souza

Vespers of the same. He died a few hours after his fall at dawn of 20th November 1927. On the same evening he was given a solemn burial in the Cemetery of the Rachol Parish. Soon after his burial, in spontaneous acknowledgement of his saintliness, thousands visited his grave, irrespective of caste or creed, seeking his intercession before God, without any influence or encouragement from the Church authorities. Thousands of favours began to be reported.

  1. TOMB IN PILAR MONASTERY

Fr. Agnelo’s mortal remains were transferred, eleven years after his death, from Rachol cemetery to Pilar Monastery on 10th January 1939. At the entrance of the Pilar Monastery, a marble tomb was built to enshrine Fr. Agnelo’s mortal remains.3. See figure 126b. Since then, devotees in thousands from all over the world, flock to his shrine in Pilar to seek his intercession or thank God for favours received. With the devotion of Fr Agnelo came the sympathy and support to the Pilar Society.

The process of Canonization of Fr. Agnelo was started in Rome in 1947. All formalities done, Fr. Agnelo was declared Venerable, after the approval of the Apostolic Process of his life and virtues by Pope John Paul II, on 10-11-1986. The last Process of Miracles, attributed to him, is yet to be finalized. If this is done, then, God willing, he may be Beatified; and if another miracle takes place after Beatification and is studied and approved, then Fr. Agnelo may be Canonized and declared a saint.

  1. FR AGNELO’S PROPHECY

As seen in Section 2 E of this Chapter, because of the restrictions put by the Free Mason Portuguese Government on the Society, no new member could join it and the old ones were dying out. Only one young member, Fr. B. R. Rosario Gomes, in his forties, was the Dean of Honavar in North Kanara. But his mind was assailed by doubts about the future of the Society. Since he was the only young member, he was tempted to leave the dying Society and go to join the Jesuits outside Goa. When he came down to Goa for his holidays in May 1927, Fr B. R. Rosario Gomes, went to see

Figure 126 (c) Very Rev Fr B..R. Rosario Gomes

Fr Agnelo, and to open his mind to him. After listening to him attentively, Fr. Agnelo consoled him and prophesied emphatically, “Fr Rosario, do not think of leaving the Society; it has a great future; indeed the finger of God is here.” This advice calmed the fears of Fr Gomes who courageously carried the burden of the Society, singlehandedly. Because of the above personal encounter he had with the Fr Agnelo, Fr Gomes wisely took the step to bring the remains from Rachol Cemetery to Pilar, when he was the lone survivor of the Society in 1939.

4. RETREATS IN PILAR

As there were no other Religious Orders in Goa, closed Retreats were preached for Clergymen, either individually or in batches, often for a week and sometimes even for a month only in the Pilar Monastery, beginning with the founder, and continued by Msgr Lucio Vaz.

Figure 126 (d) – A group of 59 laymen participating in a Lenten Retreat in 1923. Patriarch D Mateus is seated in the middle

In the same way, in Lent, alternately in batches, three-day retreats were held for laymen and among them judges, lawyers, civil officers, doctors and businessmen also participated. Fr. Agnelo helped the Superior in this retreat preaching, especially on the Passion and Death of Jesus4, during the ten years, when he was staying in the Monastery (1898-1908). Later on he and some of his confreres would come and go from the places they were working in, to help the Superior, in the retreat praching, as the situation permitted. The Patriarch D. Mateus would also come sometimes and preach during these retreats. The highet number recorded in these batches of laymen was 78 participants at one time.

From 1923 onwards a good number of women too were admitted to participate in these Retreats in batches separately. Comparing Figures 75b and 125g, we see a small new house outside the Monastery building. It is reported that the house was built to accommodate some women retreatants while the roof of the Monastery Church was being repaired in 1921 or earlier than that. The highest recorded number of women participants in a retreat in one batch was 95.

Undaunted by the ban on Religious , Msgr Lucio Vaz carried on this service till 1936, with the help of lay personnel in the kitchen and the table.

Figure 126 (e) – A group of 56 women participating in the Lenten Retreat

In the two pictures shown in figures 126 d & e, Msgr Lucio Vaz, Fr Agnelo and other members who helped in preaching the Retreat sermons can also be seen, seated at left in both the pictures.

5. WALL CUPBOARD IN MUSEUM

The wall cupboard (figure127) has artefacts belonging to the late 19th and early 20th century, and contains porcelain material for domestic use.

They are generally connected with table service, which, perhaps, had been bought by Msgr. Lucio Vaz to serve the elite, as well as all those who participated in the

Lenten Retreats in the Pilar Monastery.

Figure 127 `(a) – Crockery in the Pilar Museum

Silver spoons,forks and knives were donated to the Museum by the Da Gama family of Gama-vaddo, Carpna, Aldona. Lokewise, two thick copper plates generally used in Goan homes to take canji (rice gruel) were donated to the museum by a benefactor and are preserved in one of these wall cupboards.

Figure 127 (b) – Thick Canji Copper Plates

6. VESTMENTS (Figure128 a & b)

Two Mass vestments from Pilar Monastery are embroidered in gold thread. The yellow vestment has the figure of Jesus Christ in the middle with the four evangelists (writers of the Gospels), each represented by his face and symbol; John with eagle as his symbol on top;

Matthew with man’s face as his symbol on the lower side; Mark with lion’s face to the left and Luke with the face of an ox to the right.

The red vestment is wowen with velvet cloth and gold thread. These vestments are over 200 years old and may have

Figure 128 (a) – Mass Vestments – figure 128 (b)

been used in the Pilar Monastery by the Capuchos or Carmelites or acquired by the former members of the Society. It is said that the former nuns at Sta Monica Convent in Old Goa used to weave such vestments.

8.SOCIETY OF PILAR THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION

The Society of Pilar secretly founded with approval of the 1st Patriarch D. Valente in 1887, had to bear the brunt of the persecution of the Portuguese Government, as it could not recruit new members from 1909. By 1928, the old members started dying out and only a handful of them were surviving, most of them too old to take up any resposibllities, and the Society was threatened with extinction.

1 Mensangeiro do Coracao de Jesus, Lisbon, Feb 1897, No 191, pp 121-122

2 Lucio Vaz, op cit. pp xxviii-xxxviii

3 Fr, Aloysius G. Rego, Secrets to Share in the Life of Fr. Agnelo, Borkar Printers, Margao, 1984, p 11, 50-51

4 This is clear from a testimonial published by an ecclesiastical judge Very Rev. Fr. Joao Francisco Excelso da Piedade Assumpto d’Almeida, who had made his retreat in Pilar during Holy Week from 23rd to 30th March 1902. He was the Editor of the Archdiocesan Weekly “O Crente “, and published the it there on the issue of 5th April 1902.