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GUJARAT JESUITS REMEMBERED

HEDWIG LEWIS SJ [Ed]

 

 

The Gujarat Province has been "blessed"
with these pioneers, stalwarts,
 and exemplary Jesuits.
 These brief life-sketches will hopefully
 provoke us to deeper reflection on our religious calling,
motivate us to face modern-day challenges, inspire us to have very positive
 and optimistic attitudes
towards our companions
and their contributions.

 

For information regarding this book CLICK HERE

 

Gujarat Jesuits Remembered is a collection of "mini-biographies" of 59 Jesuits of the Gujarat Province who spent their lives in the service of the people of Gujarat. These "mini-biographies"/"obituaries" were written by their respective companions and published in the province newsletter soon after their deaths.

This collection features Jesuits who died during the years 1983-2002, following on earlier collections of  Gujarat Jesuits who passed away before this period.

The "lives" presented in this collection will undoubtedly evoke fond reminiscences in those senior Jesuits in the Province, but they will aptly serve as sources of inspiration to the younger generation. The Jesuits contained in this volume were pioneers who had their fill of 'agonies and ecstasies'. Several battled physical ailments in the Ignatian spirit of the "Sume et suscipe" –Take and Receive. Some of them were lost in the midstream of life. But each in his own way was a "down-to-earth" saint who blessed our land and its people, and continue to pray for the fulfillment of  Christ's Mission.   
   (Back cover)
   
                                     
F O R E W O R D

Gujarat Jesuits Remembered is a collection of "mini-biographies" of 59 Jesuits of the Gujarat Province who spent their lives in the service of the people of Gujarat and died during the period 1983-2001. The 'biographies' are in fact their obituaries, presented not by 'professional writers' but by their close companions, who have preferred straight-forward narratives to the panegyric.

In the second-last 'obituary' the deceased Jesuit is referred to as a "saint". But the writer explains: "He was not one of those saints described in any volume of The Lives of Saints, who are made to appear more believable and attractive as 'saints' when they are in heaven than when they were here among mortals. For it was Del Rio's eccentricities that made him a down-to-earth saint." The same can be said of practically every mini-biography in this book, which tells of contented, caring, compassionate, courageous, contemplative, consecrated... Jesuits, whose human limitations are not overlooked. They are full-bloodied "sons of St Ignatius Loyola" who are committed to the spread of God's Kingdom under the banner of Christ.

In remembering the deceased members of the Gujarat Jesuit family, one recent event comes to mind. On October 21, 2001, Luigi and Beltrame Quattrocchi, lawyer and homemaker, were beatified by Pope John Paul II, thus becoming the first married couple in the history of the Church to be raised to the rank of "blessed". They had lived in Rome in the early 20th-century, and three of their four children are alive. living. When interviewed, all three children agreed that the "blessed pair" seemed like ordinary parents at the time. They suffered the usual hardships and disease, had some mild arguments, but mostly treated each other with a deep respect and love. Their son, Fr Paolino Beltrame Quattrocchi, a 92-year old Trappist who concelebrated the beatification Mass with the Pope, said that along with joy he felt a "great sense of shame" because while they were alive "I didn't respond as I should have to a grace of this magnitude".

The Gujarat Province has been "blessed" with these pioneers, stalwarts, and exemplary Jesuits. These brief life-sketches will hopefully provoke us to deeper reflection on our religious calling, motivate us to face modern-day challenges, inspire us to have very positive and optimistic attitudes towards our companions and their contributions.

I N T R O D U C T I O N

Some years ago, while re-arranging the College residence library, I came across copies of NAVAJUNI - Things Old an New – Stories of the Gujarat Jesuit Family. The last issue (No 11) was dated March 1984. The magazine had come to an abrupt end with the departure of the founder-editor, Fr Ignacio Echaniz, SJ to Rome in July that year, as the newly appointed Assistant Director of the Spirituality Centre at the Roman Curia. 

To make a long story short I was inspired to revive Navajuni, but did little to get started on it. However, as acting Socius (July-November 2001), I had easy access to the archives, and did some cursory research on the "progress" of the Province since 1983 – for "things old and new" that had not been recorded in any issue of Navajuni. When I counted the number of "obituaries" that had piled up during these intervening years I discovered there were over 50 Jesuits who had gone to their eternal resting place! 

Through the kind help and super-efficiency of Mrs Sheila Chettiar, (many thanks, Sheila!), I had all the Obituaries in my computer within a fortnight – sent by Sheila through the internet. On taking print-outs and seeing the "volume" I consulted the Provincial, Fr Jerry Sequeira, SJ, about getting these printed as a book with its own title. Thus we have Gujarat Jesuits Remembered.

This book, therefore, is a "collection of obituaries" from past Gujarat Jesuit Samachars and other sources. Given the variety of "authors" who have contributed their pieces, and the understandable lack of professionalism of many of them, one cannot expect uniformity of style or approach. I have made only minor changes wherever needed. And, with much reservation, I have supplied sub-headings for easy reading; I must warn the readers that these are rather arbitrary, and meant as superficial divisions, since do not always do full justice to the content under them – often because the original writings have not been neatly packaged, particularly when they have been hurriedly written. The length of the obits is according to the original. The inconsistency in the number of contributions to some 'lives' is not due to any design or level of importance, but sheer convenience – because the pieces were available and provided different perspectives.

The reader needs be cautioned that an "obituary" has its peculiarity. It is a composite picture of a person, wherein most of the attractive fragments of his entire life are taken out of their fuller context and are juxtaposed. This s bound to create the "halo effect". The writers in this volume, given the risk of apparent glorification through such a collection of "facts" – have attempted to present a balanced picture, by calling a "bumpkin" a "bumpkin"!

While editing these pages, I felt inspired by the deep spirituality and total commitment that shone through the "lives" of these "blessed" companions – most of whom I had met only briefly in their lifetime. The only one I had not met – or even heard of earlier, was Br Julio Dominguez. And I must confess that the brief account of his life moved me the most. Here was a rather 'fragile' human being, who gave in to despair, and against all the pleadings of his superiors, signed the papers for dimissorial, which were addressed to the General and duly deposited at the Post-Office late in the evening. That night, Br Julio had a change of heart and begged his superiors to do all in their power to retract his decision. Thanks to the 'influence' of Fr Suriá, the documents were retrieved through the friendly postmaster, before they could be registered, and torn to shreds in the presence of Br Julio. There was no turning back after that! Br Julio volunteered for the Latin-American Missions and died there after a fruitful minist
ry!

I trust that these memoirs will be a source of inspiration to all who read this book.

Perspectives

Some written feedback – a random sampling:

Dear Hedwig,

Though obituaries are not to be taken seriously it is the last parting gift we give to a fellow Jesuit. Your collection shows how obituaries should be written and also how they should not be written. ...Your compilation has lengthened the memories of dead Jesuits. Congratulations. (Lancy Lobo)

... Your editing of ‘Gujarat Jesuits Remembered’ is superb, a modern menology. (
Joseph Maciel, SJ, SXHS, Mumbai)

...I really enjoyed reading and getting inspired by ... Gujarat Jesuits Remembered... a good book to take something from it for our life... (Sr Cecilia Rodrigues, CCV...)

...
I am reminded of the famous Gujarati proverb which goes as follows: Hathi jivto lakhno and marelo Sava lakhno (A living elephant is worth a lakh and a dead one a lakh and a quarter)... The dead ones, who matter to us remain alive in our hearts... I am immediately reminded of my novitiate days wherein we were asked to read the lives of Saints... The book edited by you does serve the purpose...
(but) we are left with the living ones whom we meet day after day... One experienced Jesuit, who is still alive, used to say: "Rare are the moments when two Jesuits live together and still rarer are the moments when they share with each other in full faith."...

In Gujarati it is said, Kuvama hoy to havadama ave (Only if there is water in the well can it be drawn into a smaller tank.)... The living memories of the living are a spontaneous overflow of that Inner Self which is full of life, love, and joy... It is like water which has neither a specific colour nor a specific shape. It is very ready to become a colour or a shape depending on what colour one adds into it or what kind of vessel one pours it into. We have umpteen number of occasions when this can be expressed. It is easier said that done. A word of thanks... encouragement... It’s a question of being thoughtful and sensitive to others... (I must) vow not to join the killers – by which I mean the promoters of the DEAD MEMORIES of the living. If I cannot say an enlivening world it does not matter. But I must not say a deadening word...

May audiovisual interviews of the living Jesuits be conducted focusing on genuine appreciation... This will replace the famous proverb – A pie in the sky when you die. (Extracts from an 8-page "letter" by Fr Raymund Chauhan, SJ to the author)

... It is very well edited and reads well...Congratulations and God bless you for your painstaking research and publication to keep our veterans and friends well cherished in our minds and hearts. (Fr Raphael C.M.)

 

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