By Dinesh Correa
A visionary missionary: Fr Valerian D'Souza speaks exclusively to Daijidubai
Fr Valerian is one of those people you know have gone far, utilizing the minimum opportunities that they acquire and putting in tonnes of efforts and right ideas. His name has been synonymous with sheer hard work, clear vision, genuine desire to deliver, and nobility in his intentions. Above all, he believes in performance, and he trusts in God.
"It is all by God's grace and because God has been with me. Difficult and impossible projects have been completed with ease, simply because I have always entrusted my life on him, apart from being committed to my work", says he.
We feature the man responsible for many lifetime accomplishments - about his history, his life as a clergy and a spiritual guide. Also about his upcoming project.
Born in a lower middle class family in Modankap (Kallige), Fr Valerian has good glimpses of difficulties as well as he has witnessed despairs of poverty. His parents are late Paul D'Souza, a peasant by profession, and Mary D'Souza, a housewife. Fr Valerian is the eighth among thirteen children to this couple. Two of them including Fr Valerian are priests and three of his sisters are nuns.
Fr Valerian did his lower primary schooling at Sacred Heart School in Thodambila and studied up to grade 7 in Infant Jesus School, Modankap. He realized God's vocation and decided to work in His vineyard. His parents happily agreed to his decision and thus sent him to Bantwal's SVS College for his Matriculation.
Fr Valley recalls his childhood days as sweet memories. "We used to form a large group of children and go to school. I was a quiet child, yet I have done all those boyish pranks, childhood tomfoolery, apart from taking part in co-curricular activities. Yet, my first priority was always my syllabus."
"My father was a strict man and my mother was very loving and kind", he says. "It is all because of their sacrifices that we children are so."
After completing his Matriculation, he joined Jeppu Seminary on June 30, 1951. "That's the happiest day in life", he remembers. "My desire to serve people was burning like wild fire within me".
And that fire is still burning like conflagration.
Fr Valerian was ordained on December 5, 1959. He served Pezar, Valencia and Moodubelle parishes as assistant parish priest. He was then sent to Rome for higher studies, where he did his doctorate (Ph D) in Canon Law, and came out with flying colours. In 1970, after Fr Valerian returned to Mangalore, he was sent to Urwa parish to serve as parish priest. Simultaneously, he took charge as director of Central Council at the Bishop's House (the administrative body of youth wings like CYM, YCS and YSM) for three years. He masterfully handled both these challenging jobs simultaneously and brought about freshness and enthusiasm among the youth in liturgy, catechism and church choir.
In 1978, Fr Valerian was transferred to Puttur as parish priest, where he served till 1985. He is remembered as the architect of modern Puttur. He initiated various large-scale building projects in the parish. Here are some of the achievements of Fr Valerian as parish priest:
- Construction of new Kannada medium school building
- A new building for English medium school.
- Construction of a huge shopping complex, the third largest earning building of this kind was built by him during his term in Puttur.
- An auditorium for the college.
- Construction of a presbytery.
Apart from the above construction projects, he embarked on various educational, spiritual projects for people of Puttur. He showed special interest towards youth as well as he educated poor, illiterate youngsters. He set-up various youth organizations at Church level and carried-out various programmes to develop their hidden talents and filled a spirit of unity and enthusiasm in them. Fr Valerian started weekly medical camps for poor people, and also toiled towards collecting money for poor children's education. He was also instrumental in setting up a new parish of Maril.
Recognizing his acquaintance and proficiency in Canon Law, he was appointed Mangalore diocese's procurator and diocesan estate manager. When he took this charge, there were whopping 800 court cases pending, mainly due to land reform act by the central government. And when he completed his term, there were just 18 cases pending in the judiciary. Remarkably, out of those solved cases, just one went against the diocese.
It is during his tenure that he doubled the estate income.
Then there was yet another challenging job awaiting him. Kulshekar parish was witnessing a great administrative turmoil and a large fraction of parishioners were against reinstating any parish priest. Fr Valerian was posted there at this period. He not only brought about transformation of attitudes among Kulshekar parishioners, but also he set-out various community projects. He united the divided minds of parish youth and restarted Catholic Youth Movement. Renovation of church, construction of a new presbytery, belfry and porch were some of his initial achievements. He also installed new benches in the Church. Construction of a new building for Kannada medium school, new parish hall, levelling of church ground, construction of new compound wall for the cemetery and ground, digging of two bore wells are some more examples of his successful projects.
Apart from these undertakings, Fr Valerian enriched Kulshekar parishioners with spirituality and unity. A new Kulshekar parish was given rise to, he says. Fr Valerian lived in Kulshekar till 1999.
A distinguishing feature of Fr Valerian's projects and achievements is that they are designed as partnerships meant to be sustained by not one man, but involving local people - so to say, the parishioners. He was never satisfied with just 'getting there' himself - he wanted to take everybody into full confidence.
New assignment, new project:
All his commitment did not make him rich or famous. However, his efforts never went unnoticed. Realizing his great leadership qualities, unfailing abilities and spiritual supremacy, Bishop of Mangalore gave him the high post of Episcopal Vicar for Udupi region, which he is still holding. On March 14, Fr Valerian was appointed parish priest of Moodubelle.
No sooner than he took charge of Moodubelle parish, he carried on his zealous mission of modernizing Moodubelle. He has kicked-off an aspiring project of various constructions in the parish. "I am 71 years and am four years away from my retirement. Yet I have realized the importance of putting my hand into this huge project of about 3.5 crore Rupees. I am sure people of Moodubelle will come forward with open minds, as they have realized that it is their own project", Fr Valerian says.
The new project mainly includes construction of a new church building. "The present church building is around eighty years old. Also, the state of the building is awful.
"Construction of a new Moodubelle church building is need of the hour", he states.
Spread across from Dendoorkatte up to Kuntala Nagar, Moodubelle parish has over 693 families at present, but the church building can hardly accommodate 500 individuals. "It is heartrending to note that this important project took so long to take-off. Moodubelle should have built a bigger building decades ago", Fr Valerian exclaims.
Apart from church building, the project includes a small shrine of St Lawrence, new English medium school, belfry, shifting of grotto, asphalting the church ground and the road from church to school, construction of a small shopping center, main gate to the church premises, and retaining wall. "I have visualized the future and designed the plans accordingly, with the help of parish council and well-known architects. There is a tremendous response from the parishioners", Fr Lawrence claims.
Fr Valerian has turned many of his dreams into success - and now his new project will be a groundbreaking success and will rewrite the history of Moodubelle.
To conclude, Fr Valerian has combined scientific insight, great entrepreneurial skill, and a fearless pioneering spirit with a dedication to serving and to pushing forward the boundaries of envisioning brighter future."
Fr Valerian credits his success to several major factors: the proper guidance he has received from his parents and seniors; clear vision, hard work, discipline, and determined pursuit; his assistants' support and assistance; and a lot of luck, quality partners, and help along the way.