Father Lourdino Fernandes, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Monroeville, was born in Chinchinim, Goa, India on Dec. 4, 1943, to Constancio and Santana Ozorio Fernandes. The priest said he credits his parents’ lived values as a major influencer on his decision to answer God’s call and enter St. Pius X College, the archdiocesan seminary in Bombay, in 1959.
“The gift of priesthood has meant a discovery of what true love is!” Father Fernandes said. “My priesthood has been filled with unimaginable joy.”
Sharing that joy of God’s love for all is what Father Fernandes calls his “vocation in the vocation of priesthood.” “I have always felt … called to show each and every person that God delights in them and to show that Jesus, the high priest embraces us within that delight.”
After his ordination on Dec. 20, 1969, by Cardinal Valerian Gracias, the confessional brought the new priest the chance to explore that delight in his calling.
“It was here that I discovered that ordination brings us close to people just when they feel … [furthest] away from God. We are one with them, at their sides as together we face human frailty, failure and sin — ours and theirs. I have been able to communicate to many that no matter what their past has been, God loves them unconditionally and that God’s mercy is always greater than their sin.”
Father Fernandes said another great joy of his vocation is having the honor to represent Christ. “At the consecration, I do not merely say, ‘This is the Body of our Lord.’ I say, ‘This is My Body.’ When I remit sins, I do not say, ‘God pardons you,” I say, ‘I absolve you.’ This is truly awesome! What a treasure God places in a broken vessel like me.”
The 50-year jubilarian entered seminary training after the 10th grade. During his 10 years of seminary formation he earned degrees in the humanities, philosophy and theology, which prepared him to take on the role of associate pastor. As if that were not enough to keep him busy, Father Fernandes also earned master’s degrees in history and educational administration during his first four years as a priest in the Archdiocese of Bombay, leading to a 28-year stint as principal and pastor.
During that time he visited the home of every student at least twice, saying he loved “the endless possibilities with which God endowed each of them.”
Coming to the U.S. in 1998, Father Fernandes became a U.S. citizen in 2007. He has served as associate pastor or pastor in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend his entire time in this country, and was appointed pastor of St. Rose of Lima in June 2011.
Father Fernandes knows early. He arrives in his rectory office at St. Rose of Lima by 6:45 a.m. most mornings.
“We have accomplished a lot together during these eight years,” he said. Citing a new parish school and community center, he said he has seen St. Rose of Lima go from “a surviving parish to a thriving parish, and it will leave behind a legacy for future generations.”
Beyond physical changes, programming and other additions have been made. A parish picnic and St. Rose Summerfest include the larger community, and the parish family has grown stronger and closer because of regular parish missions and retreats, rosary crusades and monthly adoration days.
He expects that his days will not be empty when he enters retirement this month. Father Fernandes said he looks forward to the freedom to travel and reconnect with family.
He said he feels blessed to have been able to serve as a priest for 50 years.
“It’s … been filled with unexpected challenges and unexpected joys. It has been an opportunity to meet and know and work with some of the most talented and gifted and dedicated people I will ever know.”
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