Catholics are getting ready for year-long programmes to commemorate the life of St Gonsalo Garcia, the first saint from India.
“We observed three days of spiritual reflections and a solemn high mass was held on Friday evening to commemorate 150 years of his elevation to sainthood,” said Vasai archbishop Felix Machado.
St Gonsalo was born in 1557 during the Portuguese colonial rule in Vasai and passed away in Japan in 1597.
According to some accounts, St Gonsalo was born in Gass village when the Portuguese held sway over Vasai (which was then called Bassein). Local historian Prof Regin D’Silva, who was collecting information in the Lisbon archives for his doctoral dissertation ‘Bassein under the Portuguese’, found documents describing St Gonsalo as ‘natural de Agacaim’, meaning born in the village of Agashi of Bassein.
Some claim that St Gonsalo’s father was Portuguese and his mother was from Vasai, others said both his parents were locals. Prof D’Silva said St Gonsalo spent eight years in the Vasai fort at and had a strong desire to be a Jesuit priest. A Jesuit priest, Sebastiao Gonsalves, was his guide and took him on an assignment to Japan at the age of 15. St Gonsalo learnt Japanese and began work in the mission. However, he could not join the Jesuit order and moved to Philippines as a lay missionary. He later joined the Franciscan order and worked in Japan.
“The Franciscan brothers had considerable clout in the Japanese court and went about preaching. Their growing power led to rivalry with the local Buddhist monks,” said D’Silva. This enmity led to the arrest of several Christian missionaries, including Brother Gonsalo Garcia. They were sentenced to death and crucified on a hill in Nagasaki on February 5, 1597. After an inquiry, Garcia and his companions known as ‘Nagasaki Martyrs’ were declared saints by Pope Pius IX on June 8,1862. Archbishop Machado said several programmes will organized to commemorate the life and teachings of Saint Gonsalo and a large rally will be held in December.
Bruno D’mello sent us this scan of The Herald news paper in Goa which published his article on St. Gonsalo Garcia.
Here is the article in text format: A Saint for India.. From India