The 'haunting' of Padre Lourenço

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

If I were to tell you real, true ghost stories from Goa and India, and say that Goan ghosts did exist, you would probably scoff and brush them aside as the weird beliefs of an old man. You would of course be right, but in the olden days in the village of Saligao things were quite different. Let me tell you the stories of the “haunting” of Padre Lourenço, the haunted tree near the Seminary and Saligao’s very own Goan ghost of Christalina.

It was the second week of May in the year 1952 that Padre Inácio Lourenço Pereira was appointed as supervisor of the construction of the Saligao-Pilerne Seminary (Seminary of Our Lady, Saligao, Goa). He hailed from Albutriel in Portugal (Diocese of Leiria), the place where Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima. He was a missionary along with his priest brother working in Madras-Mylapore diocese. He replaced Fr Paulo Arcanjo Menezes from Sangolda, who from 1936 to 1952 was in charge of building of the Diocesan Minor Seminary.

Portuguese priest

Fr Menezes used to walk every Sunday from his residence near the unfinished seminary to St Anne’s Chapel in the village to celebrate Mass there. However in April 1952 he went on a year’s sabbatical leave to East Africa. As soon as Padre Lourenço arrived, the chapel committee members requested him to come to St Anne’s to celebrate Mass for the parishioners of the three wards — Donvaddo, Mudd’davaddi and Tabravaddo-Mollembhat. Padre Lourenço readily accepted the proposal and on 25 May 1952 along with his domestic help known simply by the name ‘Frank’, drove to the chapel along with a Donvaddo lad who directed them. We youngsters at once fell in love with this fair and hefty Portuguese priest as he had a big jeep, which was a rarity in those years. After the Mass, we altar boys forgot about our breakfast as we went on a joy ride to the seminary at the invitation of the new chaplain.

Saligao Seminary, Goa

Saligao Seminary. Pic by Frederick Noronha

The work of the seminary was completed by November 1952 and the inauguration took place on 6 December 1952. His eminence Cardinal Manual Gonsalves Cerejeira, Patriarch of Lisbon, inaugurated it with due pomp and solemnity. Top goverment officials,a large number of priests and seminarians of Rachol Seminary, and a sizeable crowd of people gave a festive look to the inauguration. We, the boys of Mater Dei Institute, were dressed in our Mocidade Portuguesa uniforms to receive the dignitaries with a salute. Even the ‘Christuleacho vôd’ (haunted banyan tree) shook mightily at the command given by our troop master.

A few weeks later, one fine Sunday morning in January 1953, the parishioners at St Anne’s gathered for the usual Mass, but there was no sign of Padre Inácio Lourenço Pereira. So some elders and youngsters walked briskly up the Donvaddo hill to his residence near the seminary. What a sight it was! His workers and helpers were all around him. Padre Lourenço remained motionless.

Padre possessed by a Goan ghost?

Frank and others began to unfold the happenings of the previous night. As usual Padre Lourenço had gone for a walk around the seminary road, but that particular night he did not return. As there was no sign of him, some of the workers went in search of him. They found him quite close to the infamous banyan tree believed to be haunted by Christalina’s ghost, flat on the ground with his face in the mud. They shouted for help and their companions came with the jeep. They carried him to the jeep, drove to the residence and placed the good priest in his bed. All along he remained speechless and motionless. Then someone shouted  ‘Christalina’ and the news spread like wildfire in the entire village of Saligao and the neighbouring villages that Padre Lourenço was possessed by the ghost of Christalina. It was an instant talk of the town and fear engulfed the folks of Saligao.

In the evening some people, including my uncle Anselmo Mascarenhas, went to visit the padre. Rumours were spreading that Padre Lourenço was talking in Konkani and in a female voice. People now began concocting all kinds of ghost stories and the bizarre incident had a lasting impression on my young mind.  I lived with it for years till I entered the seminary of Saligao in 1957. So was there any truth to this real ghost story in Goa?

If my memory serves me correctly, by Lent Padre Inácio Lourenço was out of the Hospital Escolar and dispatched to Leiria, Portugal, in March 1953.  A cross was fixed to one of the branches of the banyan tree by Frank and other workers. With the exception of Frank, who remained in Goa, all the others left. Frank was absorbed as the driver of the Prelate at Archbishop’s House.

I joined the seminary of Saligao-Pilerne in 1957. One day a few of us went with our Spiritual Director Fr Robert Vas to observe the cross on the banyan tree. Indeed, the vertical part of the cross was intact, while the horizontal part was missing. Was one of the famous Goan ghosts — Christalina — active once more?

Glowing haunted tree

In later years, one night we saw the whole banyan tree glowing in the dark. Some professors, prefects and quite a number of sturdy seminarians directed themselves towards the suspectedly haunted tree.  When they returned we crowded round them, expecting to hear some scary ghost stories of macabre Goan ghosts led by Christalina. But they sheepishly said that the light was from four carts carrying petromax lights, parked near the tree; the cart owners were busy tightening the brakes for the downhill ride to Saligao! We all had a hearty laugh.

Christalina's tree in Saligao, Goa. Pic by Frederick Noronha

Christalina's tree in Saligao, Goa. Pic by Frederick Noronha

Many years later, much after I was ordained a priest, I met up with Frank at the Archbishop’s Palace and enquired about the incident. He told me exactly what had happened to Padre Lourenço and how the ghost stories in Goa about Christalina played on the minds of the workers of the seminary. He said it was at that time that they nailed a cross on one of the branches of the banyan tree. Padre Lourenço was muttering some incomprehensible words, was taken to hospital and later on sent back to Portugal.

I asked him if it was true that a “gaddi walla” experienced in removing the spirit and bottling had been summoned, or if any exorcism was done, as the seemingly real ghost stories circulating at the time postulated. He answered in the negative. In 2002 I had the good fortune to travel to Portugal and on to Fatima for the beatification ceremony of Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Pope John Paul II performed the ceremony, in the presence of Sister Lucia — I was fortunate to see the visionary.

A few days later I happened to meet the Rector of the Sanctuary of Cova da Iria from the parish of Santos o Velho in Lisbon. His name was Monsenhor Luciano Guerra. As I knew that our old chaplain Padre Inácio Lourenço Pereira was from Albutriel, I enquired if he knew the priest. He smiled and said that Padre Lourenço had been his predecessor at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima and that he knew that he and his brother had been missionaries in India. He said that both the brothers were buried in the cemetery at Albutriel in the Diocese of Leiria. I said a prayer for the chaplain’s soul but did not mention anything about the ghost stories in Goa about Christalina story, to avoid scandal.

Nevertheless, for the elders of Saligao village the perceived real ghost stories are evergreen, and the Goan ghosts, especially Saligao’s own Goan ghost Christalina and the haunted tree near the Saligao Seminary remain a veritable institution. In fact the Hindu villagers living close to the haunted tree have built a small niche and offer gifts to the spirit, whom they call Ximecho Devchar or Boundary (Protecting) Devil.


5 comments on The ‘haunting’ of Padre Lourenço

  • Bowie Fernandes

    It was my second year in Saligao Seminary of Our Lady (2009) when one night the new students of Std. VIII started shouting that they have heard someone crying outside the window. One of the boy peeped outside the window to see who was crying and to a lighting flash he saw a lady sitting downstairs and weeping loudly. He informed his prefact Fr. Bolmax Pereira of this incident, meanwhile their class monitor went out with the torch to have a look unfortunately there was noone, he returned to his dometry and went to sleep. After few hours he woke up shouting and crying and toldthat he saw a lady crying in his dreams just the way the boy saw before lady outside the window. Next morning the class monitor he got fever with fear and he was sent back home.

    • Fr Bolmax Pereira

      This is a news to me Bowie Fernandes. that too after so many years. Its unfortunate that the Rumours still manage to find new mouths to keep going.

  • akesh

    i dnt believe on ghosts stories n now goan ghosts ohh shit!!!!!

  • Ritesh

    I believe in the Christalina story; Mumbai once had its own lady ghost in the St.John the Baptist church in SPEEZ (Andheri East); which is a 1579 church and abandoned in 1840 due to an epidemic that hit the village of Kondavita; was probably plague.

    The altar was moved to the Marol Village in Andheri East and is still there. The ghost was exorcised in 1977; and this is also described in several forums if one searches on Google.

    The ghost of Saligao may or may not be true but I have felt that errie force from the Banyan tree while once passing from there in 2005. I tried to go there in 2007 once again however the parish at Coco Beach warned me from venturing in that area.

  • Sneha

    Is there any story which tells us who this Christalina was and what was the reason she became a ghost…???

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