The Friar from Sangolda

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

If you walk from Mollembhatt in Saligao to the neighbouring village of Sangolda, you will come across a large mansion located soon after the residence of Bishop William Gomes. In the Barrossovaddo of Sangolda, it is known as Menezesachem or Vhoddlem Ghor, and stands stately on the CHOGM road. In this residential house there used to be a life-size, framed photo of Frei Vicente da Santa Catarina. Now that this house has new owners, I doubt if this photo still adorns its walls. Friar Vicente da Santa Catarina was the son of Caetano Rafael de Menezes and of Ana Soares and was born in Sangolda of the Parish of Guirim, Goa, on 24th July 1818.

At his baptism, he received the name of Rozario Rafael de Menezes; when he joined the Franciscan Order in the Convent of St. Francis of Assisi at Old Goa, he was given the name Frei Vicente da Santa Catarina. He was ordained a priest in the Capela de Pangim by the Archbishop D. Jose Maria da Silva Torres of Goa, on 10th November 1844.

By the Ecclesiastical Provision dated 18th October 1847, he was appointed missionary and assistant to the Vicar of St. Joseph’s Church, Father Francisco da Silva Pinto e Maia in Singapore. The Portuguese Mission in Singapore was then under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Goa. In 1887, the Portuguese Missions of Singapore and Malacca were placed under the jurisdiction of the Macau Diocese. Singapore is now an independent diocese.

Frei Vicente arrived in Singapore in April 1848 and was immediately made Vicar of St. Joseph’s Church. It is strange that in the Baptism Register of 15th January 1849, he called himself Vicar of St. Joseph and Superior of the Singapore mission. There was no reason for Frei Vicente – as Monsenhor Manuel Teixeira (author of the book Portuguese Missions in Malacca and Singapore) writes – to be called Superior of the Mission in the forties, while Fr. Maia was still alive and continued as Superior; as Frei Vicente never repeated this designation until after Fr. Maia’s death on 17th February 1850, we suppose that a mistake was made in the baptism register.

Frei Vicente was the first priest to build a church in Singapore. The name of this temple of God is the Church of St. Joseph, built in 1853. Fr. Maia had only built the parochial house and not the church. Frei Vicente repaired the Parish House in 1868 and added two transepts to the church. On 30th September 1854, Frei Vicente founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary. This confraternity ceased to exist in 1895 and was reorganised in 1947.

By Ecclesiastical Order of 19th December 1868, Frei Vicente was appointed Vicar General and Superior of the Malacca Mission; he was at the same time Vicar of St. Peter’s Church. Frei Vicente was the first to bear the title of Vicar General. In the beginning of February1869 he fixed his residence in Malacca. On 21st February 1891, he was discharged from his office and on 8th April 1891 he retired to Goa; he was then 76 years old and had spent 43 years (1848-1891) in the service of these missions.

He then resided at Donvaddo in Saligao for a year and a half, probably celebrating mass at St. Anne’s Chapel and the Church of Mae de Deus. Frei Vicente died on 15th November 1892 – exactly 118 years ago today – and was buried in the Cemetery of Guirim.

Sources: VAZ, Pe. Francisco Xavier & COSTA CAMPOS, Pe.Placido da, in “Monimenta Goana Eclesiastica III,” Goa, 1925, p.183. No.5 ; TEIXEIRA, Mons. Manuel, in “ The Macau–1987. Portuguese Missions in Malacca and Singapore(1511-1958)”, Volume III- SINGAPORE, pp71, 198-199.

2 comments on The Friar from Sangolda

  • R.Menezes-Ferrao

    Frei Vicente is from Sangolda, not Saligao. I am the great, great, great grand-daughter of his brother, & was born in Sangolda , many, many years ago. I found your article of great interest.
    God Bless you!

  • Val Souza

    You are right of course, Ms Menezes-Ferrao. The essay clearly mentions that Frei Vicente was from Sangolda. It’s the title that’s misleading. Will rectify the mistake.
    Regards – Val Souza, Editor

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