Father Jacome Gonsalves is credited with reviving the faith in 17th-century Sri Lanka.
On the Goan island of Divar, in India, Catholics are working to keep alive the memory of a local priest who helped revive the faith in Sri Lanka in the 1700s, and hopefully have him recognized as a saint.
Father Jacome Gonsalves was born June 8, 1676, in Goa. He joined the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri (Oratorians) in 1700 and eventually followed his contemporary St. Joseph Vaz to Sri Lanka. The two men are credited with helping revive the faith in the island nation after Dutch rulers tried to stamp out Catholicism. Gonsalves died on July 17, 1742 in Bolwatte, Sri Lanka.
During his time on the island nation, Fr. Gonsalves wrote 22 books in the Sinhalese language and 15 in Tamil. He baptized new Catholics and re-catechised those who had fallen away from the Church.
Fr. Gonsalves is credited with mediating with the Dutch governor of Ceylon to secure a certain level of freedom for Catholics on the island. This helped foster a sense of community among Catholics, who could finally gather together without fear.
Goans kept the memory of Fr. Gonsalves alive well into the 20th century. But after the celebration of the 250th anniversary of his death in 1952 his memory began to fade away.
The canonization of his contemporary, St. Joseph Vaz, in 2015 revived interest in Fr. Gonsalves. The Times of India recently reported that parishioners of Our Lady of Piety church in Divar held a Mass to commemorate the 275th anniversary of Fr.Gonsalves’ death and have formed a committee to gather support for a sainthood cause for Fr.Gonsalves.
According to Church rules, the diocese where a person dies has to open the sainthood cause. In this case it would be the Diocese of Chilaw in Sri Lanka. Parishioners in Divar along with Fr. Eremita Rebello, who helped run the sainthood cause for St. Joseph Vaz, hope that collecting information about Fr.Gonsalves’ life and his writings will help kickstart his sainthood cause.