Fr Nevel: Dedicated priest and ardent Konkani lover

Michael Gracias | MAY 14, 2022, 12:46 AM IST

You taught us what were real values, and your life reflected them

You taught us what were true values, and integrity was your obsession
You taught us that no man was above himself, and dedicated your life to humanity
You taught us that in humility there was great pride, and lived a humble life…
Fr Nevel Lourdes Sacramento Gracias, popularly known as Nevel Vell’lekar on the tiatr stage, was born on February 11, 1964, on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes in the picturesque village of Velim, Salcette. He completed his school education in St Francis Xavier High School Velim and then graduated from Damodar College of Commerce in Margao. Upon graduation, he heard the call for priesthood and decided to join the diocesan Seminary and on account of his graduation, he was directly admitted to the Patriarchal Seminary of Rachol in June 1985. He was ordained a priest by Archbishop Raul Gonsalves on April 30, 1991 in St Francis Xavier’s Church Velim.
My first encounter with Fr Nevel was in Rachol Seminary. We were cast in a play by Fr Maxmillian Kolbe together. While Fr Ave Maria did the title role, I was doing a role of a prisoner and Fr Nevel was in the negative role of the oppressor. His voice was so powerful that as a new artiste among the experienced ones I was intimidated and then soon after the rehearsal I felt a hand on my shoulder telling me to believe in myself and to just play the role sincerely. This hand that then guided my steps today lies on his chest numb. Yes, Fr Nevel is no more: gone into history walking the paths of heaven to merit eternal life.
Fr Nevel was committed to his priesthood. Though involved with Tiatr, he never allowed his work on stage to interfere with his priestly obligations. Once he reached his parish after performing his tiatr in Karwar by 4 am. He stayed put and celebrated Mass with the faithful at 7 am and then only proceeded to rest!
Fr Nevel was a great preacher in the pulpit. He prepared his sermons well and would even write down his entire sermon on paper. His sermons had choosy stories that kept the faithful glued to his preaching.
As a priest Fr Nevel worked in the parishes of Taligao, Piedade-Divar, Loutolim, Chaudi-Canacona, Bodiem-Tivim, Utorda, Panjim, Caranzalem and Guirim. He also served as the Asst Director of the Diocesan Catechetical Centre and as the Director of The Lay Apostolate during which he was the editor of the Diocesan monthly “Daily Flash” and “Jivitacho Prokas”. I was fortunate to be a contributor to Jivitacho Prokas during his stint as an editor and truly he carried on his work with utmost patience passion and dedication.
Fr Nevel was an ardent Konknni Mogi. A dedicated warrior enthusiast and champion of our “Maim Bhas Konknni.” During his brief stint as the parish priest of Utorda, he started a parish bulletin “Sugand” in which he meticulously edited the Konkani articles and then forwarded them to me just to make sure that the spellings and vocabulary were in place. He was also a regular contributor to JIVIT, a monthly magazine that I published and edited for 15 years.
After a surgery where his leg had to be amputated due to high sugar levels, he was recuperating at his sister's house in Aquem, Margao. Even this did not deter him from contributing to the magazine. He called me up and told me that he could prepare the article if I could make arrangements to collect it and true to his word he kept the article ready. Such was his dedication and commitment to his mother tongue. Besides JIVIT, he was a regular contributor for Vauraddeancho Ixtt, Dor Mhoineachi Rotti, Gulab and Renovacao.
Fr Nevel started writing Tiatrs right from his college days, and if my memory is right, he staged his first Tiatr “Futtloli Boxi” during his student days and then as a seminarian too, he would write and present tiatrs in his village during the holidays. Upon Ordination, he shifted from social topics to spirituality and presented Lenten tiatrs bringing spirituality into socio-cultural and family life. The comedy was always decent and in good taste. He wrote and presented about 50 tiatrs of which over two dozens were Spiritual/Lenten tiatrs. He also composed the songs for his tiatrs. Besides tiatrs, Fr Nevel also wrote and presented one-act plays. I had the distinction of publishing his first book ‘Ho Sonvsar ek Machi’.
Fr Nevel was a wonderful human being. In the parishes and Centres where he worked, many people would visit him for counselling and he would be very patient in lending his ear and gracious in his contribution to solving their problems. Once when I explained to him the financial difficulties I faced to publish the magazine, he was generous to square off the cost incurred for a month and would promote and sell the magazines in the parishes where he worked.
His good work got recognised and he was awarded and felicitated by JIVIT Puroskar, Vauraddeancho Ixtt Puroskar, Gulab Puroskar, Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendra Puroskar and Dalgado Puroskar. He was also felicitated for his contribution to Konknni tiatr during the 125 years of the tiatr celebration.
Fr Nevel Gracias is no more. Nevel Vell’lekar will not be seen during the Lenten Season. But the work he has done, in the Spiritual and Stage arenas will always keep him alive amidst us. He has lived his earthly life and surrendered his life to his creator in the words of his Tiatr Title: Bapa, Tuji Khuxi Zaum!  
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