Priests must preach by life first, then by words: Shimoga Bishop-elect Fr Francis Serrao

March 27, 2014

Founded in 1988, the Shimoga diocese was without a bishop after Bishop Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo was appointed to head the newly-created diocese of Udupi in 2012.

After a period of prolonged silence and suspense, the Pope announced Fr Francis Serrao the Bishop of Shimoga on March 19. The diocese with a population of over 2,40,000 comprises the civil districts of Shimoga, Chitradurga and Davangere.

Born on August 15, 1958, Jesuit Provincial Fr Francis Serrao (Karnataka Province) is the youngest in the family of eleven. Three of his brothers are priests and one a nun.

"We need priests today, who are witnesses rather than administrators or even preachers. If we do preach, it must be first with our life and then with our words," says Fr Francis Serrao while answering a volley of questions from Adolf Washington in this interview.

1. The buzz-word among priests and laity is 'the Pope is making radical appointments of prelates and heads of international commissions to bring in a positive change in the Church. Your comments.

Pope Francis has made a very positive impact during this past one year on people of all faiths and none, with his simplicity, sincerity and saintliness. In his own way he has already brought about a change for the better in the way people perceive the Church and the Christian faith. I am sure he is guided by the motto of St Francis of Assisi to renew and re-build the Church in our times.

2. Jesuits are looked-upon as strong agents of social action. How do you see yourself in this new appointment?. The concrete tasks you envisage as Bishop.
It was about 40 years ago that our Supreme Legislative Body we call the General Congregation committed the whole Society of Jesus and each individual Jesuit to a decisive and unflinching commitment to the "service of faith and the promotion of justice". I have tried to live up to this in my own little way in all the ministries I have exercised. Now in my motto as Bishop SERVICE OF FAITH, FULLNESS OF LIFE I have tried to encapsulate this commitment which has become central to my ministry. I will certainly try to make it my guiding light in the new assignment that has been now given to me. I cannot list any concrete details right now since I am yet to go to the place of my assignment. But I assure you that with the help of God's grace, the cooperation of the Clergy and the faithful I will continue to give myself totally to the service of faith so that all may share in the fullness of life that Jesus brings.

3. You have been hailed by many as 'friend of the poor' from your past work-record. What is your understanding of ‘the 'poor'?

There is a very inspiring Jesuit in Chennai who in Jesuit circles is called "barefoot Jerry" because he has long ago shed his footwear and goes unshod everywhere even inside the Vatican. His pet phrase for the "poor" is "the last, the least and the lost". I subscribe to this definition of the poor. The poor are those who need us most. The poor are those who are physically disabled, psychologically depressed, spiritually hungry, educationally deprived and socially discriminated. The poor are those who are deprived of their human dignity on the basis of inhuman caste system, domineering class structures and oppressive gender discrimination.

4. There is a lurking fear in the Christian community in the country of fundamentalist forces taking over governance. How do we arrest that?

The fears and misgivings in the minds of the people just now are quite justified not only because of the ideology to which those who aspire to rule India subscribe to, but also because of their record when they were at the helm at the Centre and in the States. Here in Karnataka we have been witnesses of painful attacks on our churches and shrines. So we need to be on our guard. But that does not mean that we need to be afraid. We owe no one any apology for being Christians and Indians. This is our birthright and is enshrined in our Constitution. At the same time we must avoid demonizing those who attack us. They are also human beings like us even if their ideology sometimes blinds them and blunts their consciences. There is no substitute to dialogue in all its dimensions.

5. Statistics reveal that Chitradurga district suffers frequent draught and the economic-level of the people is abysmally low. Do you have plans for this district?
Let me first go to the diocese assigned to me and study the situation. The Church will not be able to wipe every tear from every eye. But the Church can certainly make some contribution to alleviate the sufferings of the people. It may be "widow's mite" but it is important. The Church cannot and must not try to take on herself the responsibilities of the Government. However, it should surely collaborate with it in this important work of bringing a ray of sunshine into the lives of people otherwise left in the darkness!

6. The diocese of Shimoga feels the need for greater concentration on establishment of professional colleges and uplift of the youth, urban and rural. Your plans.
Education as you know is one of the most powerful tools of emancipating and empowering the poor. When I was the rector of St Aloysius College, Mangalore and during the past five years as the Provincial Superior of the Karnataka Jesuit Province it was my privilege to help establish a Jesuit College in the diocese at Harihar. May be these ventures can be replicated elsewhere in the diocese in the years to come. Vision is there. What we need is the landing gears! Let us see.

7. There was a prolonged silence and suspense over the appointment of a Bishop of Shimoga. What were your immediate feelings as Jesuit on hearing of your appointment?
It may be difficult for people to believe but I was totally taken by surprise. I never expected this appointment. As a Jesuit I have taken a vow not to aspire for such positions. The very first time I came to know about this was on 7 March 2014. Not even the faintest inkling before that. Hence you can imagine my feelings. But then the same Society of Jesus which enjoins on us not to aspire for positions of power also teaches us that when the Superior's mind is clear, then we have to obey willingly and joyfully. That is what I did.

8. The Pope has recently focused much attention on 'sex scandals in the Church' and 'financial scams'. How would you as prelate address this issue in the Indian Context?
We need to make a clear distinction between unfounded allegations and credible accusations. Anybody can accuse anyone else of any crime just to slander and culminate. However, if there is credible evidence that the allegations may be well founded then there are well laid down rules and procedures even here in India, under the aegis of the CBCI which would need to be adhered to.

9. You have been involved in formation of priests. What ails seminary formation today? Do you see a need for greater thrust in certain areas?

My limited experience in formation has been mostly that of the Jesuits. Hence I would not consider myself to be well placed to comment upon the formation of the diocesan seminarians. Now that this new mission has been given to me I will certainly have to take greater interest in the formation of seminarians. All the same I can say that we need today priests who are witnesses rather than administrators or even preachers. If we do preach it must be first with our life and then with our words. Secondly, we the priests need to genuinely ask ourselves if in our life 'Martha' is dominating over 'Mary'! If the answer is in the affirmative then we need to radically look into our structures of formation and the life-style of the ordained priests.

10. The Pope has named 'calumny, defamation and misinformation' and equated them with mortal sins. Do you see traces of this in the Indian secular and Christian Media?

One cannot generalize. But it is an unfortunate fact that Indian media sensitivity to truth, efforts to verify facts and respect for the good name of people seems to be somewhat lacking. We need greater professionalism in our media.

11. Many media organizations in the Church have frequently voiced a lack of attention given to their needs and concerns and a subtle 'indifference of prelates towards the media. Your take on this.
I am not in a position to pronounce a definitive opinion on this except to say that the Church in India as a whole needs greater exposure to the media, greater knowledge of the media and greater sensitivity towards the media. In a democratic country like ours media is a powerful tool today of education, communication and creating public opinion. We can no more belittle its importance nor ignore it.

12. The Pope has on several occasions voiced concerns for simplicity of life-style among bishops, priests and religious. What would be your message to priests and seminarians?

I would not presume to give any message to priests and seminarians. But I will say one thing. I myself am greatly inspired by the Pope's example which perfectly matches his pronouncements. I myself would like to follow the Pope's example of simplicity, charity, humility and humanity.




By Adolf Washington
To submit your article / poem / short story to Daijiworld, please email it to mentioning 'Article/poem submission for daijiworld' in the subject line. Please note the following:

  • The article / poem / short story should be original and previously unpublished in other websites except in the personal blog of the author. We will cross-check the originality of the article, and if found to be copied from another source in whole or in parts without appropriate acknowledgment, the submission will be rejected.
  • The author of the poem / article / short story should include a brief self-introduction limited to 500 characters and his/her recent picture (optional). Pictures relevant to the article may also be sent (optional), provided they are not bound by copyright. Travelogues should be sent along with relevant pictures not sourced from the Internet. Travelogues without relevant pictures will be rejected.
  • In case of a short story / article, the write-up should be at least one-and-a-half pages in word document in Times New Roman font 12 (or, about 700-800 words). Contributors are requested to keep their write-ups limited to a maximum of four pages. Longer write-ups may be sent in parts to publish in installments. Each installment should be sent within a week of the previous installment. A single poem sent for publication should be at least 3/4th of a page in length. Multiple short poems may be submitted for single publication.
  • All submissions should be in Microsoft Word format or text file. Pictures should not be larger than 1000 pixels in width, and of good resolution. Pictures should be attached separately in the mail and may be numbered if the author wants them to be placed in order.
  • Submission of the article / poem / short story does not automatically entail that it would be published. Daijiworld editors will examine each submission and decide on its acceptance/rejection purely based on merit.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to edit the submission if necessary for grammar and spelling, without compromising on the author's tone and message.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to reject submissions without prior notice. Mails/calls on the status of the submission will not be entertained. Contributors are requested to be patient.
  • The article / poem / short story should not be targeted directly or indirectly at any individual/group/community. Daijiworld will not assume responsibility for factual errors in the submission.
  • Once accepted, the article / poem / short story will be published as and when we have space. Publication may take up to four weeks from the date of submission of the write-up, depending on the number of submissions we receive. No author will be published twice in succession or twice within a fortnight.
  • Time-bound articles (example, on Mother's Day) should be sent at least a week in advance. Please specify the occasion as well as the date on which you would like it published while sending the write-up.

Comment on this article

  • Charles. A.Steven, Bangalore

    Fri, Apr 04 2014

    Let the Holy Spirit act on with Msgr. Francis in all his mission for the church and for JESUS. We Josephites convey our Best wishes... for you and the Diocese of Shimoga

  • Anthony Pranand, Bangalore

    Fri, Apr 04 2014

    May God constantly send his Holy Spirit to lead and guide you.

  • P.Tauro, Mangalore

    Tue, Apr 01 2014

    Congratulations, Fr.Serrao. May the Lord help you in your mission.
    Prof.& Mrs.Tauro

  • praveen lobo, mangalore

    Mon, Mar 31 2014

    well said Bela Voice, Bela-Kasaragod- todays world we do not see the humble priest at all, rather we could see builders and politicians in them - busy in constructions and supporting political parties - real job is sidelined- we need to pray to save our church.

  • Bela Voice, Bela-Kasaragod

    Mon, Mar 31 2014

    Well said. Priests should preach what they practice.

    What about Priests giving a sermon about forgiveness and handing over some local boys to police for some petty crimes and seeing to that they are beaten by police? What about putting a board out side the church reading “please leave foot ware outside” and priest wearing shoes at altar during the mass ? What about teaching simplicity and poverty and roaming on SUV with a driver?
    I think our priest have lot to learn from our beloved Pope Francis.

  • Sr.Severine Menezes, Belur/Hassan

    Sat, Mar 29 2014

    May God be with you to lead His Chosen People. May Christ empowers you to empower His 'Little ones' in the society. May Mother Mary guide you and stand by you always. All the best...

  • Sr. Kala Nicholas, Mangalore

    Sat, Mar 29 2014

    Jesus the Supreme Shepherd will empower and lead you to accomplish his task. May your strong desire to serve your flock may grow in the footprints of the Lord. Have a gracious blessing dear Bishop. Praying for U for all success.

  • FR FRANCIS SERRAO SJ, Loyola Mandir, Bangalore

    Sat, Mar 29 2014

    I am overwhelmed by the deluge of greetings, messages and felicitations that I have received by telephone, SMS, electronic mail and other means of communication, especially in the DAIJIWORLD as "comments" from friends, well wishers and the general public ever since my appointment as the Bishop of Shimoga was announced. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to all those who have been so thoughtful and kind to greet me on this occasion and assure me of their prayerful support. I am particularly grateful to the Consultors, the Clergy, the Religious and the Laity of my Diocese for their generosity and good will in extending a warm welcome to me to the Diocese. Trusting in the unfailing assistance of Divine Providence, the unstinting cooperation of the Clergy, the ever present support of the Religious and the joyful help of the Laity of Shimoga I prepare myself to assume the responsibility which the Holy Father has entrusted to me. I request everyone to continue to accompany me with prayer and advice.


    Sat, Mar 29 2014

    Congratulations Bishop- elect Fr. Francis Serrao. According to the Latin proverb " VERBA SONANT, EXEMPLA TONANT" your promise to practice what you preach is a commitment to follow the example of our Pontiff. Wish and pray all the very best in your efforts and fulfillment in your new ministry as Bishop of Shimoga.

  • Ambrose, Mangalore

    Sat, Mar 29 2014

    Very apt answers for all questions. Preaching by life style is something very much needed nowadays. The light has shone in Shivamogga Diocese and the future is bright for the church. All the best Bishop elect of Shivamogga in your pastoral ministry!

  • Sr. Lenita D'Souza, Shanthi Dham, Deralakatte

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Bishop Elect Francis Serrao is the right man at the right time. People of God in Shimoga are fortunate to have Bishop Serrao. We can hope in him the sense of justice and gender equality in his church. Congratulations to the Shepherd and the Sheep. Here is a Shepherd who will smell the Sheep and attend to.

  • joseph alexander, mysore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Congratulation dear rev. fr. serrao, karnataka jesuit provincial.
    i was know him very well as his employee at st. Aloysius college Mangalore
    right person right to be a good Shepard.

  • The Superior and Srs. , Moodbidri

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Congratulations dear Fr. Francis S. We assure you our prayerful support. May God be with you always.
    The Apostolic Carmel cong.
    sisters of carmel convent Moodbidri

  • Dr Kusuma Kumari G, Nellore/Kodyadka

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Very true. You must be the change that you would like to see in the world. Very true.

  • Fr. Richard Pais, Chitradurga

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Sincere thanks to Fr. Washington for doing a wonderful job. Congrats and my prayers of support to the Bishop-elect Fr. Francis Serrao. your answers to the various questions express the genuine aspirations of the present church, especially in the diocese of shimoga. once again congrats.

  • Joe Gonsalves, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    I have known Rev. Father Francis Serrao, S.J., for the past several years as a person of character and one gifted by God. He has the right approach to usual and difficult situations. He has said something about a practical priest in Chennai. A priest who practices what he preaches. The finest description that he he could give was:

    His pet phrase for the "poor" is "the last, the least and the lost". I subscribe to this definition of the poor. The poor are those who need us most. The poor are those who are physically disabled, psychologically depressed, spiritually hungry, educationally deprived and socially discriminated. The poor are those who are deprived of their human dignity on the basis of the inhuman caste system, domineering class structures and oppressive gender discrimination.

    Bishop elect Father Frankie has to go a long way, but with his determination and his great qualities of heart and mind he will do full justice to the confidence reposed in him by His Holiness Pope Francis.

    I join many others in wishing Father Francis a very successful term as a bishop of Shimoga and even as an Archbishop later on.

    Joe Gonsalves


    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Great & True say by Bishop-elect Fr Francis Serrao, in all the 12 Excerpts. Indeed, lessons for all types / categories of individuals to learn & practice too. We wish you all the very best Fr Francis Serrao for your Ordination as Bishop. Thanks to Daijiworld & Adolf Washington for bringing up this write up.

  • Srs. Juliana & Severine, Bangalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Congrats to you Bishop. God has chosen the right person to guide and lead the diocese of Shimoga. May God be with you to strengthen you to this new mission

  • Michael Pinto, KINNIGOLI

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Dear Father, we are very much delighted to know your appointment as the Bishop. Please accept our family’s hearty congratulations. May God bless you and strengthen you to carry out His mission.

  • Fr Balthazar Castelino, Nakre, Karkala/Lauris, France

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    «Priests must preach by life first, then by words». Very good message, Fr Francis Serrao for your new mission in Shimoga diocese which requires very much (as elsewhere in the world) the exemplary life of priests to lead the people of every religion with the message of «love» of Jesus. I became a priest just because of the exemplary life of late Fr Andrew Rodrigues in Nakre, for his love for the poor and his support for the education of children. When Fr Jerome Machado and myself started the «Jeeva Jyothi Ashram» in Soraba in 1981, we tried to practice your message. I am sure the «diocesan pastoral plan» of Bp Gerald Lobo for the diocese of Shimoga will certainly help you to continue the «wholesome growth and wholesome development» of humanity in our diocese of Shimoga.

  • Rev. Dr. H.M. Watson, Moodabidri/Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Congratulations, Fr. Francis Serrao on your ion as the bishop of Shimoga diocese. I am proud that our neighbour in Moddabidri has been ed to this noble service.May God Almighty shower his blessing to be his faithful servant as the Bishop.

  • Blossom, Bangalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Congratulation to the Blessed Bishop.

    Of the little that I have known you, I thank God for the many lives that you have touched and helped to make a place in society. Right from the concept of educate a woman you educate a family, to supporting people of various castes to get educated, creating a support system in villages and most importantly, your ability to forgive , I pray and thank God for you and also pray that may we who are touched by you be able to give unrelentingly to the needy.

    God Bless You and may his light shine over you always, and lead you in your mission and his plan!!

  • Dr. Savitha Pereira, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Congratulations! Shimoga Bishop elect -Fr. Francis Serrao.

    Well said! I wish and pray that what ever you said becomes a reality and the clergy follow the footprints of 'JESUS' and our present leader Pope Francis.

    You are the right person (clergy) to lead the people of Shimoga. Unbiased person can calmly handle any situation in any place.

    May God bless you success in your new assignment.

  • christine, mangalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Congrats to new Bishop PRESENT, DAYS WE NEED,PRIEST AND BISHOP,LIKE YOU.May God bless you,and grant you the grace to live to the ,exceptions. of the peoples.

  • Alexander Castelino, Surathkal/Bangalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Good interview Fr. Francis. Very motivating. I think apart from the priests, if all of us as Christians follow life of simplicity, humility and humanity, the world would see us differently and people will recognise us as true Christians.

  • Sr Lily Fernandes, Managalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Well said, Bishop-elect Fr Francis! Shimoga Diocese is indeed fortunate to have you. All the best!

  • Ambrose, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Dear Fr Frankie, the Bishop elect of Shimoga great and appropriate answers to the interviewer. The first interview of its kind of yours. All the 12 questions were answered and you get 100% marks.

    I rejoice because Shimoga is lucky to have you as its Bishop!

    It also reminds me too to give examples by living my life than by anecdotes and short stories. We pray for success in your ministry as the leader. May God Bless you and your dear Diocese!

  • Vincent Rodrigues, Katapadi/Bangalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    The preaching of Priests is really being by their life as an example and then by words.This will truly touch the hearts of those listening and try to become good persons.Thanq.

  • Dr Urban D'Souza, Professor, School of Medicine, Malaysia, Udyavar/Malaysia

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Well said 'Priests must preach by life first, then by words: Shimoga Bishop-elect Fr Francis Serrao'
    It is a pity that most of the clergy of our region are pro-rich and glamour wealth enjoying preachers. We seldom find one who is a good role model. Crazy for power and wealth. Forget the fact that our won society is watching these and as a whole laity's devotion and respect is under challenge. Pope Francis too repeatedly appeal the clergy to embrace poverty and lead a life like Jesus. I wonder only Mahatma Gandhiji only lived that way. Even the priest indulges in murder for the sake of power. All want power either be an administrator or a preacher without practice!
    Wish your mission a successful one with these principles of yours.

  • Dr. Edward Lewis, Mangalore,

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Congratulations to our new bishop Fr. Francis Serrao. Wish you all the success.

  • Cliffy, Mangalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Congrats and Well said Bishop Serrao. Actions speak louder than the words. I think St.Francis of Assisi exactly did what you said, preached through his lifestyle rather than delivering powerful sermons. Jesuits have always worked for the poor and in the missions, without any publicity. Wish you Good luck.

  • Adolf Washington, Bangalore

    Fri, Mar 28 2014

    Dear Praveen Lobo,
    Thank you for your kind words of appreciation.

  • eric martis, mangalore

    Thu, Mar 27 2014

    Congratulation bishop, wish u all d best in your mission, let this be initiated to clean up the religious leaders, it seems to be some ray of hope in cleaning the community leaders, let this ray be termed to be a great beam, and the poor and needy be never neglected, and Jesus Christ dwells in all our communities works and action..hence the term our life as action speaks louder...

  • FRIJO FRANCIS, Bangalore

    Thu, Mar 27 2014

    May God bless his mission in Shimoga ! Congratulation Bishop Francis...

  • Antony (Cony) T. D Souza , Karkala/Qatar

    Thu, Mar 27 2014

    Many a time, humble enough, I too have said that 'Once Life should be Gospel and not Gospel should be once life'. Unfortunately, most of our present clergy/laity fall in the later category.
    Jesuits Priests (St Francis of Assisi) are the ‘light of this world ' who hold the truth close to their chest reminding everyone that 'Origin Church belongs to the Poor' - Shimoga Diocese has set a trend. Thought Provoking Interview. I take a bow you being appointed as Bishop of Shimoga by Pope Francis. 3 Cheers to 3 Francis named herein.

  • Dorothy Flossy Lewis, Kallianpura

    Thu, Mar 27 2014

    Congratulations to the new Bishop
    Fr. Francis Serrao. Myself along with Sr. Theodora wishing him all the success.

  • praveen lobo, mangalore

    Thu, Mar 27 2014

    Dear Adolf Washington- firstly i would like to appreciate and congratulate for your courage to ask few straightforward questions to newly elected bishop - its first time happened in Mangalore newspapers. god has bless us with pope francis. may god bless him, and bishop for his new responsibilities

  • praveen lobo, mangalore

    Thu, Mar 27 2014

    "We need priests today, who are witnesses rather than administrators or even preachers. If we do preach, it must be first with our life and then with our words," says Fr Francis Serrao while answering a volley of questions from Adolf Washington in this interview -long live bishop

  • William Rodrigues, Milagres, Mangalore

    Thu, Mar 27 2014

    Last year we had Pope Francis and this year we got Bishop Francis. Both of them are from society of Jesus. God bless them.

  • M Dsouza, Bajal

    Thu, Mar 27 2014

    Fr.Francis Serrao is a real gem, I heard his speech during church attacks in Mangalore ,it was brilliant we want Bishops like him in Karnataka
    I wish him all best

  • William, Bantwal

    Thu, Mar 27 2014

    Congrats to New Bishop. In this modern world where mostly all people are after material things, morality should be maintained at all levels of our lives. After death Nirvana/Moksha can be attained, if our deeds a fine. Else God knows where so many souls are frying in the hell.

Leave a Comment

Title: Priests must preach by life first, then by words: Shimoga Bishop-elect Fr Francis Serrao

You have 2000 characters left.


Please write your correct name and email address. Kindly do not post any personal, abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful or similar comments. will not be responsible for any defamatory message posted under this article.

Please note that sending false messages to insult, defame, intimidate, mislead or deceive people or to intentionally cause public disorder is punishable under law. It is obligatory on Daijiworld to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments, to the authority concerned upon request.

Hence, sending offensive comments using daijiworld will be purely at your own risk, and in no way will be held responsible.