By Pratapananda Naik
IT is a Herculean task to write any obituary of a multifaceted, multitalented personality like Fr Vasco do Rego, SJ, a Jesuit priest of Goa Province. He was fondly known as “Pitaji” (means father) among his friends and followers. He was born on January 8, 1925 in Panaji to Antonio Augusto do Rego and Aurora Maria Helena Correia Afonso do Rego. His father was a known doctor. He was the grandson of Roque and Claudina Correia Afonso, a couple from Benaulim having seven priests amongst their 52 grandchildren!
Fr Renato do Rego of Goa Archdiocese was his brother. He did his early studies Primeiro and Segundo Grau in Portuguese medium at Escola Massano de Amorim at Panaji. IV to VIII standards he studied in English medium in the boarding school of St Joseph’s High School, Arpora. From 1938-45 he continued his studies at Rachol Seminary. While doing philosophy studies, he heard an inner voice telling him, “Trust in My Heart and go.”
He listened to this voice and joined the Jesuits to begin his novitiate at Vinayalaya, Andheri East, Mumbai on August 5, 1945. After completing his novitiate (1945-47) and juniorate (1947-49) he was sent to do his Licentiate in Philosophy at Sacred Heart College, Shembaganur, Tamil Nadu.
In 1950-52 he did regency at St. Paul High school, Belgaum (now Belgavi) and Loyola High Margao. Then he was sent to the Jesuit theologate St. Albert of Eegenhoven, Louvain, Belgium to do his theology studies (1952-56). On August 15, 1955 he was ordained as a priest there. 1956-1957 he did his tertianship at the Institute of Bellarmine, Wépion, Belgium and returned to Pune in 1957.
Being a brilliant, talented, and multi-facet Jesuit priest, his name was proposed to be a teaching staff member for Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth (those days Papal Athenaeum), but God had other plans for him. He served as a Student Counsellor of St Vincent School, Pune from 1958 to 1963. Since then, he has served the Society and the Church in various positions such as Spiritual Father of Rachol Seminary, (1963-67), Student Counsellor (1967-68) and Rector of Loyola High Margao (1968-73), Rector & Novice Master at Xavier training College, Desur, Karnataka (1973-78), Director of Retreat House, Baga (1978-79), Rector of Bom Jesus Basilica, Old Goa (1979-95), Chaplain of Stella Maris Chapel, Miramar, Panaji (1995-98), Spiritual Ministries & translation of the Bible into Konknni (1998), Editor of Konknni monthly “Dor Mhoineachi Rotti” (May 1, 2009-February 17, 2021).
All his activities, vision, and life were centred and focused around “Abba Father.” Trinitarian-based spirituality guided his entire life and all apostolates. Throughout his life he promoted this Trinitarian rooted spirituality through various ministries. The greatest and most valuable contribution he rendered to the Church in Goa was in the fields of Liturgy in Konknni and translation and editing work of the Konknni Bible. The reform norms of Vatican II Council demanded that the liturgy and para-liturgy be celebrated in local languages.
Translating Ordinary of the Mass canons from Latin into Konknni, he began at Belgaum at the request of Bishop of Belgaum. This news reached the Church authorities of Goa and they subsequently requested him to do the same in Goa. In Goa, switch over from Latin to Konknni needed learned, talented and dedicated persons. At this critical juncture Fr Vasco rendered his yeomen service. He was one of the members to translate, edit and publish the Roman Missal in Konknni as “Romi Misa-Gronth” (1981) and the Roman Missal as “Romi Vachpam-Gronth” (1983).
Though he was brought up during his childhood in a Portuguese-speaking atmosphere at home, he knew Konknni. Later he learnt Latin, Spanish, French, some Italian and Marathi. He had the working knowledge of Greek too. All these languages and his mastery over formal Konknni were his assets in his liturgical and biblical contributions.
He was a strong protagonist of the Konknni language. He motivated the seminarians, priests, nuns, and lay people to use more and more Konknni for conversation. He was a good preacher in Konknni, English and Portuguese. As a spiritual guide he has directed countless seminarians, priests and religious priests and nuns. His several years of dedicated service to standardize the Konknni language was recognized and he was awarded the first award of Dalgado Konknni Akademi, Panaji on March 8, 2005. On March 6, 2014 Dalgado Konknni Akademi conferred award for the Goa Jesuit Province which owns the `Dor Mhoineachi Rotti’ of which Fr Vasco was the editor since May 2009.
The Art & Culture Directorate of government of Goa too recognized his contribution to Konknni and selected him for the “Goa State Cultural Award of 2013-2014 and it was bestowed on him on January 4, 2015. The renowned film director and screenplay writer Shyam Benegal was the chief guest.
The Novenas and Feast of St. Francis Xavier is the most important event in every year in Goa. It was Fr Vasco who restored the sanctity of the shrine and instrumental to conduct well organized liturgy during the novenas, feast and exposition of relics. There are no two opinions regarding his greatest contribution to this task. He cleared all the shops and vendors from the compound of the shrine. During novenas and feast, vendors and noisemakers were not allowed near the shrine.
All this he achieved convincing the Panchayat members, civil authorities and various government departments. He had to pay a heavy price to achieve this by receiving abuses, curses, and threats. Maybe he still cherishes as a memento the big stone that was hurled and landed through the window into his room. It was meant for his head, but miraculously missed the target!!! During his term as the Rector of Bom Jesus Basilica many prominent global figures visited the shrine, chief among them being the Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of England Margaret Thatcher, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, President of Portugal Mario Soares, Pope John Paul II.
He was one of the founders and great supporter of Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr (TSKK), a Jesuit institute which promotes Konknni language, literature and culture through research and other activities. If one begins to count and write about Fr Vasco and his contributions it would fill up many pages. He fully believed and lived the Jesuit motto “Ad Maiorem, Dei Gloriam” — all for the Greater Glory of God. Truly, a rarest gem in the Konknni world and a treasured gift for the Society of Jesus and Church in Goa.