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The Golden Jubilee Of Saligao Church (1923) – I

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the 137th anniversary of the Mae de Deus Church in Saligao. Elaborate as the celebrations no doubt were, it is unlikely that they came even close to the pomp and grandeur of the 50th anniversary celebrations way back in 1923 [the Church was founded on 26th November 1873].

In the annals of the Saligao Church, the 50th anniversary celebrations of its foundation, held on 26th November 1923, was an event that made big news in various journals of Goa. Its remote preparation began with the meeting of the parishioners held on 29th October 1922 under the chairmanship of the then parish priest of Saligao, Rev Bacharel Sebastião José Lopes Lobo from Moira, wherein a tentative programme of festivities was placed before the assembly and time was given to them to come out with new ideas to be included in the programme as well as celebrate the events both religious and social in the best manner that would have a lasting impression on the minds of the people of the village.

It was also decided that two books would be released: One in 1923 itself, titled Igreja de Saligao authored by the vicar Rev. Fr. Lopes Lobo; and, the second, titled As festas do Cincoentenário da Inauguração da Igreja de Saligao to be written by a Saligaokar, identified as Fr. José Francisco dos Remédios from Tabravaddo, and distributed a year later on 26th November 1924. During the year-long preparation, the particulars of the various items planned were chalked out in minute detail.

The proximate preparation of the festivities of the 50th anniversary began from the month of September 1923. From then, every evening the boys of the village assembled in the compound of the church under the command of the parish priest. They lined up and marched around the entire compound to the march tunes played on the violin by Fr. Adrião de Sousa. Soon bugles and drums were added to the band in the early days of the month of October.

As the parish priest was busy with many activities, he handed over charge of the boys to Manuel António de Mendonça from Cotula, a teacher at Colégio Mater Dei, for further marching practice. Manuel Mendonça added a large number of boys from the school and trained them all to perfection for the celebrations. Besides marching, the boys were given myriad other responsibilities for the celebration. There would also be boy scouts from the school who would maintain order during the celebrations, while schoolgirls belonging to the Red Cross would provide first aid to those who took ill during the festivities in and around the church.

A map of Saligao to be designed by João Salustiano de Souza, a young artist from Saligao at the time employed in Calcutta, would appear in the Saligao books and in O Heraldo, a Goan daily newspaper, which would also bring out a special edition commemorating the 50th year, a few days before the feast on 26th November 1923.

The hymn O Brihante e a Estrela had already been set to music by Joaquim António Mascarenhas from Arrarim. The words of the hymn were composed by the famous poet from Margao, the late Barreto Miranda.

Meanwhile, there would also be a sports meet open to all, and a play staged by the girls of the village. The Director of the Colégio de Santa Maria, Etelvina de Melo, along with her associates would put up the concert with an all-female cast on 27th November, using the stage specially constructed in the church courtyard. Prior to the big day, there would be three days of spiritual preparations both in the morning and evening.

The preparations and practices for the music concerts were entrusted to various musicians. Dr. Rodolfo de Melo would be the Director and Conductor of the classical concert. Around 50 musicians from Saligao would gather at his residence at Demelovaddo together with the old and young singers from different wards for daily practices of various items. Young girls would be trained in their respective wards by the notable musicians from the village, such as Francisco Xavier Machado from Grande Morod, Joaquim António Mascasrenhas and Wolfgango da Cruz from Arrarim, Santana Gabriel Vaz from Mudd’davaddi, etc. Meanwhile The glory and love and O brilhante e a estrela, would be learned and sung by everyone in the wards. By the beginning of November the villagers had memorized the lyrics and music, and sang wherever they went. There was music all around the place!

As the day of the festival approached, the efforts were redoubled. Buntings of varied colours were readied, and would be hung from the towers of the church and fastened at the other end to the fence in the compound. More than a thousand lanterns for marche aux flambeaux, as well as to be hung on the façade of the church on the night of the 26th November were readied. Banners with different messages to be displayed over the various gates of the compound, vases and flower pots, bil’lo-madd portals, etc, were planned in advance to the minutest of detail.

Everyone worked together as a team. Everything would have the aura of a festival befitting the commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of the foundation of the Mae de Deus Church of Saligao. The singers and musicians, the celebrants and the preachers, the sacristans and the sextons, and many others working behind the scenes, were all busy in preparation for the imminent great day.

Most of the activities would be taken care of by the sons and daughters of Saligao. The only exception was “Banda Central”, a band from Margao, which would provide music for the vespers, alvorada, procession and sports activities. The band would also perform on the arrival of the Archbishop Patriarch from Calangute (who was to encamp there with his Rev. Secretary) to take part in the evening service on 26th November 1923. The description of this day needs to be highlighted in another article.

A month before the feast, the historical image of Mae de Deus, made from wood, was brought down from the side altar where it had been placed in 1873. It was noticed that it was made of cedar wood and that it required some refurbishment. Hence the image was shifted to a room in the residence and the restoration work commenced. The left foot of the image was mutilated due to a number of nails that had been inserted therein. A new one was made of teak wood to replace the older cedar wood one. The right foot was also severed, separated and replaced by another made of teak wood, maintain the symmetry. The legs were to be painted anew and other parts of the historic image to be retouched. Everything was worked upon and completed in record time. The image looked perfect now. Much later, in 1972,  C Hubert de Sousa from Nigvaddo (Arrarim), who had a chance of seeing this image from close quarters, wrote in glowing terms about the statue of our Lady of Mãe de Deus, the Patroness of Saligao Church. Once the restoration was complete, the image was kept in the hall, and on the first triduum day it was kept on a podium in the transept of the church.

[To be continued]

1 comment on The Golden Jubilee Of Saligao Church (1923) – I

  • Dear Fr. Nascimento,
    I would appreciate any information you may have on my cousin Rev. Bacharel Sebastião José Lopes Lobo, from Moira, who is mentioned in this article.
    My grandfather also had an uncle called Rev. Pe. Pedro Caetano Consolação de Souza, from Atafondem, Moira, who had some prominence in Old Goa, I believe, and I was wondering whether you may have any information on him? He was the first cousin of our present Archbishop of Goa, Filipe Neri’s grandfather Joaquim Nazareth.
    Kind regards,
    Richard (Seminarian, UK)

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