History of Our Parish
The "Igreja de Graca" (Our Lady of Grace) which is completing the Golden Jubilee this year, was originally a chapel known as 'Capela de Batalhao'. It was founded by the Portuguese "lo. Regimento de Infantaria" (Ist Infantry Regiment). The chapel was constructed at the initiative of its dynamic commander Brigadier Agostinho Jose de Mota who later became General of Salcete in 1804. His 'quartel (barrack) was functioning in the nearby building where, after its extinction, the "Reparticao dos Servicos de Fazenda" (Revenue Office) was installed. This ancient building was demolished in recent years and a four storied building constructed therein, where the Office of the Collectorate is now functioning.
The inaugural stone of the construction of the chapel was laid in the evening of 6th January, 1812, Feast of Epiphany, and the construction was completed within five months. The first mass was celebrated on 3rd May, 1812, "Festa de Santa Cruz" (Feast of the Holy Cross). The building was elegant, standing out majestically, highly visible due to the elevation of the locale, with a large open space, facing the municipal garden.
The chapel was dedicated to 'Nossa Senhora de Graca' (Our Lady of Grace). Besides the Sunday mass and novenas of the Patroness and St. Augustine, there were, on all fridays of Lent, Way of the Cross with sermon and 'beijo do Senhor Morto'.
With the opening of the railway line in 1888 (the railway station being located only a few metres away) and with the starting of 'Mercado Novo' (New Market) the following year, the importance of the location of the chapel increased many fold, as many people who were coming to Margao on Sundays to sell their market products, as well as those coming to make their purchases, would go to the chapel for the Sunday obligatory mass, and one could see dozens of baskets with vegetables, fruits, fish, stored for a while in the compound.
Then, in 1922, with the launch of the first 'carreira de caminhetas, (ancient bus trips) from Margao to Cortalim and the bus stand being placed near the chapel, many government offices were located around, serving Salcete and all of South Goa. Thus the 'Capela de Batalhao' became advantageously earmarked at the crossroads of Margao town.
The last 'Capelao military do lo. Batalhao' (military chaplain) was Pe. Venancio Felicio da Piedade Almeida of Velim, who retired in 1891, after being promoted to the post of'alferes'.
In the decade of the thirties, a priest, with a broad vision, was posted as the chaplain, Bacharel Pe. Caetano Santana Lourenco, a Portuguese primary teacher, who retired with appreciation. It was due to his zeal and efforts that the chapel was renovated and the attached paroquial residence built. Pe. Lourenco himself contributed with some thousands of rupees and also some neighbours. In 1941, in appreciation of his services, a marble with an inscription and his portrait in oil was placed there by the parishioners.
The first resident chaplain was Pe. Alvaro Pinto in early forties, who accomplished fruitful pastoral work. Later, in the 1940s, the chaplain Pe. Antonio de Sta. Rita Vaz rendered valuable services.
On 15th September, 1942, feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, in the chapel area, was founded the 'Obra de Proteccao a Mulher' (Help-Institution for the destitute women) and next year, was established the 'Casa de S. Jose', administered by nuns, in the house of D. Maria Parras e Cruz, behind the Municipality, where shelter was provided for overnight stay for women who were coming to the city to sell their produce and could not return home, due to non- availability of late transport. It remained for some years.
To mark the commemoration of 'Ano Mariano' and the centenary of the proclamation of the dogma of Immaculate Conception, a monument was erected in the chapel yard, of Our Lady of Fatima with three seers, in marble, brought from Italy, offered by F. X. Albuquerque and his wife Cristalina Fernandes, which was inaugurated by Patriarch D. Jose Alvernaz on 22-01-1955.
At this stage, the chaplain was Pe. Jose Antonio Gomes (familiarily known as Fr. Tony), from Aldona, who was there from 1951, working with great zeal. It is due to his efforts and also due to the interest taken by the Archbishop D. Jose Alvernaz that, surpassing all difficulties, the birth of the new parish "Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Graca" (Our Lady of Grace Church) could be a reality, with areas detached from the mother parish of Margao, "Igreja de Deus Espirito Santo" (Holy Spirit Church), only 800 metres away, and from Navelim Church "Igreja de N. Sra. do Rosario" (Our Lady of Rosary Church), by "Provisao" no. 54-59 dated 1" May 1959, effective from 31st May 1959.
The notification dealt in detail with the wishes of the people of the area and their spiritual needs, legalities involved, delimitation of the new parish, provision to continue the use of the cemeteries of Margao and Navelim as thereto, until an appropriate cemetery is constructed, etc.
Pe. Jose Antonio Gomes had the rare privilege of being the last chaplain of "Capela do Batalhao" and the first parish priest of "Igreja de Graca", perhaps a spiritual reward for having accomplished his arduous work. During his tenure, three fourth of the number of shops now known as GRACE ESTATE were built.
He was followed by Pe. Joao Lopes de Sa who worked hard for the formation of a parish council, a novel elected body in the parish so much spoken of, in various parts of the Catholic world in the post-Vatican II period, and to have a new building for the newly born parish church. After hardships, the inaugural stone was laid down by the Auxiliary Bishop Raul N. Gonsalves on 28-01-1973. The first mass was celebrated on Sunday, 22-06-1975 and the consecration of the stone altar took place on 01-01-1977. At the entrance of the church, right side, an inscription in marble reads as under:
THE GRACE CHURCH WAS BUILT DURING THE TENURE OF FR. JOAO LOPES D'SA VICAR OF THE CHURCH ON 1-1-77 INSERTED BY THE PARISHIONERS IN GRATEFUL TRIBUTE
On this occasion the mass was concelebrated by the Bishop of Cabo Verde, Resignatario, D. Jose Colaco.
The construction of the remaining shops, etc. was done by Fr. Joao Lopes.
The lucky parishioners of Grace Church found an eclectic visionary in Fr. Tony Gomes and a sagacious cropper in Fr. Joao Lopes. Both have been two strong
founder pillars of the church of God, for generations to be remembered with love.
They were followed by:
Fr. Bossuet Menezes
Fr. Lino Monteiro
Fr. Joao Pedro Fernandes '„
Fr. Cleto Pereira
Fr. Carmo Martins
Fr. Tomas Lobo
Fr. José (Joe) Rodrigues
It may be noted, while entering the church, five biblical scenes, in mosaic tiles, depicting the Annunciation, Visitation, Birth of Jesus, Wedding Feast at Cana and Crucifixion at Calvary were engraved during the tenure of Pe. Joao Pedro Fernandes. This mosaic mural was sponsored in memory of Late Mrs. Maria Parras D'Cruz by Marian Trust - Margao. It was designed and executed by Mrs. Bianca Menezes from Verna.
After the creation of a new Parish, the following religious institutions came under the new Parish of Our Lady of Grace Church:
Fatima Convent and Fatima Convent High School
Loyola High School
Carmelite Monastery (O.C.D)
The following Chapels came under the Our Lady of Grace Church:
Capela de Sta. Cruz (Holy Cross) - Sirvodem
Capela de Sta. Cruz (Holy Cross) - Pedda
Capela de Sta. Cruz (Holy Cross) - Malbhat
Capela de St. Sebastiao (St. Sebastian) - Comba
Capelinha de Santas Almas - Mestabhat
Capelinha de Sta. Cruz (Holy Cross) - Near overbridge
Capela de Sta. Cruz (HolyCross) - Mestabhat
Capelinha de Sta. Cruz - Volvoi (Comba)
Few glimpses of various co-related bodies and their activities:
Confraria: The "Confraria de N. Sra. da Graca" was instituted in 1873 and its "compromisso" published in the Official Gazette no. 33 of 1905, was approved by decree no. 151 of 22.12.1908. Presently is defunct.
Fabrica: Almost all the Churches of Goa and even some Chaplaincies have their own administrative body called Fabrica. Our Lady of Grace Church had its Fabrica even as a Chapel - "Capela de Batalhao". Our Fabnca, as all other Fabricas, look after the administrative side of the Church. It looks after social, economic and even spiritual needs of the Church.
Parish Pastoral Council: Keeping in mind the teachings of Vatican II and its directive the Grace Church Parish established the Parish Pastoral Council on 17th October 1971, first of its kind in the whole of Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. The Council has its own Constitution approved by the Archbishop Patriarch.
Grace News: Our Lady of Grace Church is the first Parish in whole of Goa Archdiocese to publish the monthly bulletin "Grace News'' during the tenure of Pe. Joao Lopes de Sa on 6th January, 1973.
Grace Church had a privilege to host the first monthly meeting of the priests from South Goa which has now been shifted to the Clergy Home.
Grace Church Parish makes a determined effort to move forward with the mission of Jesus Christ through a number of laity organizations and movements approved by the Ecclesiastical Authority like the Grace Catechetical Association, Grace Youth Association, Conference of St. Vincent de Paul, Legion of Mary, Altar Servers, Charismatic Renewal Groups, Couples for Christ, World Apostolate of Fatima and Neo- Catechumenate.
It is noteworthy to observe that the Parish which is day and night busy has 26 Small Christian Communities spread out in the Parish, meeting now and then to listen to the Word of God, to pray and take up tasks as enlightened by the Spirit of God.
Grace Church loses no opportunity to bring together all sections of parishioners on different occasions by celebrating a Family Day, Grandparents' Day, Mothers' Day, - Fathers' Day and Children's Day, festivals for the poor, irrespective of their faith, Youth Day (Sparks) and Day of the Sick.
Turn Gold into Platinum
Our Lady of Grace Church, situated in the heart of the commercial city of Margao, on the top of Grace Estate, is visited by many, even by outsiders, for religious services and for having a quiet time for private prayer. Its 28 steps in new marble of main entrance lead to an oasis of spirituality, love and peace.
With the grotto of Our Lady of Fatima on one side, the illuminated cross on the top of the tower bell and on the other side the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament exposed in a glass monstrance, the Grace Square, the whole ambience, with its golden glorious past, with its fifty lustrous years, invite us to be introspective, of the past and the present, where every stone is an open book of the marvelous history, remembering its stalwarts some of whom have silently passed away.Someone, on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of Our Lady of Grace, in 1984, had penned a poem in the Grace News.
"Let us unitedly aspire to live without fears
For another twenty-five long years
To see this majestic shrine
Encircled with golden rays shine"
And we would like today, twenty-five years thereafter,
to make that "someone's" first three lines ours, and add to say:
“Encircled with platinum rays shine”
Courtesy Late Dr. Jose de Sousa