Tribute: Fr J P Tauro - a 'people's priest', now in Heaven
Editor-in-chief, Daijiworld Weekly
Mangalore, Feb 12: It was exactly four years ago, we decided as a family to return to our homeland after being abroad for well over a quarter century. The reasons were many and very demanding. Upon our return, the first task on our mind was to source a prestigious school for our daughter’s admission. Everyone we approached suggested the name of Lourdes Central School for two reasons, one, the school was affiliated to CBSE and second the school offered Konkani as a optional subject which many felt is the best transition for my daughter who studied French under British Curriculum.
Very soon we found ourselves standing outside Lourdes Central School with a prior appointment to meet the Manager. I had requested my good friend Rohan Monteiro to accompany me for moral support. Recognizing our presence - in particular looking at Rohan - the Manager a ageing priest exclaimed in top of his voice – “There comes the silent donor” and then he called his second in command to join us for a meeting.
At the same time the priest started looking at me with a twinkle in his eyes and I could sense the reason behind that look. He knew me quite fondly and I knew him as a 'people’s priest' when he was the chaplain of the Church at Mukka, near Suratakal in the seventies. It was Fr J P Tauro, one of the very few priests I trusted and respected in those days.
Exchanging pleasantries after a span of thirty plus years he asked me “where did you disappear?”
I told him I was in exile and I am glad I am back to his city. He turned to Rohan and said – “This man is very dangerous, but he is a nice person”.
I told him – “Exactly like you. You can be as dangerous and a good person at the same time.”
When I explained to him about the purpose of our visit he was not enthused at all. His face was bereft of any human emotion. “I am extremely sorry,” he said, "I am not here to help you. We have a waiting list which exceeds 150 students and I am not a person who can be easily convinced.”
Before I could say anything Rohan signaled me not to react. We left the place.
As we got down the stairs, Rohan told me – “He is a different kind of a priest, your job is done.”
The next day my daughter was called for an admission.
It was exactly thirty plus years ago both my friend Mick-max (then sub editor of Navabharata, the Kannada daily which was highest in circulation) and I (a struggling junior correspondent with ‘Praja Prabhutva’) went to meet this gentle priest, then a young and energetic social worker, who had made the impossible, possible. He had just set up a multipurpose welfare society in Mukka, ‘Mukka Welfare Society’ which was to be the role model for all societies that came to being elsewhere in the diocese of Mangalore. He had added many wings to the society – fisheries, poultry farming, agriculture and horticulture and community development. He was the first priest to consider the loan from non-Christians to pursue fisheries as a profession. Our task was to write about his mission in our respective journals so that others get a message.
“Don’t write about me” – the Chaplain had admonished us. “Write about the society so that others are inspired to do the same in their parishes,” and we did do the same. Many young priests in those days were inspired by the co-operative movement. The other priest, as I recall today, was as young and energetic as Fr Tauro. It was Fr Peter Noronha, now retired, who was then the parish priest of Katipalla Church. We had seen both these men digging pits for laying banana plantains. According to the people who knew them closely – “They did not build the churches, they built the parishes.”
Upon the sudden demise of the ‘people’s priest’, many called me to confirm the news is true. My best friend Leo Rodrigues from Abu Dhabi was on the line. “Is it true? That Fr J P Tauro is no more?” there was pain in his tone. Then he went on explaining me, how as a young parishner at Mukka, he was like a altar boy to Fr Tauro, the spirit and human touch behind a person of his stature, how he shunned the worldly comforts and luxuries of life and so on.
“I met him just a few days back and he was only complaining about pain in his leg after a fall” he was pouring his emotions towards a priest whom he loved and revered the most.
I am sure there are many who are lost for words upon the sudden passing away of a priest who was a sage, a Samaritan but at the same time a good friend who did not gave you a feeling that ‘he was nice to you’.
The last time when we visited the home of Little Sisters of the Poor we came to know that Fr J P Tauro has come to stay there after his retirement. Unfortunately he was not around. We decided to come again to meet him, but soon he was shifted to Vianny Home. That visit was not to be. Now he is gone, from out our sight but not out of our minds.
Next time around, whenever we will meet at all, somewhere beyond our imagination, I am sure he will say without any emotion on his face – “The dangerous man, but you’re a nice person.”
And I look forward to hear those words, in love, in perfect affection.