With Profound Gratitude

When you are a priest you must understand that this life includes being reassigned every few years to a new parish. On one hand it is an opportunity to move on and grow in your priesthood. To take what you have experienced and learn from it. What you did right, what you could have done differently – and apply these experiences at your next assignment and throughout your priesthood.

St Sebastian Parish has been through this many times before, but when it comes down to that last moment – a moment to say goodbye, we are unable to handle it as well as we thought we would. Our much loved parish priests, Fr. Andrew and our Assistant Parish Priest Fr. Leslie are both assigned to move to a new parish. We accept this move to the new parish as a common and regular practice in our Catholic Church that priests move within their diocese to serve another parish after a set amount of time. A little change, a little pain, but eventually a transition considered beneficial for the priest and parish alike.  It is a thoughtful and orderly process that is classic for Catholics. Yet, I must confess that Fr. Andrew and Fr. Leslie’s impending departure is very painful for us. However, we are consoled by the fact that they have laid a very good foundation for us to build upon.

Although Fr. Andrew and Fr. Leslie have been here at St. Sebastian Church pre and past covid for last seven years and four years respectively my association with them only started during the last 3 years when I came down and settled in Goa after retirement. By the time I knew them both closely it was their time for departure.

My personal opinion about Fr. Andrew with whom I had a fruitful interaction would be that I would compare him to a Coconut. Hard from outside but soft and sweet from inside. Having spent some 9 odd years  in a boarding school run by Pillar fathers (SFX Society) I have my own deterrents of having  a close proximity to Priests. However, the best thing I noticed was once you get to know Fr. Andrew you can discuss any topic below the sky, without any censors and borders be it personal, political and general which is a good quality a leader should possess. He was accessible almost anytime. It was these qualities that brought me closer to him.

Fr. Andrew as I observed,  was able to relate to all of the parishioners. His homilies are so sharp, blunt and to the point. In Fr. Andrew we found a model of someone sincerely and profoundly tapped into the richness of the Catholic faith, which in turn, made us want to deepen our relationship with Christ.  He knew what God’s love is about, full of mercy and hope, healing and filled with joy. It is a great combination for preaching – knowing God and knowing people.

No one is perfect as we are all humans and at times Fr Andrew must have created ripples perhaps for the right reasons transparent to persons who always look for wrong things. But his leadership qualities stem from his love for God and for his parishioners. We thank you Fr. Andrew  for your Truth and courage to speak the truth. You were a compassionate man, a friend to the sick and needy, but you stood  like a rock on matters of principle. This is called integrity. Leadership has never been about popularity. Under Fr. Andrew , the Church was a Church, not a business. It lives and breathes the Grace of God to all of its wounded and imperfect parishioners. Fr. Leslie on the other hand was soft spoken, man of few words and yet when he was on alter his sound was heard beyond Bank of India branch teaching the word of God. A resounding ability that helps the homily to reach every Parishioner’s heart.

When I thought that retirement life was just being at home reading news and watering plants Fr. Andrew took the initiative of nominating me to the PPC committee.  It made me realize that God needs my service to our church and it was his perception and compassion that made a profound impact on my life. I hope I will not disappoint him and this note is my small gesture of appreciation and gratefulness for his action and understanding.

On behalf of our PPC Members, all Associations and all our Parishioners I take this opportunity to extend our deepest gratitude to Father Andrew and Fr. Leslie for their unwavering dedication to our Parish and for being a shining example of faith. The guidance and support you both gave us have touched the lives of countless individuals, and we were truly blessed to have you both as our spiritual leaders. I have on many occasions addressed you both as our Lighthouse and  truly so. Your guidance and assistance helped many of us to wade our way on this rough and turbulent journey. Thank you, Father Andrew and Fr. Leslie , for your steadfast commitment to spreading love, hope, and grace to all those around you. Wish you both good health and God’s choicest blessings and strength to continue doing good work in God’s kingdom.


(This note is based on my personal observation which might differ and therefore should not be debated. Thank you)

By Agnello A. S. Fernandes