Report: Shilpa Menezes
Pics: Christopher Monis

New Jersey (USA): The feast day of the Nativity of Our Lady was celebrated by the Mangalorean Catholic Association – EC Inc on September 9 at Our Lady of Peace Church, North Brunswick, New Jersey. The event started with the Mass at 2:30 PM. People had travelled from far and near to be a part of the Monthi Festh Celebrations and the church was soon full. The ushers did a fantastic job of helping everyone seated and ready for the Eucharistic Celebrations to begin on time. The traditional entrance procession carrying the statue of infant Mother Mary began with the hymn ‘Ave Maria’ and was led by the general secretary, Shilpa Menezes followed by the Vado Gurkars and Gurkarns holding the colorful umbrellas including the members of the advisory council and then the executive board members. It was breath-taking to watch the colorful yet solemn procession acknowledging the true greatness of our Mother Mary.

The liturgical celebration began with the entrance hymn ‘SanthosanSomiya’. It was a real blessing to have five celebrants who travelled from around the US and from India - Fr Ron Machado (Holy Family Catholic Church, NM), Fr Lawrence Martis (Principal, St Xaviers High School, Ahmedabad), Fr John Polyak (Our Lady of Peace Church, NJ), Fr Thomas Nadiviledathu (St Cecelia Church, NJ), and Deacon Glen Mendonca (St Joseph’s Church, NJ). The order of mass was constructed in both Konkani and English to make this a very special celebration for all family and friends who had gathered in the church. Fr Ron opened with the introductory rites and prepared the congregation to invite the Lord into our hearts. Deacon Glen shared the Gospel and Fr Lawrence explained the scripture in the most spiritually fulfilling homily. There was a special message for all.

The mass collection was offered for the families affected by tragedy inflicted by hurricane Harvey in Texas and also for the special projects of Our Lady of Peace Church. The youth from the MCA-EC family read the Offertory Prayers and the families from the different MCA-EC vados brought the gifts to the altar including the Novem for blessing. It was a beautiful service with the Choir’s melodious music and hyms in Konkani. It was a treat for one and all. Special meditation song ‘ThujeLagiAailyaav’ was beautifully rendered by the choir. After the concluding rites and final blessing, the celebrants and the altar servers lined up for the recession and the choir sang ‘SomyaHaavnVetha’ as the recessional hymn.

The choir was led by Merlin Mendonca and Saritha Pinto. Both did a fantastic job in coordinating all the hymns with all the related choir singers. The kids - Tasha Pais on the organ, Amelia Fernandes and Sheryl Dmello on the violin and Shaun Dmello on the guitar all did a fantastic job.

The traditional procession for the showering of flowers began from the church to the beautifully set up outside the church in a solemn space created by Premilla Mendonca, relationship coordinator on the executive board along with her most creative and hardworking team of volunteers. The statue of infant Mother Mary was placed here while the choir sang the traditional hymn ‘Sakkad Sangatha Melya’. The children carried the most fragrant rose petals in a bowl as they joined with their parents in the procession. There was so much energy during this worship that everyone felt the strong spiritual blessings and warmth of our most Blessed Mother. What a joyous birthday celebration of the Nativity Feast. Special thanks to Arine for building a beautiful palki for Baby Mary.

Members of the MCA-EC family donated many weeks and precious hours volunteering to help with the celebration in the church and the church hall (cultural program) right from church & hall set up, registrations, sound set up, and even coming forward to commit and serve the Lord as Altar Servers, Lectors, Readers, Ushers, Offertory takers, Eucharistic Ministers and the Choir. Not to forget the volunteers who religiously showed up at 7 am on the day of the event to prep up the main church, the church hall, the foyer, the decorations for showering of flowers, tarp set up, etc.,

As always, we had a record registration of over 370 people with last minute requests to register. Overall, the response was amazing. The registration and check-ins began at 4:30 pm and were managed by Reshma D’Mello, Treasurer and her rock-star team of volunteers. They made sure that everybody who had registered were checked in and given entry to the Church Hall. The grand cultural program was a befitting way to continue with the celebrations of the feast day. All the women were given the traditional gajra woven with fragrant jasmine flowers. The blessed Novem (new crop) was crushed and mixed into milk and served as blessings as the guests entered the Church Hall. Hot snacks from Aroma Place and Dilip Bhai’s tea was promptly served. A perfect way to get the crowd meet and greet each other and get settled down to get the evening program started. 

The much-awaited cultural program began with a welcome note by Sydney Lasrado, President. Sydney’s excellent leadership was evident in the way he efficiently managed the day’s event with his core team and also the entourage of volunteers. Sydney offered sincere thanks to the priests for making the liturgical service the most memorable one for all. And with a small prayer to our Mother, and the energetic, fun and witty Emcees Monthi Dcunha, Shyna Quadras and Leann Rego ,the long line up of dance and musical performances entertained the crowds for almost 2 hours. A true celebration of the God’s given talents. The Emcees helped create a wonderful ambience in the church hall and involved the audience in a series of fun activities throughout the evening.

Royce Macwan, vice-president and Anitha Pinto planned and managed the entire cultural program with such poise and maturity making sure that all was in order behind the scenes. It took this team weeks of planning and dedication to get a huge line up of 17 performances to be a part of this cultural extravaganza.

Royce Macwan, vice-president rendered the vote of thanks. He thanked sponsors DTDC, Babco, Smitha Dmello Party Decor, DJ Gladson, Dr Nigel Pereira, Party Zenith and Babco Foods, and also expressed special thanks to Bernie and Arine for decorating the stage as well as setting up beautiful table center pieces.

The whole event was a blessing and there were so many people who had come forward to help and support the success of the event. The list was long but it was a much required task that was well-done by Royce. Deacon Glen said the grace before meals and dinner was opened by 7:30 pm. The scrumptious dinner was filled with traditional vegetarian dishes extending all the way to a wholesome fish curry and rice. Food was specially catered from Aroma, Warren, NJ. What a generous spread of food that was tasty and filling! 

What followed was even more music and dancing to the traditional Mangalurean baila numbers played by DJ Clayton Monis. Clayton worked with all the performers to make sure that the music (live and pre-recorded) sounded great for the entire evening. And the amazing moments captured throughout the day were by none other than Christopher Monis. There is a story in every click… and a treasure forever.

And when it was time to say good night, the volunteers responsible for cleanup were right on the mark making sure that everything was put back in order and cleaned up. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to support each other and experience the true fellowship in our community. This day of celebration of the Feast of Nativity of our Blessed Mother will not be forgotten by all those who attended this event in years to come.