East Indians to celebrate feast of first Roman Catholic saint in India
Feb. 6, 2014
The East Indian community, often called as the original inhabitants of Mumbai, has appealed to their brethren to celebrate February 6 as the feast of the first Roman Catholic saint from India, Saint Gonsalo Garcia, and recognise him as the ‘patron saint’.
A patron saint is believed to protect a particular place or group of people. Garcia is considered to be a principal patron saint of Vasai Diocese and second patron saint of the Bombay Diocese. Some even consider him to be the first Indian saint.
The feast organised on February 6 is a move to make the celebration more encompassing with a desire to officially celebrate the day as ‘patron saint’s day’.
The Mobai Gaothan Panchayat (MGP), a body registered with charity commissioner which looks after the community issues, is calling for the feast. “We are a registered NGO that is looking to save the dying culture of the community and also for its upliftment. We consider him to be the patron saint of the community because one of his parents was Indian and from our community,” said Walter Murzello, MGP spokesperson.
As per the Archdiocese of Bombay website, Garcia was born to a Portuguese father and a Canarese (resident of the Konkan coast) mother in Bassein, on February 5, 1557. “He lived in Vasai and was the first saint to be canonised. There is a Church in Vasai named after him. Since he was a local and one of the first saints, we consider him to be the patron saint of the community,” said Alphi D’Souza who heads the MGP.
A part of the celebration plan is to dedicate a church or chapel to St. Garcia in the Bombay diocese region. Other plans include a statue of his to be installed at the East Indian Museum in Manori with a brief history on his life, mass at Holy Cross Church, Kurla, call to organise a prayers / novenas at village Holy and to place his statue near them.
“We consider Saint Garcia to be an important figure. Since he was a member of the local community, they would consider him to be their patron saint. He definitely has some local roots. But it is for East Indians to decide that he is their patron saint,” said Fr. Nigel Barrett, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Bombay.
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