"rock and refuge" for the afflicted....
Another Carmelite star has joined the firmament of the Heavenly Jerusalem. July is a special month for our Order as we celebrate the feast of our Patroness, Our Lady of Mount Carmel (16th of July). Key moments of Fr Gabriel's life are intimately woven with this month. He saw the light of day (was born) and entered eternal light (commended his spirit) in this very month of July, and that too on a special day 20th of July, which is the feast of St Elijah (inspirer of our Order - only our Order is privileged to celebrate a feast in his honour - an Old Testament Prophet). There are no co-incidences for God and so we can confidently say that Fr Gabriel was being prepared for his grand entry into the Order of Our Blessed Mother, by the Almighty right from his birth. He always fostered a great devotion to Our Lady and so took his religious name: of Our Lady of Holy Rosary (also because he earlier belonged to the Navelim Parish dedicated to her). While in India, he was instrumental in organizing pilgrimages (over a dozen) to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Health at Vailankanni, and took keen interest to arrange for enough priests who could attend to their spiritual needs.
Mr Celecio Ovidio Caetano Dias (who expired in 1996) and Mrs Anna Francisca Dias, the parents of Fr Gabriel must have been overjoyed at the birth of their first born son on 8th of July, 1955 in Bombay. He had three siblings: Mrs Juliana Almeida (married); Miss Rosy Dias (expired in 2005 after losing a battle to cancer) and Mr Carmo L. Dias (this name already gives us a glimpse of the family's closeness to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, much before Gabriel joined the Carmelites). The parents and four children formed a very close knit and loving family and now continue to live in harmony with the extended members, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, the four nieces and one nephew.
I am not sure of the reasons why he was given the name Gabriel (in close circles he was affectionately called "Gabbu"). As we know this Archangel is a prominent biblical figure, and always appears as the one entrusted to deliver several important messages on God's behalf (in the New Testament to Zechariah and Mary; but also in the Old Testament to Prophet Daniel). The meaning of his name is derived from the Hebrew which means: God is my strength / God is great! I think it's a prophetic choice of name, as it unveils a greater part of Fr Gabriel's life - his trust in God, who was his strength - especially in the last days of his life. Moreover like his patron saint he was a messenger of 'good tidings' to all who met him.
He completed his primary education at St Joseph's Convent School, Aquem (a few metres away from his house) and then went to Loyola High School, Margao. After his SSLC, he obtained a Diploma in Electrical Engineering.
From what I have gathered, Gabriel had a desire for priesthood right from childhood. Even when he attended the retreat, which was conducted at Old Goa by Fr George D'Sa SJ (Lighthouse movement) for Tenth Standard students from across Goa, it seems he had already recorded somewhere that he wished to embrace Priesthood. According to God's plan this did not happen soon after his studies. As the eldest son in the family, he wished to support the family and worked in Bombay for a couple of years. But the call of God was irresistible and kept ringing in his ears. A providential meeting with Fr Felix Silva from the Carmelite Monastery, Margao, sealed his decision to enter the Discalced Carmelite Order. I guess, he was quite familiar with the monastery as he lived in the vicinity. As a priest he always recalled his work experience with a sense of pride, which he claimed strengthened his resolve to serve the Lord.
Our Karnataka-Goa Province was formed on 12th of March 1981. So Fr Gabriel who entered the Order in June of that same year, with his 4 companions (Frs John Lobo, Anthony D'Souza and Victor Fernandes Sr, the last two from Bicholim, Goa and Mr Chinappa), belonged to the first batch of novices (under the guidance of Fr Patrick Lobo), who would be formed entirely within our territory (till then formation was conducted in our mother Province of Manjummel in the state of Kerala). After his first religious profession in this very Church on 15th of October, 1982, he proceeded to Mangalore for his philosophy and theology. There too, being the first students, he along with the other companions became pioneers in many fields, blazing a trail for all to follow, even to this day. One of those being the Carmel Day - annual Seminary Day. Though they were a handful, often doubling up as stage-managers, dancers and musicians, besides acting, those initial shows have become memorable, and people remember their performances to this day. Fr. Gabriel and his fellow Goans true to their roots, gave it a typical cultural touch though the dekhni, mandos and other folk songs.
THE FIRST FRUITS....
He was ordained a Priest by Most Rev. Raul Gonsalves, Archbishop-Patriarch of Goa and Daman, again in this very Church on 22nd of February 1990. This ordination brought to close a long drought of Goan vocations to the Carmelite Order. The last priest to be ordained before him was Fr Jerome Braganza of happy memory in 1973 (17 years ago)! So this was a momentous occasion - a revival of Carmel in Goa, because thereafter we have had a good number of Goans entering the Carmelite Order. It was also the first priestly ordination in this church.
I was a novice here at the time, and for me it was the first ordination of a Carmelite - hence it is etched in my memory as something very special, since I was just beginning my journey in the Order. The novices were given special permission by the Provincial (Fr Joseph D'Souza) to attend the function that followed at his house.
As he was appointed to this very community in Margao soon after his ordination, I was witness to his initial priestly ministry. I remember vividly, the first retreat he preached to the Pilar novices at Colem. He was given a rousing welcome and embrace by Fr Nemesio Alzola - then superior of Margao Monastery - on accomplishing such a noble task. A few years ago, I met one of those who participated in that retreat (now a priest). While inquiring about the whereabouts of Fr Gabriel (he was then in Canada), he mentioned that he was greatly touched by his reflections, before making his first commitment in the Congregation and was so thankful for that experience.
THE RICH FRUITS....
Fr Gabriel has served at Margao, Londa, Mapusa and Mira Road - Mumbai in various capacities (Vocation Promoter, Formator, Assistant Parish Priest and Superior) in India. He was also elected III Provincial Councillor (for apostolate) in the Provincial Chapter of 1993. Simultaneously he was also appointed as the Formator of the Initiation Course in Mapusa, just when the new monastery was inaugurated. It tested his mettle, because the course was being shifted from Xellim and things had to be set up still. There was so much to be done in this new place with minimum facilities. He lived up to the challenge and went about his duties without any complain, in spite of the inconveniences and difficulties.
His services abroad included pastoral ministry in Canada from October 2008 - May 2014 (around 6 years). First he was Assistant Pastor at St Thomas More Church Calgary. We have just received information that the Bishop, Most Rev. Frederick Bernard Henry will be celebrating a special requiem Mass at the parish on 26th of this month. He is fondly remembered by many people there. During his stay there, he also spiritually assisted the community of Secular Carmelites. Here is a message from Mrs Molly Diaz, the President of the OCDS in Western Canada:
"It is with deep sorrow that we learnt of the passing of Fr Gabriel Dias. He was so dearly loved by all who knew him. We will remember him for his gentle spirit and kindness and he will always have a special place in our hearts. We are truly blessed that he touched our lives. Our members will keep him in prayer. May he rest in peace. Amen."
Even though he suffered a stroke, which slowed down his physical movements, he generously accepted to shoulder the total responsibility of a parish in a completely different region. From Western Canada, he was transferred to Eastern Canada and became Pastor of St Elizabeth's parish, Wainfleet, Ontario (Diocese of St Catharines) for the last two years he was in that country.
But his most fecund ministry was in Kuwait, where he served from December 1994 - June 2001 (around 7 years). Here he was a like a "rock and refuge" for those in trouble (especially those exploited by the employers). He sheltered some of those in distress even in the Cathedral, at great risk to his life. Those who have been rescued and saved by him, remain greatly indebted to his courage and compassion. Just the other day, when I visited the family along with the provincial, the mother expressed that many who have worked or are still working in Kuwait kept inquiring about his health, showing such great concern for his welfare, because of the good he had done to them. Soon after he returned from Kuwait, I met him in Mapusa, and he was sharing some of those experiences. After narrating one such harrowing tale of injustice towards a maid servant of Goan origin how he had saved her, he spoke about the rumours that were spread questioning his involvement. He turned to me and asked: "As a priest what would you have done?" I could only nod in approval and commend him for his daring stand.
As a Carmelite, another tradition that he introduced over there, and which needs mentio, is the regular feature of night vigils. His predecessor, Fr John Alex Pinto had already begun something in this regard during his term which coincided with the Gulf War. Fr Gabriel now took off from there, nurturing the spiritual lives of the people, that would help them face any adversity. Besides he also invited good preachers from Goa and elsewhere for the annual Lenten retreats making them truly enriching experiences.
A SPECIAL BLOSSOM....
Probably after he went to Kuwait, there slowly emerged another facet in his life. He became a voracious reader. A quick glance at his priceless collection of books, testifies that he was a seeker of truth. It's an array of spiritual classics, research works in psychology etc. That he imbibed what he devoured in reading, was visible in his homilies and reflections, which were rich and insightful.
However, he grew in this passion in the latter half of his life, not only to enhance his knowledge and pass it on to others. It was primarily for his own growth and refinement. When he was asked by the Provincial, Fr Lawrence D'Mello to go to Kuwait and take over from Fr. John Alex Pinto - which he accepted in a spirit of obedience, almost immediately without battling an eye, he continued: Fr Provincial I will go, but not before I go for a counseling session. Though suddenly baffled by this odd demand, Fr Lawrence understood his intent. He wanted to know himself better, in order to better reach out to the people, who were just coming out of a dreadful war.
After the stroke he suffered in Canada, his health declined steadily. He had to face one setback after another. This not only affected his general well-being but also his hearing capacity. Even after the best treatment and aids, he could never fully recover it. So much so, that for the past two years, he could not actively and fully participate in conversations and discussion at table or in community gatherings. That must have been a cause of great suffering, even though his fellow friars made all attempts to get him involved in all acts of the community. In his heydays he had jokes up his sleeves, sending the community of friars into peals of laughter. Now all that had come to an end!
Please find attached an account by Fr Archibald Gonsalves, the Superior of Carmelite Monastery, Margao, regarding his final years since he joined their community and a touching testimony of the last agony which lasted over 7 months.
THE FINAL SALUTE....
I stand here on behalf of all the friars and nuns of the Karnataka-Goa Province, I offer a fraternal tribute to the memory of Fr Gabriel Dias, who has left his imprint on the history of the Carmelites in India, and over the seas in Kuwait and Canada. I conclude with a poetic tribute from the pen of our senior Goan friar, Rev. Fr Paul D'Souza:
As youngster, a mechanic
Gabriel wished to be
But then a light from heaven
Further helped him to see.
He heard a Voice that called him
Shedding on him sweet light
Inviting him to serve by
Being a Carmelite.
Humbly he went and gladly
On a mission to Kuwait
Where to the afflicted he
Was consolation great.
With zeal he contributed
To the Canadian church
By assisting those people
Who for a Saviour search.
And following his Master
Who lay upon the tree
He fell into a coma
And savoured Calvary.
And soon with the archangels
Gabriel Dias will rejoice
For when the Master called him
He hearkened to His voice.
Thus comes to an end the earthly pilgrimage of Fr Gabriel Dias:
- 61 eventful years, gifted by God of which
- 34 years as a Carmelite Friar
- 26 years as a Priest
Fr Gabriel made his first and solemn (final) profession, was ordained a priest and even celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his Ordination in 2015, in this very church. We have now gathered for the final time to thank and praise God for sending him in our midst and touching our lives in some way or the other through him. May he enjoy the company of all the Saints and Angels and contemplate eternally the Face of God, along with Mary, Queen and Mother of Carmel.
Thank you Lord, for the unique message of your love and compassion that you delivered to us through the life and example of Fr Gabriel Dias of Our Lady of the Rosary. Dear Fr Gabriel Dias, till we meet again, Adeus!
(Eulogy given by Fr Silvestre D'Souza OCD, at the Carmelite Monastery Church, Aquem, Margao, Goa at the end of the requiem Mass on 22nd of July, 2016)
Fr Gabriel Dias of Our Lady of Rosary
20, Aquem Alto, Near Forest Dept. Margao Goa 403 601
St Sebastian's Church, Aquem Alto, Margao (earlier: Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Navelim)
Goa and Daman
Late Mr Celecio Ovidio Caetano Dias
Mrs Anna Francisca Dias
Mr Carmo L. Dias
(1) Mrs Juliana Almeida (2) Late Miss Rosy Dias
DATE OF BIRTH:
8th of July, 1955 (Bombay)
DATE OF BAPTISM:
24th of July, 1955
1st of August, 1981
15th of October, 1982 (Carmelite Monastery, Aquem, Margao)
22nd of February, 1990
1) Carmelite Monastery, Margao and Carmel Nivas, Londa (February 1990 - May 1990)
2) Avila Jyothi, Mapusa (June 1990 - December 1991)
3) St Joseph's Church, Mira Road, Mumbai (January 1992 - June 1993)
4) Avila Jyothi, Mapusa (July 1993 - December 1994)
5) Kuwait (December 1994 - June 2001)
6) Avila Jyothi, Mapusa (July 2001 - June 2005)
7) Emmaus Counselling Centre, Mapusa (July 2005 - June 2008)
8) Canada (October 2008 - May 2014)
9) Carmelite Monastery Margao (June 2014 - July 2016)
Local Procurator, Mapusa ; Vocation Promoter, Goa; Asst. Parish Priest (St Joseph's Church, Mira Road, Mumbai, Kuwait, St Thomas More Calgary, Canada), Director of Initiation Course, Mapusa; III Provincial Councillor for Apostolate; Chaplain (Salmiya Chapel, Kuwait); Superior (Mapusa, Goa); Director of Emmaus Counselling Centre, Mapusa; Pastor, St Elizabeth's Parish, Wainfleet, Ontario, Canada.
20th of July, 2016
O U R T E A M