Goans celebrate the canonization of their compatriot St. Joseph Vaz

Bells pealed out at Catholic churches and chapels throughout the Archdiocese of Goa on Wednesday, calling the faithful to prayer and thanksgiving following the canonization of one of their own, St. Joseph Vaz.
The Indian-born saint known as the “Apostle to Sri Lanka” was canonized at a Mass in Colombo by Pope Francis on Jan. 14.
“The canonization is a sign of the maturity level attained by the church in Goa to be able to transmit to others the faith received there, by becoming a mission oriented Church,” Father Mario Saturnino Dias, director of the archdiocese’s center for missions, told CNA Jan. 15.
“It is an opportunity not only to thank God for the gift received, but also to pray that many more young people be blessed by similar vocations.”
St. Joseph Vaz was born in 1651 in Benaulim, a village of Goa. He became a priest of the Congregation of the Oratory, founding an oratory in Goa before travelling to Sri Lanka, where Catholics were suffering persecution under the island’s Dutch Calvinist rulers.
When the Goan’s canonization was official, local churches rang bells and set off firecrackers to celebrate. More than 1,000 people from the Archdiocese of Goa travelled to Sri Lanka to attend the ceremony itself.
“We the Canons of the Cathedral Chapter in Se Cathedral celebrated this joy of the Church in a solemn thanksgiving Mass … it is an an occasion to pray for many more vocations for missionary life and to revitalize the fervor of proclaiming the Gospel,” Father Dias said.
He said the Mass of Thanksgiving in Goa’s Se Cathedral, built in the 1500s, and explained that “the faithful had the rare experience of hearing the pealing of all five bells of Se Cathedral, which have the distinct musical sound notes of Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol.”
Father Dias described that there is a special reason for the canons of Se Cathedral to celebrate, because “it was at Se Cathedral in Old Goa that the young Father Joseph Vaz heard about the plight of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka, from a canon of the Goa Cathedral Chapter.”
“The canon had accidentally landed at Colombo while returning from a visit to Macau, and had experienced the spiritual hunger and thirst of the Lankan Catholics to be fed by the Word of God and by the sacraments, of which they had been deprived for over 30 years.”
Father Dias further noted, “this was because the ruling Dutch Calvinist government had expelled all the Catholic priests from the island. FratherJoseph Vaz’s heart was afire and he decided to go and help the Catholics of the island.”
During his homily, Father Dias recounted the life and missionary zeal of St. Joseph Vaz, who was instrumental in maintaining the Church in Sri Lanka.
“Discipleship is not ruled by power, authority and jurisdiction but by love of the faithful and concern for their overall well-being,” Father Dias reflected, urging the faithful to “re-energize your faith within the families, so that children can appreciate their faith, and pass it on.”

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