Dolcy D’CruzGoa has a very unique celebration when on a single evening, the Saints walk along with the faithful. The annual Penitential Procession of Saints will be held on March 27, at St Andrew’s Church, Goa Velha. On the first Monday of the fifth week of Lent, the procession of All Saints of the Franciscan Third Order, the only one of its kind besides Rome is held. The statues include saints, popes, kings, martyrs, queens and cardinals. This tradition has been followed since the 17th century by the Franciscan Order in Goa.This year, Fr Emidio Pinto, parish priest of St Andrew’s Church, Goa Velha will deliver the Homily at the High Mass in the evening. The mass will be concelebrated by Fr Mario Carvalho, assistant parish priest of St Anddrew’s Church and Pilar fathers. This will be followed by the procession which begins with the Tau and the Crossed Arms, a symbol of the Franciscan order, followed by around 31 statues including that of St Anthony of Padua, St Peter, Ecce Homo, St Francis Xavier, St Francis of Assisi and the patron of the Archdiocese of Goa, St Joseph Vaz. The procession ends with the ‘Veil of Veronica.’ The statues of the saints are taken out in a grand procession on colourfully decorated palanquins. Each Saints’ life is read out to the devotees by a priest followed by the procession of the palanquin carrying the life-sized statues of the Saint. During the procession, devotees pray the rosary and sing a hymn after each decade. The procession of the Saints draws hundreds of people from the neighboring villages around Goa Velha. People from different religions who throng the streets for the procession are often seen ducking under the palanquin as a sign of penance and forgiveness. One must keep in mind the suffering of Jesus Christ when partaking in this procession. The procession is observed to have a better understanding of the lives of the Saints and how to resist worldly pleasures. “Saints are divine children of God when they were living. All of us are baptised with the Holy Spirit when this divinity is poured into our hearts. It is important to live a life worthy of the divine spirit. We have infinite divine power through the Holy Spirit and there are miracles that happen every day. Saints are interceding for us to God,” says Fr Emidio, who has been the parish priest of St Andrew’s Church for nine years. He also conducts retreats at the church every Wednesday at 4 pm.The life size statues of the saints will be kept open for public veneration on March 27, 28 and 29 at the Church. On March 28, Masses will be celebrated at 7 am, 9 am and 4 pm and on March 29, the Mass will be at 7 am followed by the veneration of the Saints till 9 am.
The statues are carved out of wood and have to be handle with utmost care. “After the veneration, the statues are dismantled and kept in boxes in a huge room that is designated for the statues. A month before the Procession of the Saints, they are assembled by the carpenters who carefully examine and take care of them,” explains Fr Emidio.