The Bishop of Bassein in Burma

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

“I have always placed my life in the hands of God and acknowledged His loving hands in shaping the events of my life.”  This sums up the absolute trust in Divine Providence of the 67-year-old Goan Bishop of Bassein in Burma (now Myanmar) whose life I am briefly describing here.

His Lordship Most Rev. Joseph Valerius Sequeira was from Sequeira-vaddo of Arrarim de Saligao, Goa. He was born in Zanzibar on 22nd February 1917.  His parents were Joaquim Valerian Sequeira and Ismania Francisca Sequeira originally from Saligao.  His parents migrated to Burma from Zanzibar in 1920 taking the infant Valerius along with them to Rangoon. Valerius was the youngest of five children of his parents, four of whom resided in Bombay. He was the brother-in-law of the late Richard Durante, one of the founders and a past president of the Saligao Union, Bombay who rendered yeoman’s service to the Union which has since been renamed as Saligao Association, Mumbai.

The young Valerius had a brilliant academic career.  He completed the two-year Latin course in just six months. Fluent in Burmese, English and French, he translated the Liturgy into Burmese.

He was ordained priest on 21st December 1939 at the age of 22 years and 8 months and on 20th October 1984, Joseph Valerius Sequeira was appointed Apostolic Administrator of Bassein, Myanmar, and Titular Bishop of Fissiana at the age of 67 years and 7 months.

He was ordained Bishop on 17th January, 1985 aged 67 years and 9 months as Titular Bishop of Fissiana, the Principal Consecrator being Bishop Sebastian U. Shwe Yank and Principal Co-Consecrators being Bishop Abraham Than and Archbishop Mathias U. Shwe at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Bassein.  He was appointed Bishop of Bassein, Myanmar, on 24th January 1986 aged 68 years and 9 months.  He retired as Bishop of Pathein, Myanmar (Burma) on 22nd February 1992 aged 75 and died at the age of 80 years and seven months on 24th October 1997 as Bishop Emeritus of Pathein, Myanmar.  He was Bishop for 12 years and 8 months.

The Latin name of the Diocese was: Basseinensis (Bassein) and it was erected on 1st January 1955, Metropolitan being Archdiocese of Rangoon. The name of the Diocese of Bassein was changed into Diocese of Pathein (Diocese of Patheinensis) on 8th October 1991, Metropolitan: Archdiocese of Yangon and Country is known as Myanmar.  The Catholics of Pathein Diocese belong to the Latin (Roman) Rite.

During the governance of Most Rev. Joseph Valerius Sequeira the total population of Bassein was 3,574,401.  The Catholics numbered 57,752.

While away in Burma Bishop Sequeira evinced keen interest in Saligao.  As a young priest during the Second World War when Rangoon was bombed and the Goans in Burma suffered there, his famous saying was, “Every person is a member of struggling humanity and so merits understanding and compassion.”  It is a pity that Bishop Sequeira never reached Saligao.  He attempted to come in July 1985 to Bombay and Saligao but it was not to be.  He is the fifth Goan priest from Saligao to be raised to the Episcopate.

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