Herald: Fr Edwin, a polygot of 11 languages

Fr Edwin, a polygot of 11 languages

19 May 2019 05:22am IST
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19 May 2019 05:22am IST
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A Goan Carmelite priest Fr Edwin of St Anthony, originally from Merces, passed away after a brief illness and was laid to rest at the Carmelite monastery Aquem, Margao. A polyglot, he was highly proficient in Italian, German, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Sanksrit, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Konkani and worked in Rome for 46 years. TEAM HERALD has more details

Moving on from the 40-day penitential period of Lent and joyfully accepting the Easter season of jubilation and triumph of Our Saviour Lord Jesus Christ is so aptly symbolised in the Hebrew word `Alleluia` which means Praise the Lord and is found only in the book of Revelation.

How fortunate was the little boy born on Easter of 1944, a third son to a Goan couple from Merces - Filipe and Escolastica Diniz and so spontaneously named Alleluia. Little did the parents know that their lad would remain worthy of his name through his formative life, his ordination and even his death.

Alleluia Aleixo Diniz completed his schooling at the Loyola High School Margao and passed out as the best student, receiving the honour from the last Portuguese Governor of Goa, Vassalo-e-Silva. He joined the Carmelite order on March 18, 1964, as a 20-year-old, becoming a member of the Manjummal Province, which then had Goa under its jurisdiction. Making his first profession a year later he took the religious name of ‘Edwin of St Anthony’ on the feast of St Joseph in Podanur (Tamil Nadu). On July 26, 1968, he made his profession at the end of his philosophical studies. After spending a year at the Mount Carmel, Haifa, he proceeded to Rome where he was ordained a priest on April 9, 1972 with no family member present and remained there for 46 years.

After completing his licentiate in Sacred Scripture and Spirituality and earning the title of ‘Doctor of Dogmatic Theology’, he was appointed professor of Sacred Scripture and Fundamental Theology at the Pontifical Institute of Teresianum, Rome from 1978 to 2014.

He was a polyglot and was highly proficient in Italian, German, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Sanksrit, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Konkani. He has guided many in their thesis for licentiates and doctorates.

Fr Johannes Gorantla, at present the assistant to Carmelites’ superior general in Rome, was his student in 1998. Fr Gorantla recollects, “What is unforgettable about Fr Edwin was his special love for the Indian students. He loved us so much to the extent that he made our exams so easy. We would look forward every year for his feast day, when his room would be kept open for everybody to enjoy numerous edibles and delicacies.That generosity is fondly cherished by all his students.” 

He always welcomed Archbishop of Goa and Daman Most Rev Filipe Neri Ferrao, Archbishop Emeritus Raul Gonsalves, dignitaries from India, political leaders, priests and lay people who still cherish their friendship with him.

He was privileged to meet St John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Having proved his mettle and acclaim at the international arena, this man had all the nerves of putting his nose in the air. But contrastingly, all these laurels made him more humble. This was perhaps his most striking characteristics which makes him stand tall in the eyes of all those who came in touch with him.

When he came down to Goa, his hometown, he appeared as the same boy who had left the Rome of East many years ago. He lived a normal life and would be the first to greet others with a smile. He could easily start a conversation and connect with the elite, intellectual, unlearned, old, young, and poor. His laughter was contagious. His house would be buzzing with his family, friends, relatives, people of other faiths and neighbours. His brother’s Hindu friends would make special provisions and offer him the loftiest sea food regularly when in Goa. Perhaps, this is the reason why a huge crowd gathered at his house to pay their last respects to this humble intellectual.

Many were disheartened to be in a traffic snarl the entire evening and unable to attend his funeral in Margao. In recent times it is a rare trait to witness an individual of his calibre (having lived 46 years abroad) speaking Konkani fluently without any foreign accent. This was something that amazed people. 

The second prominent hallmark of his life was being joyful. ‘Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’. He defended his thesis titled “Joy in the presence of Jesus Christ according to the Synoptics”.  He researched and preached loudly “being joyful” in his actions. 

He was an avid football fan and Juventus, who has Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the worlds’ best, was his favourite team and usually remarked even “God cannot find me when there is football.”

Fr Edwin passed away on 25th April 2019 within the Easter octave, with the Carmelite friars and his family by his bedside. In Today’s world we don’t need courage to be great because everyone has the potential and ability to become great in their lives. Real courage is when you choose to be simple, when you know you are great.

As news broke out in Rome, Empoli and Barbel where he served, people were saddened and heartbroken. A German daily reporting his death means Fr Edwin was appreciated in his clearly structured sermons that always included three thoughts and then a sentence as a summary. Therefore he was nicknamed ‘father 1-2-3’.

Saint Teresa of Avila believed that a smile would do much to bring people to the church. “A sad sun is a bad nun. Let each of us use a little sense of humour to cheer” (Gaudete et Exultate)

Even on the hospital bed in his last days, he passed on his joy to those who visited him

Fr Edwin combined joy with a friendly nature, ridding himself on any kind of air or pride that might come to one as educated and accomplished as he was. He knew what he was to be and desired nothing else ‑ a humble servant in God’s vineyard, bearing witness of the joy of the Gospel.

Joy is not the absence of pain; Fr Edwin had his fair share of trials, tribulations, sorrow, pain, fear, distress and sufferings but he did not allow it to overwhelm his confidence in God. He said, “To be negative is innate to man because of his sinful nature, but to be joyful, you need to make efforts against the tide”, something he emulated in his exuberance. As Pope Francis rightly states, ‘’A Christian is a joyful Christian, an Easter person.” Fr Edwin was indeed one.

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