Ven. Agnelo was born at Anjuna, Goa on 21 st January 1869 to a very pious family of Minguel Arcanj Mariano de Souza and Maria Sinforosa Perpetua Magalhaes. His parents were devout and religious minded people imbued with a true Christian spirit. His father was a strict disciplinarian while his mother was paragon of virtues, devotion and zeal. She used to teach catechism to the children of the neighbourhood.
From his very early age Agnelo displayed an uncommon and uncanny eagerness to study catechism. He was endowed with a remarkable memory. Children of his age used to flock around him to hear him repeat the Sunday sermon or other stories.
When he was eleven, his parents were snatched away from him. At his mother’s death, she recommends her children to Mother Mary. All were impressed by his behaviour even as a small child.
His vocation was soon gauged and Agnel was sent to study Latin. He next proceeded to study Philosophy and Theology at Patriarchical Seminary of Rachol. Even in the Seminary, in spite of his weak health, he secured the much coveted and singular distinction of “ acessit ”, in his final year of study.
Pilar missionary :
God had destined Agnelo for a perfect life. He wanted to live the Evangelical counsels in a religious order. After much prayer, reflection and consultation, on 17 th July 1897, he joined the Diocesan Missionary Society of St. Francis Xavier of Pilar, Goa. On 24 th Sept. 1898, he was ordained a priest by Dom Antonio Sebastiao Valente.
The next 10 years, he almost lived a hidden life preparing himself for an unique and spiritual and missionary life. On 8 th September 1908, he made his total oblation to God, as a full-fledged missionary. From then, begun his life as a true shepherd of souls. As a Pastor at Shiroda and Sanvordem (Goa), Kumta (Karwar), Fr. Agnelo, in his humble and unobtrusive manner, acquitted himself to the best of his abilities as a priest, preacher, confessor and administrator.
Spiritual guide :
The then Patriarch of Goa, Dom Matheus de Oliveira Xavier, seeing the holiness of Fr. Agnelo appointed him as the Spiritual Director of the Patriarchal Seminary of Rachol on 20 th May 1918. Both the Professors as well as the students referred to Fr. Agnelo as model priest- humble, prayerful, self-denying and saintly. Even while he was alive he was lovingly referred to be “our saint”. As a Spiritual director he was loving and caring to both the staff and students.
Fr. Agnelo was a deeply spiritual man. A man of interior silence he used to spend hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He slept little and mortified his frail and weak body by being abstemious about food and by practising the forms of penance that were in vogue at that time.
He had a very holy death on 20 th November 1927. It was on the vespers of the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Fr. Agnelo was the preacher. Towards the end of sermon he collapsed on the pulpit. When he was brought down he insisted on being allowed to remain until the Benediction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Even in his last moments he showed the tranquillity of a saintly man. Upon his death all around the Seminary, people said, “a saint has passed away”. Even before his funeral had taken place, the staff and the students from the seminary began picking up the few possessions of Fr. Agnelo. Latecomers began cutting his nails and even hair to keep as “relics”. At his funeral the then parish priest commented, “I have just laid a saint to rest”.
From then the people began to flock to his grave and even pick up mud from his grave only to mix in water and drink to be cured from various sicknesses.
Process of canonization:
At the request of the Goan faithful, the process of canonization was begun by the Society with the permission of the Patriarch of Goa in 1947 and Fr. Agostino Della Virgine was appointed the Postulator in Rome. He then appointed Fr. Conseisao Rodrigues as the Vice-Postulator. The first process (i.e the writings of Ven. Fr. Agnel) sailed through smooth waters, securing the approval of the Sacred Congregation of Rites on 27 th May 1958 and definitive approval of Pius XII. The second Process (reputation of his sanctity, virtues and miracles) was presented to the Sacred Congregation of Rites on 5 th October 1959. The Sacred Congregation of Rites approved the third process of “De non-cultu” on 27 th May 1969. With this the 3 Diocesan processes came to an end. And on 10 th Nov. 1986, Pope John Paul II declared Fr. Agnelo Venerable. Now we are awaiting God’s intervention with a great miracle to prove his sanctity. Many cases had been sent to the Postulator in Rome, but all of them were rejected for some flaw or the other. Now a new case has been sent to the present Postulator Rev. Fr. Antonio Marazzo.
Devotion and Favours :
The devotion of Ven. Agnelo has spread far and wide in India and abroad. Thousands of favours have been obtained through the intercession of Ven. Agnelo.
It is up to us to join hands and hearts to storm heaven to raise our Indian and Goan brother to the honours of the altar. At Pilar and at other devotion centres every Thursday, thousands of people flock to intercede for their needs and also to pray for his canonization.