After receiving approval from Archbishop Patrick O’Regan the first Mass in Konkani – the national language of the people of Goa and the Konkan region of western India – was held at Sacred Heart Church, Hindmarsh, on March 13.
Fr Lancy D’Silva CSC, who is parish priest at Hindmarsh and served in Goa for 10 years, gave the homily in Konkani – which was no easy task given there are many dialects from the region – with some parts also related in English for younger members of the community.
He spoke on the need to be transformed, becoming more and more in tune with the will of God. Fr Lancy said the Lenten season was a good time to reflect on the “kindness, mercy, love and the forgiveness of God our Father” and the need to take steps towards change for the better.
Supporting Fr Lancy at the Mass was Fr Santosh Pereira MSFS from the Salisbury parish, who also speaks Konkani.
Local community representative Blaise Fernandes, who along with Ancilla Dias was instrumental in gaining permission for the Mass to go ahead, said it was a joyous occasion to be able to “praise and worship in the vernacular”.
“Everyone was so enthusiastic. The spirit was unbelievable,” he said.
“It starts setting off a lot of bells once you hear your prayers and hymns in your own language.
“Everyone was very, very pleased, enthusiastic and full of expectation for the next Mass.”
Arriving with his family in Adelaide in 2004, Mr Fernandes, said the Konkani community had grown extensively over the years.
“When I first arrived we didn’t think there would be a lot of Konkani speakers here in Adelaide and there were only about 10 families in the community,” he said.
“While the Goan Catholic community was represented from when the St Thomas Mass was first held here in 2006, the wider Konkan community has only been established since 2018, after concerted efforts to include it at the St Thomas Mass.
“Now there are about 200 people in the Konkani community of Adelaide and there are a much larger number in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.”
Mr Fernandes, who is originally from Goa, said traditions from the Konkan region, especially Goa, were “very European influenced” reflecting the 450 year rule of the Portuguese.
Some well-known traditional foods enjoyed by Catholics in the area include vindalho curry (meat marinated in a mixture of vinegar and garlic) and sorpotel (pork offal marinated for about three days in a masala paste, cooked and eaten with rice).
One of the popular events on the calendar for Catholics is celebrating the feast of St John the Baptist on June 24, however this tends to be more of a cultural rather than a purely religious festival, he said.
St Francis Xavier is revered by Konkani Catholics for his missionary work after arriving in Goa in 1542 and his body still lays in rest at the state’s Basilica of Bom (Good/Holy) Jesus. But the Catholic faith first came to the shores of India through apostles Thomas and Bartholomew, and then in a more extensive way through the Portuguese in the late 15th century. This evangelisation extended from the Malabar region, across the Konkan region including Goa and Mangalore, and further north to the region of Daman and Diu.
On August 22 1500, a group of eight secular priests and eight Franciscans missionaries landed on the island of Anjediv, off the coast of Karwar, with the armada of Pedro Alvares Cabral and celebrated their first Mass. This saw nearly 23 islanders come to the faith, thus reviving the existing 1500 year old apostolic Christianity in India.
The Church of Nossa Senhora das Brotas (Our Lady of Springs) on the island of Anjediv was founded in 1502 and has tremendous archeological significance, being one of the oldest churches on the west coast of India.
While Mr Fernandes said it was wonderful that permission had been granted for the Konkani Mass to be held four times a year, the feast of St Thomas Mass remained an important way for all Indian communities to celebrate their faith together.
The next Konkani Mass will be held at Sacred Heart Church, Hindmarsh, 6.30pm, on Saturday June 11. The St Thomas Mass will be held in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral at 7pm on Friday July 1.