Thursday 29 Sep 2022

Goan priests in UK: Asian Chaplaincy first to serve diaspora

What is now the Goan Chaplaincy started off as the Asian Chaplaincy, which had been set up to cater to the needs of the Asians from countries like India, Burma, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Philippines, who began moving into the UK

LUI GODINHO | SEPTEMBER 16, 2022, 08:05 PM IST
Goan priests in UK: Asian Chaplaincy first to serve diaspora

A file photo of an Asian Festival Pilgrimage conducted by the Asian Chaplaincy at Aylesford on September 18, 1983.

LONDON

Goan priests have been serving in the UK with dedication for a number of decades and their involvement in providing spiritual and social service has been widely appreciated by the Goan diaspora.

What is now the Goan Chaplaincy started off as the Asian Chaplaincy, which had been set up to cater to the needs of the Asians from countries like India, Burma, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Philippines, who began moving into the UK.

Mervyn Maciel (93), one of the senior-most Goans who was in Kenya before moving to the UK, had vivid memories of the Asian Chaplaincy, which was set up in the early 1980s.

“I am almost certain the Asian Chaplaincy was formed shortly after my brother, Wilfred, wrote to the late Cardinal Basil Hume. My brother informed Cardinal Hume that the Asian population in London had begun to increase in the UK and it is high time we had a Chaplain of our own.”

“That's when Cardinal Hume decided to appoint Fr Arthur Moraes, who was already serving in the Diocese of Westminster. In fact, Fr Moraes told me that Cardinal Hume had shown him the letter written by my brother and that is how the Asian Chaplaincy came into existence.”

“The Asian Chaplaincy catered to various Asian ethnic groups as we had people from different ethnicities.”

When asked to suggest the purpose of setting up the Asian Chaplaincy, Maciel replied: “There were many people, including Goans, who wanted to participate in Mass, go for Confession and for other spiritual requirements. But they did not have the opportunity to do so, as they could not express themselves in English. So, it was wiser that we had someone who understood the ethnic language.”

Mindful of the growing Asian population and their spiritual needs, the Asian Chaplaincy was set up in the Diocese of Westminster, where Fr Moraes was based.

“The Asian Chaplaincy had a place along the St Peter's Street not far from Westminster Cathedral and I would go there very often to visit Fr Moraes and we would have meetings.”

To a query on the nature of these meetings, Maciel said: “Fr Moraes was a very enthusiastic priest who was keen to have retreats, pilgrimages and social gatherings.”

Regarding the funding for the Asian Chaplaincy, an article by Rudy Otter in the Catholic weekly 'The Universe' in 2002 stated that funds were contributed by the Westminster and Southwark dioceses to help the Asian Chaplaincy.

“Money is also raised through Asian Chaplaincy's pilgrimages... Raffles and bring-and-buy sales held in Hammersmith help boost funds, although one of the main sources of income is the magazine 'Contact',” Otter stated in his article.

Maciel said the Asian Chaplaincy would celebrate Masses basically in Konkani, but prayers and rosaries during pilgrimages would be recited in English, Konkani and Malayalam.

“A number of Goans were involved in the Asian Chaplaincy, be it at the celebration of feasts, religious services and social events. This provided a great opportunity for elderly Goans who only spoke Konkani, as they felt very much at home,” said Maciel.

The Asian Chaplaincy also published a quarterly magazine 'Contact' containing articles, pilgrimages, recipes and matrimonials.

Eventually, a need was felt to set up a separate Goan Chaplaincy to cater to the needs of the Goan diaspora.

"The other ethnic communities began having chaplaincies of their own and so, that is how the Goan Chaplaincy slowly took shape. Before Fr Moraes left the UK, Fr Anthony Furtado served as the Asian Chaplaincy,” recalled Maciel.

While Fr Arthur Moraes from the Diocese of Westminster was the first priest in the Asian Chaplaincy, Fr Francis Carvalho, a member of the Pilar Society, assisted Fr Moraes between 1988 and 1991.

When contacted, Fr Oliver Antao told The Global Goenkar that Fr Anthony Furtado (SVD) from Mangalore subsequently replaced Fr Moraes and served the Asian Chaplaincy, before Fr Antonio Andre Fernandes from the Pilar Society took over the Asian Chaplaincy.

After Fr Fernandes moved to a parish church, Fr Antao took over the Chaplaincy in 2001. It was during his tenure that the Asian Chaplaincy got bifurcated into different chaplaincies and the Goan Chaplaincy was born.

After serving for six years, Fr Antao was replaced by Fr Francis Rosario of the Pilar Society. At present, Fr Patrick D’Souza (Mitcham) and Fr Lucas Rodrigues (Swindon) from the Pilar Society are associated with the Goan Chaplaincy. Besides them, there are other priests from the Pilar Society who are also associated in different parishes.


A file photo of the notice board at the erstwhile Asian Chaplaincy in London.

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