In 1989, a small group of Goans in the UK formed the Association of the Friends of Fr Agnelo (AFFA) to promote the Cause of Beatification of the Venerable Agnelo de Souza, a saintly son of Goa and a member of the Pilary Society.
The devotion and AFFA activities quickly spread across London and the UK. A distinctive mark that ties AFFA's spiritual and social activities is a novena prayer for the Beatification of Venerable Fr Agnelo.
AFFA has been organising the Fr Agnelo Day Mass on a Sunday closer to November 20 (Fr Agnelo's Death Anniversary) in a Cathedral, a prominent parish, or a parish hall since the inception. This year, Bishop Pat Lynch, SS. CC., retired auxiliary bishop of Southwark archdiocese, will celebrate the mass on November 19 at St George's Cathedral, Southwark, London.
The late Fr Sergio Mascarenhas SFX (the then Vice-Postulator to the Cause of Beatification of Venerable Fr Agnelo) promoted the Cause of Beatification of Venerable Fr Agnelo among Goans settled down in the UK.
With the backing of the Pilar Society, Fr Sergio ignited the enthusiasm of Goan devotees of Fr Agnelo in the UK. Fr Francis Carvalho, SFX, believes that Venerable Fr Agnelo made a meeting of devotees possible in Tooting Bec in 1989. Fr Francis was the first Pilar priest to serve in the UK and support the activities of AFFA.
The AFFA operates under the patronage of Bishop Pat Lynch. Earlier, the late Bishop Charles Henderson of Southwark was an excellent guide for the initial activities of the association.
The enthusiastic members of AFFA began to support the process of Beatification in the Roman Curia, for expenses like the team of medical doctors called to examine the proposed favour as a miraculous intervention. Each area representative of AFFA organises a Novena Mass beginning every February, leading to the celebration of Fr Agnelo's Day in November. Since the beginning, AFFA has fervently supported the Pilar Society to promote the devotion of Venerable Fr Agnelo in the UK and beyond.
A file photo of Auxiliary Bishop Paul McAleenan of Westminster blessing the statue of Venerable Agnelo D’Souza at St Paul the Apostle Church in Wood Green-London in November 2022.
A few AFFA area representatives have been covering a wide area to spread the devotion of Fr Agnelo for over three decades, leading Novena Masses every month preceding Fr Agnelo's Day in November.
The following representatives and areas give a glimpse of the scope of the AFFA's annual activities.
Canute D'Aguiar organises an annual Mass on the birth anniversary of Fr Agnelo in Morden, Surrey, in January. Agnela Cabral and Nina Pinto organise a Novena Mass in Tooting, South London, in February. Fatima and Flory Fernandes take charge of the March Cranford, Middlesex Novena Mass. Josephine and Lucas Fernandes coordinate the April Novena Mass in Woodgreen, North London.
In May, Lydia D'Souza organises a novena in Forest Gate, East London. Ann and Lee D'Mello unite people for June's Novena Mass in Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, Evon Fernandes, and Mary Xavier in Wembley, Middlesex. In July, Sydney Lobo and Eusebio Pinto coordinate a novena mass in Welling/Sidcup in Kent.
Goan Chaplaincy Swindon leads the Novena Mass in Swindon Wiltshire, and Goan Association Reading/Agnelite gather people for a Novena Mass in Reading, Berkshire, in August. Diana Pires coordinates a Novena Mass in Brighton, Sussex, in September.
In October, Jennifer Da'Silva and Raymond Lobo coordinate a Novena Mass in Croydon, Surrey, Flavio Gracias and Wilson Fernandes in Southall in West London.
A wooden statue of Venerable Agnelo de Souza donated by a devotee Veronica Barretto for devotion in the UK.
Rosie D'Silva is the coordinator of the prayer ministry, where people send prayer requests shared with a group via email to be prayed through the intercession of Venerable Fr Agnelo. Charmaine Fernandes and Nataline Fernandes are the youth coordinators of the AFFA to connect with the younger generation via social media.
AFFA invites area representatives and their friends for a yearly retreat in March. The area representatives gather for a seminar to report their annual activities every autumn.
A simple act of devotees coming together to pray the Novena Prayers for the Beatification of Venerable Agnelo has borne fruits beyond imagination. The ever-eager AFFA members garner financial support for the Pilar Society missions and seminarian bursaries to pursue priestly studies.
An impressive core committee coordinates AFFA devotional and other activities. Thomas Pereira is the acting chairman as the chairperson Jovito Dias recently resigned on health grounds, Neves D'Souza (Vice Chairman), Nina Pinto (General Secretary), Fredy Monteiro (Treasurer), Joaquim Fernandes (Assistant Treasurer), Mario Fernandes (Publicity Secretary), Genny Colaco, and Jennifer Da Silva (Joint Area Representative – Coordinators) Unice Barros (Fundraising Coordinator) and Hillary Fernandes (Member).
The AFFA is supported by the Pilar Society based in the UK. Fr Stephen Dias is the Coordinator of AFFA, with the support of Fr Lucas Rodrigues, Fr Patrick D'Souza, Fr Jerry Fernandes, Fr Francis Colaco, Fr Mark Furtado, and this writer.
The writer is a Pilar Father from the Goan Chaplaincy UK.