June 20, 2022
At the outset, I would like to mention that this is not a biography of Bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza, Bishop Emeritus. I have written on Bishop in the past too using the same platform. Basic facts remain the same but over the years there are changes in content. With this brief introduction I put down the present article on Bishop Aloysius Paul, popularly known as Bishop AP on the occasion of his 81st birthday and his Episcopal Silver Jubilee.
Mangalore witnessed ‘Bishop Emeritus’:
In 2016 Bishop AP turned 75 and as per the norms of the Catholic Church he had submitted resignation letter to pave way for the appointment of a new Bishop to the Diocese. It took more than 2 years to see a new Bishop in the person of Rev. Fr. Peter Paul Saldanha. His appointment was proclaimed on July 3rd, 2018. Fr Saldanha was consecrated as Bishop on September 15th, 2018 in a glittering ceremony at the Rosario Cathedral and he took charge as the new Bishop of Mangalore Diocese. Since then Bishop AP is residing at St. Joseph Seminary, where once he was a seminarian, the Rector and the Chairman of the Board of Administration. He is the first ‘Bishop Emeritus’ who served as the shepherd of the Mangalore Diocese residing within the Diocese.
Early life and Priestly Mission:
Bishop Aloysius was born on June 21st, 1941 as the 6th child among 7 children of Mathias D’Souza and Isabella D’Souza, the farmers of Hekkottu, then in Agrar and now in Farla Parish near Bantwal. He studied at Agrar church School and then in SVS High School, Bantwal. He joined St Joseph Seminary, Jeppu Mangalore for priestly studies.
Deacon Aloysius Paul was ordained as a priest by Bp. Basil S. DSouza, Bishop of Mangalore on 3rd December 1966. His first posting as Assistant Parish priest was at Cordel Church where he served till 1970. During that period he obtained Bachelor’s degree from Karnataka University, Dharwad. I am sure by then Bishop Basil had recognized the talents of this young priest and chose him as his Secretary and Fr. AP served him till mid 1971. Then he was sent to Rome for studies in Canon Law. After over 5 years of study he obtained DCL (Doctorate in Canon Law) and qualified as Advocate in Roman Rota (the highest tribunal of the Church). He was the first priest from India to qualify for that position in the Rota.
After returning from Rome he was appointed as the Chancellor of the Mangalore Diocese in 1976 and served for 12 long years along with other positions like Secretary to the Bishop, Judicial Vicar of the Diocesan court, Rector of Gladsome Home which is a preparatory house for the young students for induction into the Seminary. From 1988 he served as Parish Priest of Cascia Church for 7 years and continued in the posts of Chancellor and Judicial Vicar.
Till 1995, the administration of St Joseph Seminary, Jeppu was with the Jesuits. The seminary was handed over to the Diocese and came under the joint management of Mangalore and Calicut Dioceses in 1995. Fr. AP was appointed as the Rector, being the first Mangalore Diocesan Priest elevated to that position.
My close association with Fr AP:
I have observed Bishop Aloysius from close quarters for many years. I had served the CYM (Catholic Youth Movement) of the Diocese of Mangalore in its Central Council from 1979 to 1986 in different capacities as Yuvak Editor, Gen. Secretary, President and again Editor of Amcho Yuvak Monthly. I was elected as the Secretary of the Diocesan Pastoral Council and I was the first lay person to be elected to that post in Mangalore Diocese and in office for 2 consecutive terms of 3 years each (1986-91). I was closely associated with Fr. Aloysius Paul D’Souza or fondly called ‘Fr. AP’ or ‘Fr. Luvi’ by the people. He was available in the Bishop’s House most of the time and I too was visiting there frequently in connection with different activities of the Diocese.
Bishop Basil had provided me a place (a table and chair) in the Chancery when I was the Secretary of the Pastoral Council. At that time Fr. AP was the Chancellor of the Diocese. ‘Marcelam’ (Marcel Rodrigues) was in-charge of the Chancery office.
Missed chance to work closely:
Here I would like to narrate a missed chance to work with Fr. AP closely. Since 1994 I was serving as the Vice President of St John the Evangelist Parish, Pangla, Shankerpura. In the year 1995 on June 2nd the then Parish Priest of Pangla Fr. J.P. Tauro was transferred to Bendur, Mangalore and in his place the incumbent was Fr. AP. He was supposed to come to Pangla on June 1st, 1995. We the people of Pangla were eagerly waiting to welcome our new Parish Priest. But just a few days before his scheduled arrival one fine morning news came that Seminary was handed over to the Diocese by the Jesuits and Fr. AP was appointed by Rome as its first Rector. We the parishioners and especially I missed a good chance to work with Fr. AP closely. Instead of Fr. AP, Fr. J.B. Saldanha arrived for a short period. After a month Fr. Vincent Monteiro took charge as the new Parish Priest.
As Auxiliary Bishop and Shepherd of the Diocese:
Bishop Basil who had served the Diocese for over 30 years and made the Diocese progressive in all respects desired to have an Auxiliary Bishop to help him in the Diocesan affairs. Granting the wish of Bp. Basil, Vatican appointed Fr. AP as the Auxiliary Bishop of Mangalore on January 11th, 1996. Fr. AP’s Episcopal ordination was held on May 15th, 1996. He adopted the Episcopal Motto, 'With the Compassion of Jesus Christ'.
May be Bishop Basil was guided by the Holy Spirit in appointing an Auxiliary Bishop and he was right in his decision. Still in office Bishop Basil passed away on September 5th, 1996. Bishop AP was appointed as the Administrator of the Diocese on 13th September and appointed as Bishop of Mangalore by Vatican on 18th December and he resumed office on 27th December 1996.
Even after Fr. AP’s elevation as Bishop I was visiting him on many occasions and wrote letters often appreciating his works or on some other topics. Though I sent typed letters he would quickly reply in his unique and beautiful hand writing. Moreover, we both are admirers of Bishop Basil.
As Albert W. D’Souza, the leading entrepreneur of Mumbai (Chairman of Aldel Education Trust) and a well wisher of the Mangalore Diocese is our common friend Bishop AP and I had attended a few programs of Albert together in Mumbai and Mangalore.
In the year 2002 Bishop AP ventured to start the St Joseph Engineering College at Vamanjoor. In this connection a Promotion Committee was formed under the leadership of Msgr. Fred V. Pereira, the then Vicar General. I too was made a prominent member of the Promotion Committee. Initially meetings were held now and then in the Bishop’s house and with the inauguration of SJEC in 2003 the venue of meetings was shifted to Vamanjoor. Such meetings were the occasions to meet Bishop AP.
Having such an acquaintance with the Bishop, it’s a small attempt to narrate his special qualities along with his achievements in this write-up.
Mangalore – the leading Diocese in India:
Mangalore Diocese, hailed as ‘Rome of the East’ was divided into two and the new Udupi Diocese was formed in the year 2012. Till then it had dense Catholic population (nearly 3 lakhs) spread in entire Dakshina Kannada (South Canara), & Udupi revenue districts of Karnataka and Kasargod Taluk of Kerala state. There were about 160 parishes and about 500 educational and other institutions. Spirituality and Christian faith are at the peak. It has provided vocations to the church in India and even abroad. At one time, among Bishops in India over forty are of Mangalore origin. It has carved a niche in education, health care and social activities. As such many a Dioceses in India are looking up to Mangalore for guidance.
The pastoral work of Bidar region was under Mangalore until the new Gulbarga Diocese was formed in 2005. Bishop AP as a priest was involved and had keenly observed the administration of Bp. Basil for many years as his right hand. After assuming office as the Bishop he toiled hard with ever smiling face to maintain and build the Diocese. He regularly made pastoral visits to the parishes and participated in programs on special occasions. Bishop did ‘ad limina’ visits (visiting Pope once in 5 years) as required.
The Catholics of Mangalore origin are spreading fragrance in many cities of India especially in Mumbai, in the Gulf countries, in Europe, Australia, in the North American region and elsewhere. Bishop AP visited them and took part in their joys and sorrows.
Qualities of Bishop AP:
Bishop AP is a good orator. His talks and sermons have the capacity to attract people. He was always busy either at his office, or in parishes, institutions or on tour. He likes meeting people and talking to them.
Bishop AP is a simple person. He had concern towards his people. His motive was that in the Diocese no child should be deprived of education due to poverty. He had upgraded the then existing institutions and established many more for higher education. Worth naming among them here are Fr. Muller Medical College and St Joseph Engineering College which are quite popular in Karnataka today. ‘Educational Funds’ or scholarships were established to help the needy students. The progress achieved of Fr. Muller Hospital and Institutions is tremendous including the Hospital’s extension at Thumbe, Bantwal. Bishop had established a ‘Diocesan Medical Relief Fund’ to help the poor and needy patients. To help the people many a social welfare schemes including self help groups and micro finance groups were started. Hundreds of houses were built for the needy people throughout the Diocese.
Love towards Konkani:
Bishop AP is a staunch lover of mother tongue Konkani. Konkani is the official language of the Diocese in religious services. Moreover the Diocese has been publishing periodicals, books and encouraging Konkani activities. Konkani has been taught as one of the optional languages in Schools and Colleges under the Diocese. Here I would like to narrate an incident that indicates the Bishop’s love for Konkani. One of the Diocesan laity organizations had arranged a program to honor the achievers. Bishop presided over the program which went on in English. When Bishop’s turn came, he spoke in Konkani saying that Konkani is our identity.
Bishop AP was cordial towards other denominations of Christianity and other religions. Whenever there was an occasion he participated in programs related to communal harmony, public celebrations of Christmas, Deepavali, Eid etc. He had participated in social activities organized in Dharmasthala, Moodbidri and elsewhere.
Bishop had shown keen interest in Government programs such as AIDS prevention, Clean India campaign, etc. He had encouraged people’s programs like agitation related to save Netravati River etc. Bishop was keen in meeting people’s representatives and other dignitaries without considering party, religion, etc. Now too he extends a cordial welcome to anyone who wants to meet him.
The long cherished dream of the formation of Udupi Diocese was fulfilled on Bishop AP’s initiative. He had joined hands with “Mangalore-Africa Mission” in Same Diocese, Tanzania.
During his tenure he led the diocese with boldness and courage. In this connection I can cite the incident of attacks on churches in 2008.
I would like to recall here that when Bishop AP had completed 75 years of age and 20 years of his Episcopal Consecration in 2016, a grand Public Civic Honor was accorded to him in the Town Hall of Mangalore under the aegis of several organizations across religions. Dr. Mohan Alva, the cultural and educational icon hailing from Moodbidri, was the Chairperson of the Reception Committee. My wife, Concepta Fernandes, had compered the gala public function.
Long live the Bishop:
Bp. AP, during his tenure as Bishop of Mangalore, has worked untiringly for many hours a day. Due to this heavy workload he had fallen ill some times and even in such situations he had attended pre-determined engagements.
Bishop AP has completed 55 years of his Priestly ordination on December 3, 2021. On May 15th 2022, Bishop AP completed 26 years as Bishop and on June 21st he completes 81 years of his life. Even now he extends his helping hand to the Bishop of the Diocese, the seminary and to the faithful in their need. On this happy occasion, I pray to God Almighty to grant Bishop AP good health and happiness for many more years to come.