Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bishop Francis L Braganza, SJ - By Fr.Vincent Saldanha

Bishop Francis L Braganza, SJ
(1922 - 2011)
            Born in Bandra on January 1922 to Leo and Sophia Braganza, Francis was the fourth of ten children five of whom (two boys and three girls) were chosen by the Lord to be religious. Francis and his brother Joe joined the Society of Jesus to work in the vineyard of the Gujarat Mission to ‘till it and it keep it’ in 1938. And did he do it with a vengeance! Ordained On November 1951 he was sent to Columbia University (USA) to do his post graduate studies. He promptly returned to Gujarat to start St Xavier’s College with two other companions. As Joe said “in addition to full-time teaching he was Vice-Principal of the College, warden of the hostel, supervisor of the laboratories, taxidermist, official photographer, hockey coach, chauffeur, handyman and trouble-shooter, to say nothing of his priestly ministries.” But then he had ‘other sheep to tend’ and ‘vineyards to work in.’ So, in 1956 he was appointed Rector of Rosary School, Vadodara, and then became the Vice Provincial of Gujarat from 1962 to 1967. From 1967 to 1970 he was Assistant to the then Superior General of the Society of Jesus Fr. Pedro Arrupe. He spurned the offer become the Bishop of Jamshedpur and returned to the College as Principal from 1970 to 1980. Then he was appointed Bishop of Vadodara in 1987. In 1997 upon reaching 75 he promptly resigned as Bishop.
            He then returned to his first vineyard - St Xavier’s College. He kept himself busy looking after the finances of the College Society for a number of years. He was all of 80 when he took over as the first Director of XICA (Xavier Institute of Computer Application). But during all that time you would find him pottering around the garden of the Xavier Residence helping snails and slugs meet their messy end, turning a leaf inside out to dispatch a caterpillar or worm, or to feel the texture of leaf and flower (to say nothing of the lettuce and the celery, the broccoli and the parsley, the brinjal and the lady finger), speaking to himself or attempting to sing to the plants, keeping the monkeys and peacocks away from the fruits of his garden with a clap of his hands, his stick or his airgun. Often there was a running battle between him and them each trying to outmaneuvre the other. Francis couldn’t sit idle and so kept his mind and heart alert doing sudoku in the warmth of the rising or setting sun.
            Francis had a very sensitive heart. He felt very deeply for the poor, the clergy, the religious sisters and, above all, the Society. He suffered with those who suffered and rejoiced with those who rejoiced. Wherever he went and whatever he did, Francis cared for the people who were under his charge - as a Jesuit, an educationist, a bishop. As Bishop he “organised a network of health centres headed by sisters belonging to various congregations, and proposed schemes to NGOs for their assistance. He also helped and encouraged sisters to start mahila mandals, and saving and lending schemes. He set up a gratuity fund for primary school teachers and catechists, and a group insurance policy for the priests of te diocese.” He would meet well-wishers and troubled souls giving them a patient hearing or a earful, monetary assistance or spiritual advice as required.. He passionately guarded both his garden and the confidential matters people shared with him. He was indeed a man for others - a man for the people! He went about his work quietly and efficiently, with a sense of purpose and commitment and with a deep love for the Lord. He left us suddenly and yet quietly with his boots on to meet his Lord and Master on December 21, 2011.
            He was with us on a mission, and - God knows - he accomplished it with a passion. He taught us to live life with dignity, to face the many worldly cares with serenity. He taught us to find solace in prayer, that there is untold strength in brotherly care. And as we miss his presence among us, we salute him and his legacy as fellow human being, Jesuit and friend.
Fr. Vincent Saldanha, sj    

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