Yes A Miracles Event
At St Thomas Church Goregaon
The present pandemic has had a massive impact on religion in various ways including the cancellation of the worship services of various faiths. Our churches have been closed since the end of March 2020 and no one expected the pandemic to last this long as September 2020. In perhaps the first time in living memory, the annual Novena to our Blessed Mother, followed by her Birthday i.e. the feast day, has been cancelled and the faithful of many a parish, have to follow these services online. With a tear in my eye and heaviness in my heart, it has brought back memories, of those years when we waited eagerly for those 10 days. The cynosure of all eyes during these days in our Church, was the statue of Our Lady holding the child Jesus in her hand, and which is known in our parish as Our Lady of Nativity.
Draped in the finest of sarees, all of which are rich in detail and very fine, often with elaborate colors and designs, donated by the parishioners, this statue was a sight to behold, during the Novena days, the Feast day and the following two Sundays. I say this with conviction since I have seen my late Mother, Cecilia Netto, drape these sarees from the day, I took hold of my senses and was able to recognize and stand on my feet. As members of my family watched and helped my mother in draping these sarees, we learnt a lot from her, about the statue, since she helped her mother and grandmother right from the age of four and continued till, she was 82 years. She religiously did this, year after year, so much so that Mother Mary chose to take her to be with her only after she had draped her Statue for her Birthday on the 8th of September 2018 and remained adorned with the same saree for the following two Sundays. Traditionally, my family continued this exercise the following year i.e. 2019 and has been held back this year because of the pandemic.
This statue of Mother Mary which belongs to our parish is brought out only during the Novenas to Our Blessed Mother and remains dressed and decorated till the following Octave. I recollect as told to me by my Mother, that behind this façade of a glittering saree and finery, is a painted and beautifully carved wooden idol, right from the Portuguese era, and which is a rare collectible, difficult to come by. Though not documented, this idol could be more than 400 years old.
Our parish is supposed to be the third oldest in the Archdiocese of Bombay which was established in 1560. The Church was re-built in 1930 and erected as an independent parish in 1945. Historically, Goregaon East which was known as ‘Pare’ or in local dialect ‘Pahadi’ village was bought by the Franciscan Friars of Mount Poinsur somewhere between 1556-1559 and the Church of St Thomas at Pare or Pahadi (Goregaon East) was mentioned as a parish when the Franciscan Custodial Chapter met in 1585. The church was therefore established before this year and 1560 has come to be accepted as the year of its foundation. The Portuguese who were very fond of our Mother Mary may have brought this wooden statue along. It is one of the oldest statues of our Church and has miraculously survived two fires as told by my mother’s grandmother. Both fires destroyed the church completely, but this statue, though made of wood, remained untouched, but for a few scars here and there. Documented evidence goes to show the war in 1739 between the Marathas and the Portuguese, whereby the Portuguese had to leave during this siege by the Marathas. This was one of the times when the church was distorted and burnt. Soon after the first World War, the church was again distorted and burnt in 1923. However, during both these times, the Statue miraculously survived and minor scars of these unfortunate incidents can still be seen on it.
The church was re-built in 1930 and became an independent parish in 1945. Many devotees of our Blessed Mother wait for these days of the Novenas when they can venerate her and seek her help from various difficulties. My Mother religiously helped and independently dressed and decorated this statue of Our Lady for 78 years i.e. from the age of 4 till the time she died at the age of 82 years. Me and my family still continue this legacy and pray that this statue of Our Lady which miraculously survived two fires be our guide and guard all parishioners from all dangers especially this pandemic which we are goin through. This year is the 75th year since we gained the status of an independent parish. We hope and pray that before the end of this year, the pandemic is finished so that we get the chance to bring out the statue, drape her in the finest and the best, as she is duly venerated by her faithful. Mary our Mother, save us from this pandemic.