A veteran Jesuit Missionary Fr Jose Maria Lopez de Pariza went to his eternal reward on June 20, 2019 at the ripe old age of 102. People often referred to him as ‘Pavitra’ (holy priest) Fr Pariza. I consider myself privileged to be associated with the holy priest from December 1977.On my return to India after my journalism studies in London followed by theology studies in Gregorian University and priestly ordination in Rome I was appointed a full time the Editor of DOOT (messenger) a Catholic family magazine in 1977.  Fr Pariza was then the Parish Priest of an old mission parish at Amod. He invited me to help him out in the Sacramental ministries in Christmas 1977.

Amod is the sixth oldest mission parish in Gujarat started in 1912 and Fr Pariza was appointed Parish Priest of Amod a second time from 1969-83. In 1977 there were only bullock cart roads to Amod but I managed to reach there by my motor cycle. Fr Pariza entrusted to me the Holy Masses and other liturgical services like baptism while Fr Pariza sat at the confessional most of the time when people came to the church.

I enjoyed officiating the liturgical services and the company of the veteran missionary that I offered my services for every Christmas and the Holy Week at Amod Parish. While preparing to celebrate the centenary of Amod parish in 2012, the parish priest called me to enquire when I was the Parish Priest of Amod Parish! He told me that he saw my name signed in the baptism registers year after year for several years! Yes, Fr Pariza prepared families for their children’s baptism including a few adult baptisms every Christmas and Easter. He entrusted the baptism ceremonies to me while he sat patiently hearing the confessions of endless queue of people and guiding them in Christian living!

Apart from the Church services I enjoyed visiting the families of Catholics and of a few others with Fr Pariza, a patient listener and wise counsellor. He helped to restore many broken marriages and encouraged living-together couples to have sacramental marriage in the Church. He enquired the welfare of the people not only in the house but also their relatives in other places.

As a missionary Fr Pariza led a very simple, humble and frugal life. His life was very much people-centered with much prayers and sacrifices. His needs were the bare minimum. Like his see through personality the Amod mission house was also open for one and all. Even if a thief entered the house, there were not many things which he could carry away! He shared food from the kitchen of boarding school children.

Amod mission has a primary school with a boarding for boys. Fr Pariza also looked after a sub-mission station at Tarapur with a primary school. He celebrated the golden jubilee of Amod mission in 1962. With gifts and donations, which he received, he built a pacca building for the primary school at Amod. He also put up a building for the primary school at Kadana sub-mission station.

The importance of Amod mission started steadily decreasing when another sub-mission station at Petlad with a primary school from 1928 became a full pledged mission parish in 1955. Many people from Amod mission migrated to Petlad as Taluka headquarters with good road facilities and job opportunities in the cloth mills. Petlad mission Parish too developed with the starting of a high school in 1960 and a higher secondary school in 1987.

After the Golden Jubilee celebration of Amod mission Fr Pariza was transferred to Fatima Shrine mission parish at Gothada (Savli) in 1983. He was born on 13 May 1917, the day when Mother Mary appeared to three children – Francisco, Jacinta & Lucia – at Fatima, Portugal. It was a happy coincidence that Fr Pariza, a devotee of Mother Mary became the Parish Priest of the only Fatima Shrine in Gujarat.

Fr Pariza’s Golden Jubilee in the Society of Jesus in 1983 was celebrated by his beloved parishioners both at Amod and Gothada. As a pioneer missioner Fr Pariza founded Fatima Uttar Buniadi School at Gothada, which later became a regular general stream high school and higher secondary school.  He also built the Fatima Chatralaya (hostel) building giving as always importance to education of children. Fr Pariza was also able to start an aided high school at Gothada in 1987.

                Fr Pariza also bought 15 vigha (about 6 acre) land at Vejalpur in Vaghodia Taluka and started a new sub-mission station there. But more than buying land and putting up buildings, Fr Pariza was a builder of the Christian community with regular family visits and prayers with them often celebrating Holy Mass in village houses, where he regularly went on cycle.

On May 13, 1992 the Gothada parishioners celebrated his 75 years of life. In 1994 Fr Pariza was transferred as assistant parish priest to Anand St Xavier’s parish, where he was Parish Priest from 1963-69. Meanwhile Anand Parish saw tremendous growth with good many housing society of Catholics and other Christians came up in the Amul-fame milk city Anand. Fr Pariza every day visited the families riding on a cycle.

The Society of Jesus and St Xavier’s parishioners celebrated in a grand way his centenary of life on May 13, 2017 with a Souvenir. When he was not able to cycle any more, the Parish arranged for an auto rickshaw to take him for his regular morning and evening visits to Christian houses in the parish. At age of 101 when he was not able to manage himself he was transferred to Jeevan Darshan, a house for retired and sick Jesuits.

Though Fr Pariza died at Vadodara his body was brought to Anand for funeral service and burial. Hundreds of priests and nuns from three dioceses and thousands of faithful attended the funeral service led by Bishop Rathnasway, Achbishop Stanislaus Fernandes and Bishop Godfry de Rozario. The Holy Mass and services were conducted in an open air stage in the Church compound, which was filled with people. It was the biggest gathering of people which I have ever seen in a funeral during my 55 years in Gujarat.

Fr Pariza remains for me as a model missionary priest who communicated nothing but God’s love first through life and then through his selfless services. He reached out to all people especially the poor and the needy without any distinction of religion or caste, as he called everyone as God’s children. Today listening to people I see that Fr Pariza has become a legend!

Changed on: 01-07-2019

Next Change: 16-07-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019