Monday, 20 March 2023

Pune Jesuits: Obituary of Fr. John Santos SJ (06.05.1928 – 11.12.2022)

 As a zealous, dedicated Jesuit, ready to be sent anywhere on mission, Fr. John Santos served as Teacher, Principal, Rector, Socius to the Provincial, Province Treasurer, Parish Priest, Vicar General, Spiritual Director, and Province Archivist. Whether at his desk in office or the community or with the people he served, Fr. John followed a strict schedule, carrying out his responsibilities with promptness, deep commitment and meticulous care.

Fr. John Santos was born in Pune on 6 May 1928, in a deeply religious family. He studied at St. Vincent’s High School and, as a student, was an Altar-server, a Sodalist and played in Fr. Riklin’s Brass Band. He felt called to be a Jesuit and entered the Society of Jesus on 21 June 1951.He was ordained a priest on 24 March 1962. 

His years of priestly ministry bear ample testimony to his zeal in the Lord’s service, with great love, generosity and simplicity. Posted to Dnyanamata Vidyalaya, Sangamner, as Spiritual Director and Teacher, he was soon appointed Principal of this first Marathi medium Jesuit District High School, which celebrates its Platinum Jubilee in 2023. He continued in this office for seven years, for four of which, he was also the Rector of the community. He played a notable role in raising its standards of teaching and learning and in transforming this multi-purpose school into one with a distinct agricultural thrust. Besides, he was responsible for setting up a large Hostel building to accommodate the increasing number of boarders seeking admission to Dnyanamata. These young students received an all-round education which helped them to mature in the faith and grow as responsible citizens, able to stand on their feet and create a brighter future for their families and the community. Fr. John will be long remembered by his students for his courage to stand up for truth and justice, no matter what the consequences. 

In 1972, he was appointed Socius of the Provincial and Teacher at St. Vincent’s High School, Pune; and in 1973 was Province Treasurer in Panaji, Goa, for two years. He was then appointed Assistant Parish Priest at St. Xavier’s Church, Pune, for a year; and its Parish Priest for seven years thereafter (1976-‘83). From Pune, he moved to Kolhapur as Parish Priest of St. Xavier’s Church and also as Head Master of the Primary section of St. Xavier’s High School for six years (1983-‘89). He then spent two more years as Parish Priest at St. Joseph’s Church, Panchgani, followed by another year as Assistant Parish Priest of St. Xavier’s Church, Pune. In the various parishes he served, he is remembered for his dedicated pastoral ministry – a shepherd with the smell of the sheep, always eager to serve the faithful - visiting families regularly to be their guide, both in their spiritual and their material problems and needs.

With alacrity and a spirit of detachment, he accepted transfers of place and offi ce. After serving as Vicar-General of the Nashik Diocese for three years (1995-‘98), he returned successively to St. Xavier’s Church, Kolhapur, and St. Joseph’s Church, Panchgani, where he had served before. From 2003 to 2006, he served as Chaplain to the Sisters of St. Anne in Talegoan. During these years and later, he was always ready to travel miles by public transport in order to respond to requests from Sisters’ communities for retreats, recollections and spiritual direction.

Fr. John served as Province Archivist at Sanjeevan from 2006 till 2020. As before, he remained characteristically methodical and simple. He kept his room always tidy, his office table in good order and all official documentation well categorized and accessible. Like with his religious life and spiritual observance, he kept to his working routine with regularity and meticulous care. Till 2020, despite his age and ailments, he refused to lead a retired life, and continued his priestly ministry, celebrating the Eucharist for the Sisters’ communities on the Sanjeevan campus.

During the last two years, he was mostly confined to a wheel-chair or his bed; and in the last few months, he kept praying that the Lord would take him home. There were times when he found the pain unbearable and would complain, but would then immediately surrender his pain to the Lord, thanking God for allowing him to share in His suffering. Fr. John passed away peacefully, after long suffering, fi rm in his belief that ‘the climax of Holy Week is NOT Christ’s death on GOOD FRIDAY but His Glorious RESURRECTION on EASTER SUNDAY, conquering death and giving us NEW LIFE……’ (from his hand-written notes that he used for his personal prayer and preaching). Fr. John served the Lord with love and commitment all his life. May the Lord now grant his good and faithful servant the fullness of life and peace as his eternal reward!  

Monday, 14 February 2022

Fr. Hermann Bacher SJ (14th September 2021): Pune Jesuit

 Fr. Hermann Bacher entered the novitiate of the Swiss Vice-Province in 1946 and was missioned to the Pune Province in 1948, together with three co-novices, Hans Belser, Henry Volken and Dominik Zemp. After ordination, he began his missionary work in the drought-prone Ahmednagar district. In 1969, he founded Social Centre in Ahmednagar, where he later pioneered the Integrated Watershed Development Programme. For Fr. Bacher, watershed development was a way of life, an attitude away from resource exploitation to resource mobilization, a movement from the few to the community that benefits, an investment in our todays that becomes the enduring heritage of our children's tomorrows.

To realize his dream, he continued founding organisations that are flourishing today: The Social Centre recently celebrated its golden jubilee. Watershed Organization Trust engages marginalised communities, enabling them to live with dignity and secure their livelihoods in sustainable ecosystems. Nandanvan is particularly committed to the tribals. Fr. Bacher's work has inspired many other social wo

rkers and agencies to replicate development programmes with the people's participation, in Maharashtra and other States as well

Till his return to Switzerland in 2009, the good of marginalized people remained the core of his commitment. This makes the date of his death all the more touching. September 14, feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, reminds us that death does not have the last word. Like the Cross opens up new spaces of life beyond human experience, Fr. Bacher's life was dedicated to open up living spaces for people at the margins. Shantabai, a widow from the village of Mendwan, expressed very beautifully and in simple words how the work of Fr. Bacher has changed her life and that of her community: Today we all have enough to eat, and we eat from the same plate!

Fr. Jerome Gonsalves SJ (7th May 2021): Pune Jesuit

 Fr. Jerome will be specially remembered as caring teacher and pastor, who kept the wellbeing of the people he served with joy always close to his heart. His students at St. Joseph's Technical Institute, Pune, and at the Xavier Technical Training Center, Shrirampur cherish his dedicated and loving ministry. Fr. Jerome was a devout, zealous Jesuit and a warm, mission-driven companion to many. Fr. James Shelke and Fr. Jerome made an inspiring team, as they toiled together, with one mind and one heart, for the development of the Shrirampur mission. With deep resolve, Fr. Jerome would often say, “We must do something for our people!” — revealing his passion, commitment, compassion, and his intense love for the people he worked with and worked for. With the heart of a good shepherd, his evenings were dedicated to spending time in the villages to celebrate the Eucharist with the scattered flock.

As Director of the Social Centre in Ahmednagar, he worked tirelessly for the development of village communities in the drought-prone district, to renew the environment through soil and water conservation projects, with the people's active participation. His priority was to seek justice and a life of dignity for the weak and vulnerable groups: especially children and women, through networking and collaboration. He remained committed lifelong to their empowerment.

Fr. Jerome also served the Province Youth Coordinator and Vocation Promoter. With his ever- enthusiastic spirit and the support of companions and friends, he organized youth camps within and outside the Province to promote vocations. Fr. Jerome passed into God's eternal embrace on May 7, at the Sonali Memorial Hospital in Pune. He surrendered his life to the will of God—as he always did. Fr. Jerome, our dear companion and friend, joins us now in prayer for vocations and intercedes for us, as we continue together our mission journey in love, faith and hope. 

Pune Jesuits: Obituary of Fr. John Santos SJ (06.05.1928 – 11.12.2022)

  As a zealous, dedicated Jesuit, ready to be sent anywhere on mission, Fr. John Santos served as Teacher, Principal, Rector, Socius to the ...