Fr. Fred Pereira Pioneered Community Mass Weddings

Mangalore, Mar 2, 2011

Lives of great men will remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, US poet and scholar (1807-1882).
Greatness is a relative term. But, when I think of the late Fr. Fredrick (Fred) V.  Pereira, who passed away on February 27, 2011 and scheduled to be interred at the Valencia cemetery on March 2, he has left behind his footprints on the sands of time as the pioneer of low-cost mass weddings among  the Catholic community of coastal Karnataka and beyond. In 1976, Fr. Fred, as parish priest of Rosario Cathedral, lent his strong support to an enthusiastic band of social activists who executed this idea which has now become an annual feature of Catholic life in Mangalore. As a nascent free-lance journalist then, I had interviewed Fr. Fred on the rationale of this novel approach to weddings and published an article in The Hindu dated October, 24 1976. The fact that this annual event has taken firm roots validates the clear vision of Fr. Fred and his associates. Here are some excerpts from that article.
An empty sack cannot stand erect. Recognition of this adage is reflected in the Catholic Church’s historical involvement in spheres beyond those which are purely religious. One of the most outstanding instances of this is the provision of educational facilities for its flock.

The church is extending this role in the social aspects of wedding celebrations. For some years now, the church authorities have been confronted with an alarming situation in which Christians have been indulging in vulgar display of wealth and pointless celebrations. Nowhere was this more glaring than in the case of weddings. The situation became so bad that the church has stepped into the picture through initiating community celebrations of weddings.
The first such economy-oriented mass wedding ceremony in the history of Catholic Church took place in Mangalore on May 16, 1976. 24 couples from 28 parishes of South Kanara district were administered the marriage oaths by (the late) Bishop Basil D’Souza. The event was keenly followed by Catholics elsewhere in India.  For, if successful in achieving its objectives, the Mangalore experiment has great potential for discouraging vulgar display of wealth in celebrating marriages.
Such display is not always backed by one’s own wealth. It is often financed through borrowing and leaves behind a legacy of debts. Conspicuous consumption starts days in advance of the wedding and lasts much beyond the ceremony through a series of dinners and return dinners given in honour of the bridal couple and their parents.
Any excuse is good enough to start an entertainment cycle. The bride viewing ceremony, which need not be a once-and-for-all affair, is an occasion for dinner to the visitors with food and wine. Then, the engagement – which is the “privilege” of the girl’s party to host. The wedding-eve-roce, the ritual bath for the bride and bridegroom, separately in their respective homes, is also an occasion for lavish entertainment. The post-nuptial dinner is an expensive affair – with hundreds participating. The other feasts that follow the wedding are supposed to be for the close relatives. The list of ‘close relatives’ stretches to cover scores of guests. Even the hosts are anxious to show off their large circle of relatives! All through these celebrations, the band of ‘helpers’ has to be entertained.
The Mangalore community wedding ceremony that took place in May represents the beginning of the revolt against the waste indulged in by Catholics on pointless celebrations. The idea was mooted by Fr. Denis Castelino of Rosario Cathedral. The initiative to work out the idea came from the Cathedral chapter of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a worldwide organization of lay Catholics deeply involved in helping the downtrodden. The proposal received strong support from Fr. Fred Pereira, Parish priest of Rosario Cathedral and the Bishop of Mangalore. Eminent local Catholic lay people and clergy banded themselves into committees to organize the first community celebration of weddings. The church liturgy was suitably adapted for the occasion.
According the organizers, one of the maladies of the Catholic community today is an increasing tendency among the members to celebrate weddings with such pomp and show, as if in a sense of competition with one another, spending money beyond their means and ending up in debts. The newly married couples, instead of enjoying their new state of life, are left to worry over the clearance of their debts, leaving in them  a sense of insecurity and desperation. The committee noted that people have become slaves of outdated customs which demand a number of meals, hall, band, sound system and photos. (There was no video then!; there is more – but I will spare you the long tail)
Having given the flavour of the time when community marriages were initiated at Rosario, with Fr. Fred as parish priest, it is notable that the annual event has continued unbroken for the last 35 years (First Sunday of May). Admittedly, it has not licked the problem. But, it offers an option for those who wish to take the community wedding route and, among others, leaves the footprints of Fr, Fred on the sands of time.It may be apt to institute an "Early Bird" prize for the couple that registers first after the year's new programme is announced.
John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is the editor of his website (Interactive Cerebral Challenger).

By John B. Monteiro
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Comment on this article


    Tue, Mar 08 2011

    Rev Fr Fred is a legend par excellence.His good work and service to the poor will always be remembered by all.He was family friend of ours and was officiating every family event.His dynamism and exuberance is just a model for others to imbibe.I only pray and hope that we have many religious working in the direction as Fr FRED.
    mr monteiro thanks for enlightening our community of the great service given by Fr FRed.He is a towering personality whom I really look up to.May God give him eternal rest.

  • Vinod Wilfred Tauro, Madanthyar, Dubai

    Fri, Mar 04 2011

    Very good article from Mr.Monteiro, and yes late Fr.Fred is always remembered for his great work for the poor and Mangalore Diocese. Also he was a President of St.Christophers Auto Rickshaw association for a quite long time. What he has done for our Mangalorean community, I think nobody has done it.

  • Ronald D.F.D'Souza, Bondel/Mangalore/Bahrain

    Thu, Mar 03 2011

    Many a times Late Fr.Fred Pereira visited Bahrain, to Karnataka Sports Club, and he was well appreciated about his thoughts and goals of Mangalore, especially about St. Josheph Engineering College, today many of non christian respect his wise vision of Mangalore community. I being one of his close admirer from Bahrain, pray for his soul rest in peace - Ronney - Bahrain

  • Max & Jessie Rasquinha, Mangalore/Houston, Texas

    Wed, Mar 02 2011

    Late Fr. Fred was also a brainwork for the St.Josephs Engineering College in Vamanjoor. He and Fr. Valerian worked together with the Bishop in order to create the Engineering College on behalf of the Diocese of Mangalore.

    Thank you, Mr. Monteiro for your wonderful article on late Fr. Fred and his vision for the Community Mass Weddings in Mangalore. Many many wedded families will pray for late Fr. Fred in a special manner and Fr. Fred deserves those prayers so that he may rest in peace

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