A Guiding Star for the Goan Masses
November 20, 2005 is the 78th Death Anniversary of the Servant of God, Ven. Fr. Agnelo De Souza, but this year the celebration is anticipated by a day since 20th November is the Solemnity of Christ the King.
If we read the life of Fr. Agnelo and meet the people who knew him, we come to the conclusion that he did not work wonders in his life. But everyone who knew him said that Fr. Agnelo was a man of God and a man for others.
At Rachol Seminary, where Agnelo was doing his priestly studies, he never missed his daily Mass in spite of his weak health. Agnelo wanted to become a missionary-priest, and so he decided to join the Society of Missionaries St. Francis Xavier, Pilar. On 24th September 1899 the Patriarch D. Antonio Sebastiao Valente, ordained him priest at Se Cathedral of Old-Goa and he celebrated his First Mass at the Church of Pilar Monastery . In his 29 years of priesthood, Fr. Agnelo spent the first ten years (1899-1908) preaching sermons and giving retreats in Goa , especially at the monastery of Pilar. The second ten years (1908-1918) Fr. Agnelo worked in the missions of Kumta, Shiroda and Sanvordem and the last nine years (1918-1927) Fr. Agnelo spent as Spiritual Director of the Seminarians of the Rachol Seminary. At the age of 58 years, Fr. Agnelo died in ordour of sanctity. Today, even 78 years after his holy death, Venerable Fr. Agnelo's tomb at Pilar attracts countless devotees, especially on Thursdays and during nine days of intensive prayers and Fr. Agnelo's Day in November. They come from the four corners of the world, to give thanks for the favours received, to implore his powerful intercession in their needs and to pray fervently for a First Class miracle, through which he can be raised to the honour of the altar.
The greatest and most admirable proof of Fr. Agnelo's obedience was shown towards the Superior of the Society of Pilar. He did not do anything without asking or consulting the latter, even when he was away, preaching in the parishes. He never argued when the Superior made a statement. The Superior was for him a representative of God. When as a Spiritual Director of the Seminary of Rachol, he went to see the Rector, V. Rev. Msgr. Ganganelli Rebello, he appeared to be a timid child in his presence. Such was his respect for the Rector, though the Rector himself esteemed and respected him as a saint!
Fr. Agnelo's brightest dream was to spend his life for others. Once a poor woman knocked at his door and told him that she could not get her daughter married for lack of money. That day Fr. Agnelo was penniless as he had given away all the money to the needy who came before her. However he borrowed money from a professor and gave the same to the woman. In Rachol Seminary, Fr. Agnelo was pained to see a seminarian failing in his exams. So he once wrote to his colleague, a professor of Rachol Seminary as follows: “Be kind and helpful to this boy who has been failing for the third time.” Msgr. Claudio Alvares, who knew him very well in Rachol Seminary, bearing witness about Fr. Agnelo said “Fr. Agnelo was simple, quiet and lovable person and he could never neglect those who came to him for help.” When he was alive he led a hidden life and did not let “his left hand know what his right hand was doing.”
The so called social work we hear so much about as a new thing was practiced by Fr. Agnelo in his life. When the villagers of his ward wanted to repair the dilapidated chapel of St. John the Baptist, Fr. Agnelo was opposed to the idea saying that it would be better to spend the amount to build a Home for the Poor. When asked where they could get the additional money for the maintenance, Fr. Agnelo retorted that he was ready to beg from house to house to keep the Home running.
Fr. Agnelo had the gift of prophecy. Fr. Remedios do Rosario Gomes, who was a member of the old Society aoong with Fr. Agnelo wrote: “When our Society was steadily diminishing in numbers, I was planning to join some other congregation, preferably the Salesians. I consulted the Superior , V. Rev. Msgr. Lucio Vaz, the Vicar General of Canara, Fr. Thomas F. D'Souza and finally Fr. Agnelo. And to my great delight Fr. Agnelo reassured me “Don't be afraid, the Society (of Pilar) is not going to die. The finger of God is here (PILAR)”. Fr. Remedios did not discuss the matter further with him. His advice calmed him…contrary to the expectation of all, the Society did not die, but was resuscitated and today the same Society of Pilar is flourishing in India and elsewhere.
In conclusion, Ven. Agnelo is the son of our beautiful Goa, Rome of the East who walked the path of love and friendship; preached sermons, gave retreats in our mother-tongue konkani, who was a true disciple of Christ, loving God and his fellowmen. And for this reason we can rightly call him, “Fr. Agnelo- a guiding star for the Goan masses.”