Utorda, a village in the Salcette taluka, is immersed in the sounds of the Arabian Sea and the constant chug of the speeding trains passing through its surroundings. The 4000 plus parishioners of Utorda distributed in some 464 houses are all set to inaugurate the new addition/renovation done to the church of Our Lady of Lourdes. The church is more than a hundred years old and the move of the parishioners along with the parish priest can be viewed as an attempt to meet the present-day demands of the congregation while simultaneously striking a balance between the old and the new, in preserving heritage.
A little history
The Our Lady of Lourdes church was originally a chapel built through the efforts of Fr. Joao Jose Pereira, his brother Aleixo Piedade Pereira, with the assistance of other villagers. On the 30th of October, 1894 this chapel was thrown open for the faithful. In due course of time the flock of the Utorda chapel grew in number and as a result the chapel was elevated to the status of a church by the then Archbishop Rev. Fr. Raul Gonsalves on the 13th of May, 1976. Late Rev. Fr. Joaquim Dias Alberto was the parish priest at that time. Originally, the chapel was constructed having the bare minimal spiritual needs of the people in mind. With the railway route (which runs a few yards in front of the church) and private properties flanking on either sides, there is virtually no scope for expansion. Yet, the people of Utorda have learnt to manage their spiritual affairs within the limited resources.
The addition/renovation work
In order to find out more about the addition/renovation to the church in Utorda, I contacted Rev. Fr. Britto Fernandes, the parish priest. It is under his leadership and guidance the parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes church have stepped forward to see their endeavour come to fruition. Thirty years after the chapel was elevated to the status of a church, the parish of Utorda is all set to usher change. The sacristy, as informed by Fr. Britto, was in bad condition. This led to the renovation of the sacristy as well as the addition of an air-conditioned prayer room (where the Blessed Sacrament will be available to the faithful throughout the day) and a mini community hall. A garage is also adjusted in the limited space.
Fr. Britto is a man all for heritage as he says that every precaution was taken not to harm the structure of the church in any way. “Ami adli igorz ji asa ti toxich dovorlea,” [We have not touched the church in any way] Fr. Britto informed me. In fact extreme care was taken not to demolish the exterior wall of the church while making way for the extension. The teak-wood doors which have stood the test of time were also re-used. The foundation for the new construction was laid on 11th February, 2009, the day of the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, during the tenure of the committee comprising of the Parish Priest (President), Mr. Jose Pereira (Procurator), Mr. Elvis Pereira (Treasurer) and members, Mr. Marcelino Braganza and Mrs. Linda Pereira.
Inside the church, the century old wood altars are exquisitely crafted and at once evoke devotion. Fr. Britto also told me about the efforts put into preserving the false-ceiling made of wood, as he showed me around the interior of the church. Fr. Britto has made prudent use of the limited space available to make room for the new structure. A generator room which existed and was slightly in the path of new structure was not pulled down as it could be used as a store room for the church.
Fr. Britto agrees that the Utorda church has set an example to preserve the old and the new. “Definitely heritage is very important as it is the wealth and health of Goan society,” he opined. “Ek pavtt kitem-i moddlear (portem) mellta?” [Once we destroy something, can we get it back?] are his parting words to me.
The inauguration of the new sacristy, mini community hall, prayer room and the garage will take place on the 13th of May, 2010 under the new committee which has the Parish Priest as the President, Mr. Domingos Braganza (Procurator), Mr. Elvis Pereira (Treasurer) and members: Mr. Tony Pereira and Mrs. Emy Pereira. Rev. Fr. Jose Remedios Fernandes, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman will bless and inaugurate the new additions.
(A Version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: May 12, 2010)