14 Apr 2024  |   06:12am IST

The blessings of Our Lady of Miracles over Mapusa

The love for Our Lady of Miracles in Mapusa unites devotees from different walks of life to make their journey to the centre of Bardez. On Monday, April 15, the Feast of Our Lady of Miracles will be celebrated at St Jerome Church which attracts thousands who offer flowers and oil to the Mother of God
The blessings of Our Lady of  Miracles over Mapusa

Dolcy D’Cruz

Every year, two weeks after Easter Sunday, the following Monday is celebrated as the Feast of Our Lady of Miracles at St Jerome Church in Mapusa. Right from the Maddi to the Feast and then for another week, the statue of Our Lady of Miracles standing gracefully carrying Infant Jesus in her left hand while blessing her devotees in the right hand, is placed outside the church in a pandal for veneration. Right next to it is a stall set up by the Confraria de Nosa Senora Dos Milagres Da Igreja that has wax figures and oil, without any impurities that is poured on the statue from head to toe. One of the biggest feasts in Bardez, Our Lady of Miracles is venerated by Christians and Hindus alike who attend in large numbers by pouring oil as they either pray or thank her.

The church of St Jerome was constructed in 1594 and was dedicated to St Jerome but with the feast of Our Lady of Miracle gaining more popularity, it has since been re-dedicated to Our lady of Miracles. Mapusa being one of the biggest markets in Goa, the people who walk in to attend Mass come from different creeds and walks of life. The Feast falls on the Monday following the third week of Easter. This year, the Feast will be celebrated on April 15, at St Jerome Church with masses being held at 5.30 am, 6.45am, 8 am, 11 am (English), 4pm and 5.15 pm with the High Mass at 9.30 am. Today, April 14 (Vespers’ day), Masses will be at 6.30 am, 7.45 am (Novena and Salve), 9 am (English Mass) and 6 pm (Novena and Salve). The theme also known as ‘Vixoi’ for the feast is ‘’.

The pandal in the church courtyard is decorated to accommodate devotees for the Eucharistic celebrations and the outskirts of the church has stalls selling sweets with smiling shopkeepers welcoming the customers. The fair in Mapusa is known as the Purumentachem Fest as it is celebrated 16 days after Easter. Earlier, one would find food items like salt fish, tamarind, kokum etc and wooden furniture by Goan carpenters at the fair. However, over the years, the fair has changed drastically and one can find clothes, household items and furniture of different materials at the fair. 

The feast is a reunion of families and communities in Mapusa. As it is the holiday season, many families plan to come to Goa so that they can attend the feast. Agnes Fernandes, proprietor of Café Aurora in Mapusa, has been celebrating the feast with family and friends. Originally from Peddem, Mapusa, she reminisces celebrating the feast, “In those days, the Feast of Our Lady of Milagres was a very big event for us. We would start preparing for the Feast right from when the Novena began. We would walk with heels and come downhill to the church through mud roads. Our relatives would be invited for the Feast and in the evening, we would roam in the fair. The fair doesn’t have its old world charm anymore. We would even be a part of the tiatr staged with the Mapusa parishioners. I remember prompting to the singers and actors one year. My brother also played a role in the tiatr that year.  Our relatives would stay at least for two days and since we didn’t want them to leave soon, we would hide their clothes and shoes.”

Alphonso Bond Braganza was living in Khorlim in his childhood and would faithfully make his way to the church with his mother. “My parents were very pious and we would walk from Khorlim especially my mther and two sisters along with me for the Novena and Feast. Duirng the Holy Week, which would be just prior to the beginning of the Novena, we would recite the Holy Rosary while walking to church. It was much quieter and there was less traffic on the road. We could peacefully walk the distance. For the Feast, we would always have our relatives from Salcete come over to Mapusa. The Feast lunch would include pork, chicken and beef dishes and pumpkin melgor was a must. After the hearty meal, the evening would be spent strolling in the fair looking at stalls selling toys, bangles, and tattoo artistes. Games like Rings and Fishing for the beer bottle were big hits and we would not come home with buying Candy floss or ice gola in different colours,” says Bond. 

Lenny D’Souza, treasurer of the Confraria, says, “This year, the Confraria de Nosa Senora Dos Milagres Da Igreja is handling the oil and wax figures stalls in the church compound. There are many people who travel from so far to make it on time to pour oil on Our Lady of Miracles. That’s the reason the stalls are kept open from 7 am to 11 am and 3 pm to 9.30 pm. It is always great to see the devotion of the people from different faiths.”

The church has two statues of Our Lady of Miracles, one which is placed in the church where the novena is recited and the other is placed at the entrance of the church, where oil is offered by devotees. Earlier, people offered oil in small containers, jugs and even tins. Now with the stall set up, oil is available at the Church and one can even home oil in small containers. Both Catholic and Hindu devotees stand in long queues patiently as they silently say their prayers to Our Lady of Miracles. This practice has been followed for generations and still followed fervently. The wax and oil stall will be open till April 21 from 7 am to 11 am and 3 pm to 9.30 pm. The stalls will be open throughout the day from 5.30 am to 9.30 pm on the Feast day. After the Feast too, the stall will continue to be open from 7 am to 11 am and 3 pm to 9.30 pm.

According to some legends, Our Lady of Miracles or Milagres Saibinn was the sister of Hindu Goddess Lairai from Shirgao whose zatra is celebrated in May this year. During the zatra, dhonds from different villages walk on the fire to prove their piety to the Goddess Lairai. Padmanath Gadekar from Mapusa is born and brought up in Mapusa. His devotion to Our Lady of Miracles began in his childhood and he still makes it a point to offer oil to Milagres Saibinn after the Feast. “I have been following the tradition of pouring oil on the statue since my childhood and it is not just me but many of my family and friends who unfailingly travel from different places to Mapusa to pray to Milagres Saibinn. We believe that she is the sister of Goddess Lairai. This year the Zatra at Shirgao will be held on May 12,” says Padmanath, who works for a private firm in Mapusa and a regular marathon runner.

This year, the entertainment for the Feast fete will be held from four days, from April 15 to 19. The first day will open with the tiatr, ‘Girgirem’ by Roseferns at 7 pm. On April 16 from 7 pm onwards, the band, 15 AG will entertain the crowd. Bonny Goes Solo will take the stage on April 17 at 7 pm. On April 18, Comedian Joyel’s tiatr ‘Sonvsar Char Disancho? Kai Monis Char Disancho’ will be staged at 7 pm. On the concluding day of the fete, April 19, Francis De Tuem’s tiatr, ‘Ger’rak Nhoi Vor’rak Melo’ will be staged at 7 pm.   

IDhar UDHAR

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