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Goans in Australia celebrate their ‘Goencho Saib’
While people thronged the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa to celebrate the novenas and feast of St Francis Xavier, the Goan community spread across Australia did not forget their ‘Goencho Saib’.
Celebrations in honour of the illustrious Jesuit Saint were marked with the same fervour and enthusiasm, albeit on different days, stretching from 29 November to 6 December.
The cities of Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney celebrated the feast of St Francis Xavier either last weekend or have plans to celebrate the feast this coming weekend. Other than the solemn Masses, there was something common amongst all the celebrations – music, dance and sumptuous Goan food.
In Adelaide, where the main cathedral is dedicated to St Francis Xavier, Goan families joined in the high mass at noon on the official feast day of St Francis Xavier, 3 December. As it was a working day, people later gathered to celebrate with Goan food at Victoria Square.
The feast day also coincided with the first day of the Australian Catholic Youth Festival, a three-day event where around 3,000 young people from different dioceses across Australia gathered at the Adelaide Convention Centre. The festival was hosted by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in partnership with the Archdiocese of Adelaide with young people from 9-25 years invited to participate.
In Queensland, Club De Goa Brisbane celebrated the feast of St Francis Xavier and annual anniversary dance at the Strathpine Community Centre. The feast of St Francis Xavier feast celebrations first began at Brisbane in 1984, when Alzira and John D’Souza, along with their family, moved from Africa to Australia.
This year, the evening began with a well-attended mass celebrated by Fr Rego and Fr Salvadore in honour of St Francis Xavier, accompanied by an enthusiastic choir. The celebrations then carried on with the Masquerade Ball, where young and old showed off their beautiful and creative masks.
Club President Regan Vaz and a senior member of the club and committee, Ivy Monteiro addressed the crowd with a warm thanksgiving speech.
The band Fire and Rain played throughout the night as people moved and grooved to a variety of modern day music, with the addition of our very own pre-recorded Goan masala mix.
In Sydney, the NSW Goan community celebrated the feast day of St Francis Xavier on 29 November at the Our Lady of Queen Peace Church, Greystanes. Although the actual feast day is 3 December, it is often celebrated on the nearest convenient Sunday to coincide with the weekend. Since its inception 39 years ago, the Sydney Goan community has always celebrated the feast day of Goa’s Patron Saint.
Around 230 members and their guests attended the special community Mass, which was celebrated by Goan priest, Fr Vincy D’Costa, hailing from Navelim, and now based at The Good Shepard Parish Church in Plumpton, NSW.
The Goa NSW Choir group, which included musicians and vocalists, was led by Rachael Menezes and the hymns comprised Konkani Hymns dedicated to St Francis Xavier. The youth group also actively participated in the Mass.
Goa NSW President Tony Colaco spoke at the end of the Mass and thanked the congregation, with the acolytes, altar boys and girls all being the members of the Association. Event Directors Ralph Vaz, Marianne D’Souza and Paul Dias ensured the mass and social celebrations were memorable.
Afterwards, members assembled in the Parish Camilleri Hall for a cultural and social event, Children’s Christmas tree and lunch. Malcolm Britto, who hails from Mapusa, entertained the audience with live music, supported by Roy Rosario and Elvis D’Sa on the vocals. Clinton Colaco and Michele D’Souza from the youth group compered the event.
The Goa NSW Music group, headed by Marianne D’Souza and Naina Lobo, entertained members and guests with traditional Christmas carols, while the arrival of Santa Claus brought cheer to all the kids as he distributed gifts and lollies.
The traditional Goan Christmas sweets made by the Executive Committee and various organisation members were distributed to seniors and pensioners who attended the event, with boxes also sent to those living in Retirement Homes.
In Perth, the feast celebration was scheduled for 6 December, with a high mass at St Pius X Catholic Church (Manning), followed by a social gathering with live music by Stingray.
Australia’s churches dedicated to St Francis Xavier
The fervour and devotion to St Francis Xavier is prominent not just among people hailing from Goa, but among various communities across Australia, with a number of cathedrals and churches dedicated to this Catholic saint.
Melbourne has the oldest St Francis Catholic Church on its original site, along with the Catholic Parish of St Francis Xavier at St Clare Box Hill in Wollongong. Of course Adelaide has its cathedral also dedicated to St Francis Xavier and there is a St Francis Xavier Church in Nauiyu, Northern Territory.
Brisbane has St Francis Xavier Church in Goodna and St Francis Xavier Church in Dayboro, while in Western Australia there is the St Francis Xavier Church in Hilbert and the St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Geraldton.