Carol D’Souza –
A visiting Bishop has said that priesthood is satisfying since it helps people to seek and get serenity and solace.
Bishop Agnelo Rufino Gracias, who just retired from his post, was in New Zealand recently on holiday. He spoke to Indian Newslink on a number of issues and paid tribute to New Zealanders, describing them as kind-hearted and environment-friendly.
“I am happy to be a priest because people have been very kind and God has been so good. Priesthood is a helping profession because we reach out and help people with their problems,” he said.
Born in Kenya to Indian parents, Bishop Agnelo moved to the seminary in Mumbai in 1954 after completing his school education in Mombasa.
He was 14 years old but even at that young age, he knew that he was made for priesthood.
He said that although he never doubted the decision to join the seminary at a young age, he would discourage youngsters of today to make the same bold move.
Some of them may regret it because they are not mature enough to make such an important decision, he said.
But the rules have changes since the 1950s.
“Today, a person can join the seminary only after graduating from a University because it is only then that they can really make a mature decision about their future. I am very happy with the rule,” he said.
The Archdiocese of Mumbai is divided into Deaneries, with each Deanery brought under a Bishop.
Since Bishop Agnelo was the youngest, he was given the farthest area of Raigad, where the Church works for the local tribes, including management of a boarding school.
“This is a very important project because the tribals mainly work as agricultural labourers on lands that probably belonged to their own ancestors. Once the harvesting is over, they move to other places to work on brick kilns. Because of their constant movement, the tribal folk are not educated and constantly search for work as migrant labourers,” he said.
Administration formed a major task of his portfolio, especially since Archbishop of Mumbai Cardinal Oswald Gracias constantly travels as an Advisor to the Pope. His assignments included Euthanasia, Abortion, Proclamation and Evangelisation.
Life has been so hectic that he has had no time for hobbies but he loves to read theology books and magazines which help him in his role as a Professor at the seminary.
He also enjoys keeping in touch with people through emails and letters.
The Bishop was in New Zealand on his retirement holiday and to participate in the 25th Wedding Anniversary of a couple in Auckland.
“New Zealand is God’s land; the people are kind; kinder than what I would ever expect anyone to be; the weather is nice; the greenery and the landscape is beautiful,” he said and added that the passion of New Zealanders in preserving and protecting the environment is commendable.
The Bishop had a special Message for readers since the interview was conducted just before Christmas: “In the Christmas season, as Pope Francis says, as disciples of Jesus, we should be witnesses to joy not sadness. The Gospel calls us to be people of joy because God is always with us, the nearness of Christ we celebrate as He comes to be one among us, He comes not to go away but to stay with us as the Emmanuel, (God with us), God not far away from us but with us that is why we can always be full of joy even in the midst of difficulties. This is especially true because today is celebrated as Gaudete Sunday.”
- Bishop Agnelo Rufino Gracias
- A tribal woman from Maharashtra