Msgr. George Fernandes
He was, intensely, a man of God and through his calling, he established many legacies that have endured. We do not know all of his work, because he was also a man of great humility.
Born, in Goa, on April 23, 1903, George was the second son of John Luis Fernandes and Isabella Ratton. After his Matriculation at the Goan Union High School, he joined the Papal Seminary at Kandy, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Bombay on September 23, 1929.
Fr. George began his ministry in the Catholic Church as an Assistant at Our Lady of Salvation, Dadar, Bombay where he served for twelve years. He served last at St. Andrew’s, Bandra as a Parish Priest and as a Dean of South-West Salsette from June 1961 till his unexpected death in June, 1970. He also worked as a Diocesan Consultor and was a member of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission. In 1961, he was appointed Domestic Prelate to the Pope and the title of Monsignor was conferred upon him. In his 41 years of Ministry, he served in eight Parishes of the Archdiocese.
A creative organizer, an excellent musician, a great educationist, a renowned preacher, a lover of the poor and needy, a pastor first and last – and above all a man of God – the memories of Msgr. George remain fresh forever, for the traits which endeared him to all.
He founded the Sunday School at his first Parish â€“ Dadar and was its guiding force in its infant years. He gave it an identity and eventually many other Parishes followed his example. It was due to his initiative, ardent zeal and contagious enthusiasm that Sunday Schools in the Archdiocese grew and still flourish.
The founding of the religious congregation – The Poor Sisters of Our Lady – was indeed the crowning achievement of Msgr. George. With a core group of seven young women whom he felt were blessed with the vocation for religious life, he formed a “home grown” Diocesan congregation. Msgr. George was assisted in this work by Very Rev. Fr. J.J. Dias, Vicar of Salvation Church, Dadar, Rev. Fr. Justin D’Souza, Chaplain at Orlem and a few lay people. Msgr. George continued to harvest vocations for our Institute, which had a place of pride in his heart, till the time of his death.
On June 2, 1970 at the age of 67, Msgr. George suffered a massive, fatal heart attack. His mortal remains are interred in front of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Andrew’s Church, Bandra.
To read more about his life, click on the link below.
Brief History of our Congregation
The year was 1939, in the Archdiocese of Bombay, when the very real need was felt for a Diocesan Congregation of Nuns, culled from local women. Other religious congregations were present, but these were mostly missionary orders; a local congregation would understand better the language, customs and requirements of the indigenous clergy and the laity.
Once the idea took root, Msgr. George Fernandes, Founder and architect, set about getting a group together and on September 15, 1939, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Congregation came into being by the decree of the Most Rev. Thomas D. Roberts, S.J., the then Archbishop of Bombay. A band of seven eager postulants became the nucleus from which the Congregation would grow.
The formation of these first seven members was entrusted to the Sacred Heart Nuns at Sophia College, Mumbai. The pioneer group took their First Vows in 1942 and their first residence was at Stephen Hall, next to Archbishopâ€™s House, Fort. This residence has been, since then, the Generalate of the Poor Sisters of Our Lady.
Their first steps in working for the Archdiocese began with the instruction of poor children at Gloria and Sacred Heart Schools, Sankli Street; supervision of the Sacristy of the Pro-Cathedral of the Holy Name, Fort; rescue and preventive social work; and the Employment Bureau of the Catholic Womenâ€™s Welfare Society, which operated out of Stephen Hall.
During the 1940s, the Sisters were helped by the Congregation of the Franciscan Missionaries of Christ the King from Karachi who had wide experience in social work. On March 27, 1945, the first group of nuns took their final vows and Mother Patricia Frank was elected as the first Mother General, on March 19, 1946.
The Presentation of the Rule of Life by Cardinal Valerian Gracias took place on June 29, 1956 and in the following year at the at the First General Chapter, Mother Patricia was conferred with the title of Superior General.
The 1960s witnessed a change in direction and a great leap in the realisation of new goals. We set our first footprint abroad when the Archbishop of Vienna, Franz Cardinal Koenig was so touched by the works of the Sisters, that he asked Valerian Cardinal Gracias to send some sisters to Vienna, Austria, for help in nursing, kindergarten teaching, care of the aged, Sunday School instruction for the English speaking community, among other works. Our sisters have established themselves as integral members of the community and the Archbishopâ€™s household for 50 years. We have, over the years right up to the present time, spread to other countries: Italy, Netherlands and Africa. The former recipients of missionary endeavour from the West have now become missionaries themselves.
The congregation came into its own during the 38th International Eucharistic Congress (1964) which was hosted in Bombay. Stephen Hall became the central hub for coordinating the activities of the Congress and the Poor Sisters, being of the place and of the people, were in a unique position to provide the necessary support. This was much appreciated by visiting Prelates and Dignitaries.
The Decision to spread further afield and seek Pontifical recognition was taken at the General Chapter held in December 1996, and was approved by Simon Cardinal Pimenta, Archbishop of Bombay.
The Congregation of The Poor Sisters of Our Lady was granted the status of a Religious Institute of Pontifical Right on December 8, 1999.
The African Mission was launched in December 2003 at the invitation of Bishop Ludovick. J. Minde. Our presence has been blessed by the burgeoning of new vocations for which we have set up the St. Agnesâ€™ Formation House in Bukombe.
With each passing year, while our older Sisters return to the Lord, new members are added and they bring with them fresh talents, new perspective and an energy and enthusiasm which have helped us spread out in many directions. Existing apostolates have expanded and have been added to. And, by the grace of God and Our Blessed Mother, we continue to grow.
OUR LADY OF SORROWS
Our Lady of Sorrows is our Instituteâ€™s Principal Patron.
John the Evangelist records, â€œBut standing by the cross of Jesus were his Mother . . .â€ (Jn 19 : 25).
This Gospel, immortalized in the exquisite hymn â€˜Stabat Materâ€™, tells us that Mary stood at the foot of the cross, steadfast till the end. Mary gives us the example we must follow: that of a courageous and committed woman, obedient to Godâ€™s Word and direction even though a â€˜sword pierced her heartâ€™.
We celebrate our Patronal Feast on September 15, each year.