What happened between the
first and last meetings
In our first meeting, Tony had said: "...So now I can become a Jesuit
priest." From early boyhood, Tony had a golden dream of becoming a
Jesuit priest. But in that particular year, 1944, his dream was not welcome
in our family. Economic realities were more pressing than golden dreams.
World War II was raging. Food was rationed. Housing was scarce. India, then
a part of the British Empire, was fighting alongside the allies on many
fronts. The Japanese had breached the eastern border of India and had a
foothold on Indian soil. The country was insecure and uncertain, and, for
my middle-aged parents, Tony was their only security, the one who would
look after them in their later years. My father worked for the Indian
Railways, and if his eldest son chose not to enter university after he
graduated from school, an apprenticeship in the Railways could be arranged.
The apprenticeship would lead to a secure job. That was my family's grand
economic plan for Tony.
Tony was born on the 4th of September 1931 in Santa Cruz, a suburb of
Bombay, India. Our parents, Frank and Louisa (nee Castelino), were natives
of Goa, a Portuguese colony on the south-west coast of India. They belonged
to a long line of Catholic families, going back 400 years, renowned for their religious fervour.
That firebrand Jesuit, Francis Xavier, arrived in Goa around 1542,
and gave great impetus to the spread of Christianity.
But the process of converting the locals had started earlier.
Portuguese priests and friars arrived shortly after Portuguese forces captured Goa
from the local Indian rajah in 1510. Their missionary zeal (according to some historians)
consisted of both persuasion and persecution. They supplemented the soft-sell of debate with
the hard-sell of conversion by fire and sword. It is not known by which method my forefathers were converted,
but they certainly put the fear of hell and the prospect of heaven deep
into the minds of their descendants. Throughout their lives, our parents
remained unquestioningly devoted to the church and faithful to all its
Family photo, June 1947
Taken a few days before Tony left for Vinayalaya, a Jesuit novitiate
Frank (Dad), Marina, Tony, Grace, Bill, Louisa (Mum)
© Copyright Bill deMello
Job opportunities were severely limited in Portuguese Goa,
so young Goans usually
drifted to nearby Bombay in British India. Being hardworking, educated, Christian and
English-speaking, the Goans were often favoured by the ruling British for
employment, particularly in the railways, and the department of post and
telegraphs. My father joined the railways. My mother stayed home to run
the household and to give her children their early domestic religious education.
Education and vocation
Tony's early education was at St Stanislaus High School, run by the
Jesuits, in the parish of St Peter's, located in Bandra, a northern suburb
of Bombay. His excelled academically and was exceptionally skilled in human relations.
Popular with both staff and students, Tony was the idol of the school. Our parents expected him to
enter university, graduate and excel in whatever profession he chose. Their expectations of a brilliant future
for Tony were firmly engraved in their minds and so they paid little attention to his frequent hints that he
wanted to become a priest. They passed it off as boyish fervour, instilled
by the Jesuits, those great motivators, who ran St Stanislaus school.
Besides, my parents knew that Tony also had a romantic side. When he was
quite young, he told a cousin of ours that someday he would marry her and
that he would take all the stars in the sky and make her a wedding dress.
She never failed to remind him jokingly of his promise, even years after he
had joined the Jesuits and she was married with children.