DSCN07000If one goes down memory lane, a nostalgic and poignant story emerges of the Holy Family Church, Porvorim. Perhaps it was in the late Thirties or early Forties when people first started to reside at Alto-Porvorim that a need for a chapel for the locality was felt. In those days the population of the Catholic families may have numbered barely fifteen to twenty. Alto-Porvorim was otherwise a place for holidaying and people would return to their respective Parishes during the non holiday season. The people who would come to Alto-Porvorim were either parishioners of Our Lady of Candelaria Chapel or the Socorro Church.

Seeing the plight of the residents, Mr. Marcelino Fernandes, Mr. Francis Paul Mascarenhas and Mr. Bernardo Mascraenhas, prominent names of that time, got together and decided to erect a chapel and dedicate it to the Holy Family. However, problems were galore. Land was not freely available even then, as most of the plots along the main road were reserved for construction of residential houses. It was only after valiant efforts that the plot of land where the present Church stands was secured in July 1945. However, to construct a chapel was a tougher challenge. In those days flow of money was scarce and the cost of constructing the chapel was estimated around Rs. 10,000/- which had to be generated by none other than the 20 odd catholic families who resided there.

Lydia Silveira, the daughter of Marcelino Fernandes, one of those who worked tirelessly for the building of the Holy Family Chapel says, “We would go from house to house in Socorro asking for contributions. It so happened that one day my neighbours along with me, Bertha Teles and Carmin Coelho went to one man’s house at night for a donation towards construction of our chapel. The man was not known to be very pious, but on seeing us, immediately started the Rosary. We waited patiently. After the Rosary got over, in order to get rid of us, he then started Litany, invoking saints we had never ever heard of. Realizing that he would not relent, we beat a retreat. Insults may have been hurled at us, yet nothing deterred us from doing our work cheerfully, as we knew that we were doing it for a worthy cause. At times even our bed sheets and household articles would disappear, all taken by my father for the use of the Chapel”.

Other prominent members of the community who worked towards the building of the chapel were Bernadette Mascarenhas, Ascenca and her son Jos Pinto, Miriam Ointo, Camilo D’Souza, Octavio Gomes, Anthunish D’Souza, Belarmino Albuquerque, Ramiro Coelho, Inocencio Lobo, Domnic Pereira, Vicente Martins, Clara Mendonca, Domingos Varela, Aleixo Velson and Roberto Marques among others.

Once a handsome kitty was collected, a search for an appropriate model for the chapel was launched. This led the Founders to Candolim and Pilerne, where they took a fancy for the frontispiece of the Pilerne Church and the interiors of the Candolim Church. However the drawing up of the plans took almost a month and in fact many months elapsed from the time the possession of the plot was taken. Finally on the 13th May 1949 the untiring efforts of the Founders paid dividends and the blessing of the foundation stone took place. But the progress of the structure was at snail’s pace as funds were difficult to come by with some families making lame excuses to give donations. As such, though the construction of the chapel was complete, the roofing with the asbestos sheets could not be completed due to paucity of funds. Desperat measures were then resorted to and the chapel finally has a roof. “we physically lifted up the asbestos sheets and helped in fixing them” voices Anthunish D’Souza, who was just a young lad then. On January 13th 1951, with the blessing of the Holy Family, the first Eucharistic celebration in the chapel was held without its formal inauguration as it was not even plastered. Through the generous act of a donor, the chapel was finally inaugurated on 12th January 1952. However, since then, Masses were held only on Sundays and the feast was celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas, a tradition followed until recently. The feast is now celebrated on the last Sunday of January on completion of the entire 9 days Novena.

Later in 1969, the chapel was handed over to the Redemptorist Fathers to ensure that mass would be celebrated on Sundays, Holy days, First Fridays, All Souls Day and New Year’s Day. In fact, the then Bishop Rev. Fr. Francisco Rebello had entrusted the care of the chapel unto the Redemptorists to form a Parish. But circumstances prevented them from doing so and thus it was reverted back to the Bishop after a period of six years.

Finally in the year 1978 it was decided to seek the service of a Resident Chaplain with Fr. Armando Souza being appointed as the first residential Chaplain. However, not having any residence, he would put up at the residence of one of the nearby parishioners.

In 1979 when the number of families grew to 120 comprising of 540 faithful at Alto-Porvorim and Alto-Betim, a petition was moved to the Archbishop requesting him for the upgradation of the Holy Family Chapel to the status of a church and for permission to draw up a plan for the church building and Chaplain’s residence. However this suffered a drawback for want of a cemetery. From then on the work began earnestly and the toils of Fr. Armando were rewarded with a cemetery and a Chaplain’s residence being completed by 1986.

Later, when Fr. Antonio Cota was posted as the Chaplain, in 1987 the proposal for upgradation was once again put forth. The hard work of Fr. Antonio Cota and the parishioners paid partial dividends with the laying of the foundation stone for the extension of the chapel on 8th September 1991 by the then Archbishop Raul Gonsalves.

From then on, the priests who served as Chaplains, namely, Fr. Cromancio Mascarenhas, Fr. Eufemiano Miranda, Fr. Cleto Pereira and Fr. Anand da Gama Pais pursued this matter with unfailing spirit and zest and their mission of making the chapel into a church finally took shape and turned to reality. By his Decree dated December 15th, 2005 the Archbishop-Patriarch Filipe Neri Ferrao granted the elevation of the Holy Family Chapel, Alto-Porvorim to the status of a church to be effective from 18th January 2006. As a result, the 9 zones comprising parts of the erstwhile parishes of Socorro, Salvador-do-Mundo, Penha de France, Reis Magos and Pilerne have merged to give birth to the Parish of the Holy Family.

Fr. Anand da Gama Pais, the first Vicar of the Holy Family Church whilst speaking to the congregation on the day of the elevation, on the 18th January, 2006 nostalgically said, “A long desired dream of the parishioners has been finally realized and it is time to celebrate this moment whilst recalling the efforts of all those who strived to fulfill this dream”.

At present, the Vicar of the Holy Family Church is Fr. Caetano Fernandes.