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A memorable day for Saligao

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

Mae de Deus statue, Saligao Church, Goa : Saligao SerenadeA great joy, a feeling of exaltation, a festive aura seemed to permeate and spur the village of Saligao. The day had an electrifying effect that charged everyone with nonpareil happiness. The village seemed to have woken up on the morning of November 26, 1873, as one unique and compact mass to celebrate the great day in its history, and to render the greatest possible homage to Our Lady Mae de Deus under whose mantle protection and maternal care all of the village would be placed from this day, as the statue of Mae de Deus would be installed in the Saligao Church.

The Divine Mother would henceforth preside over the destinies of the village, bless her families, take care of their spiritual and temporal needs, be a guardian and share in their joys, and comfort them in their sorrows.

Nothing was left to chance. The feast would be celebrated with maximum solemnity, with a stamp of stateliness and splendour, which would be imprinted in the minds of those present, and spoken about for generations to come.

Decorations

The Saligao Church and the compound presented an enchanting picture. The pennants and streamers of variegated colours fluttered about in serpentine forms hanging high from the towers of the neo-gothic Saligao Church dancing gracefully to the swings of wind. Numerous arches artistically decorated with leaves and flowers of varying shapes, sizes and bright colours covered the entire route from the Saligao Church to the National Highway, the cluster of bushes alongside resembling vases planted here and there in the Saligao Church compound, creating a festive atmosphere all around. The rich portal ornamented with beautiful canvas, dressed with natural and artificial flowers and palm leaves, the multicoloured lanterns fixed to the facade and the flanks of the Saligao Church, produced a colourful spectacle, generating both enthusiasm and ecstasy.

Mae de Deus Saligao Church, Goa : Saligao Serenade

To give more emphasis and bigger representation to the ceremony of the transfer of the Image of Mae de Deus, the Vicar Capitular (Administrator of the Goa Diocese in the absence of the Bishop) instructed all the Parish Priests of the Council (Taluka) of Bardez Goa to take part, if possible, along with their respective confrarias. This invitation was joyfully welcomed by all with visible happiness and satisfaction and each parish debated among themselves on how large a contingent would be appropriate to demonstrate their filial love and devotion to the Supreme Mother of God, Mae de Deus.

Procession

At 3.30 pm the procession comprising the parish confrarias of Bardez headed by their respective Parish Priests, the numerous clergy from various villages of Goa, representatives of the parishes of Ilhas and Salcete, civil, military and judicial authorities, a Guard of Honour, two musical bands and a sea of Goan people began the procession from the hill top (near the Seminary) to the Saligao Church at the pealing of the bells of the chapels and 21 salvos of khon’nes (Gorn’nal).

The Mae de Deus image procession was presided over by Rt. Rev. Chief Ecclesiastical Judge and Promotor Domingos Jose Pinto, Vicar of Panjim. Our Lady’s charola (palanquin) was carried on shoulders, in turns, by parishioners clothed as ‘confrades’ and helped by other renowned dignitaries present on the auspicious occasion of the installation of the Mae de Deus statue in Saligao Church.

The kaleidoscopic aspect of this procession, in which more than 20,000 people from all over Goa took part, cannot be described adequately—it was simply imposing, grandiose, and sublime! As the faithful wended through the procession route, it elevated their soul heavenward, stirred the hearts of the faithful and transported them for a spiritual vision of celestial Jerusalem.

Ceremonies

At the church compound, awaiting the arrival of the Mae de Deus image, was His Excellency, the Governor General Macedo e Couto who, due to his ill health could not participate in the procession. Keeping him company were some other civil and military dignitaries and several elite persons of Goa besides many others from different walks of life.

Passing through the compact multitude of people, on their knees, joined hands and tears of joy rolling down their cheeks, the miraculous image of Mae de Deus rode majestically, blessing one and all. Finally the palanquin was placed at the foot of the porch of the Saligao Church. A square table decorated with damask laced in rich gold colours was placed in the middle of the porch and the beautiful image of Mae de Deus adorned it.

This was followed by the ceremony of the blessing of the Saligao Church and it was done according to the liturgical norms by the Reverend Vicar of Panjim. During the liturgical ceremony, the doors of the church were kept closed and guarded by military personnel. Nobody was allowed in. After the blessing, the doors were opened and the Saligao Church was filled rapidly by the faithful. The authorities went on to occupy their seats according to their rank. The Governor General taking his chair painted in golden colours and placed in the transept or cruzeiro.

In the midst of jubilations and ovations, especially of the parishioners of Saligao, between the sounds of the bells, musical bands and bursting of crackers, the imposing image of the Holy Immaculate Mother of God, Mae de Deus, was solemnly carried in and kept in the body of the Saligao Church for veneration.

After emotions died down, the Rt. Rev. Chief Ecclesiastical Judge, Vicar of Panjim, read the Provision of the erection of the Saligao Church of Mae de Deus, followed by the reading of the Letter of Appointment of Rev. Fr. Caetano Xavier d’Abreu from Panjim as the first Parish Priest of Saligao. The new Vicar then ascended the pulpit and preached an eloquent sermon in Konkani, which was followed by the kissing of the Image of Mae de Deus. Before the closing of the religious ceremony, the President of the Ecclesiastical Junta, the Rt. Rev. Canon Reis Coelho went to the pulpit and gave a vivid description of the new Saligao Church, explaining the meaning of each and every part and the various sections of the newly blessed church.

In obedience to the Superior determination of the Governmental Junta, the minutes were written, read and signed there and then by all dignitaries present and placed in the Saligao Church archive, the contents of which were to be preserved for posterity for generations to come.

At the end of the solemn religious ceremony, the civil, military, judicial, as well as the ecclesiastical authorities, besides representatives of the various Councils and Municipalities of Goa and other distinguished invitees were accorded a warm welcome by the Festival Committee. Refreshments were served.

Finally the Governor General raised the toast on this solemn occasion, thus writing the day 26th November, 1873, in letters of gold in the annals of Saligao history.

4 comments on A memorable day for Saligao

  • Dilip DaCruz

    Are there any references to this article? Just trying to separate the facts from the masala.

  • Maria Do Ceu

    Hello Rev.Fr.Mascarenhas,
    Since you have taken writing in your retired years which is lauded by all, it would be a pleasure to read about the best years of your life as the Curate Priest and your various church activities which I am sure you still reminisce?

  • Thom

    YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A ROCKET SCIENTIST what to believe and not to believe.
    Higher Learning Institutions may require all kind of references to prove the historic facts from fairy tales. I am more fascinated what Rev. N Mascarenhas put out for the public which makes more interesting for individuals to get into a Research Library and do a further publicity with due acknowledgements to the right historians who kept this treasure for our present and future generation.
    Again, I support and encourage Rev. N Mascarenhas to move forward with similar historical projects which should bring a wider curiosity and good readership among concerned and interested! – Thom

    PS It will keep happy the scholars and historians if we acknowledge their hard work is such research!

  • [...] an earlier essay (A Red-Letter Day for Saligao) I had detailed the events that took place at the time of inauguration and installation of the [...]

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