The Golden Architect

Bishop Gilbert Blaize Rego

As the golden jubilee spreads its glorious wings all over the diocese, one person who had sweated it out to build it up to this stage is not even aware of it! Extremely unfortunate! Bp. Gilbert Rego, the golden architect of his in the clergy Home in Bandra in the Archdiocese of Bombay. Bishop Rego had been guiding the diocese for twenty eight years, which is more than half of its age! The jubilee celebrations without paying tribute to this extraordinary person, I am certain would be not only incomplete but also meaningless.

The Golden Architect of the diocese

In 1971Bishop Bego inherited a new diocese which required to be built up from the scratch. Initially he had to address three imminent problems: lack of personnel, lack of finance and lack of basic infrastructure. The diocese had just a handful of priests. Many of whom were borrowed from other dioceses and congregations!. The coffers were stock empty and the infrastructure meager and minimal. The bishop was endowed with a will of steel to withstand all kinds of initial problems and onslaughts. A lesser man would have collapsed, but not Bp. Gilly. The master craftsman began his journey of building up the diocese brick by brick. It was said about mother Teresa that she began her work with Rs 5 in her bag and plenty of faith in her heart. Bishop Gilbert had initially only huge debts to boast of; but of course. The faith in god and confidence in himself and others were insurmountable and unshakable. His cathedral, built in the enlarged model of the holy cross sister’s chapel in Nagercoil is one of the architectural landmarks of Chandigarh, the city beautiful. Characterized by its simplicity, elegance and uniqueness, it reflects the aesthetic sensibility of bishop Rego and naturally his simplicity, elegance and uniqueness as well. The building up of the cathedral is symbolical of building up of the diocese along these characteristics, his prominent trademark traits.

A Bishop of the Masses

Be they rich or poor, young or old, sophisticated or simple, educated or analphabetic-the bishop’s charismatic smile is enough to get people around him. He had mastered the art of touching people’s heart through simple down to earth acts which conveyed to them that he was human and deeply concerned. He would lift children and call them bondhuram and they would go crazy with laughter. He would gently put his armaround an elderly person to drive away his\her loneliness. Whoever would think that a bishop would go out of his way but repeatedly? One night as I sat alongside with him while he was at the steers, he picked up a heavy drunkard from the middle of the road and helped him reach his house, literally almost carrying him. No wonder the bishop was so very loved by everyone.

A Bishop full of Life and Humour

His college companions remember him as an exuberant young man full of quick wit, pranks and good humour. The strict pre Vatican atmosphere in the seminary did not deter him from being fully human and fully alive. He was a regular in his college team doth in football and hockey. Being an animal lover, he was good at horse riding and catching snakes. He could catch cobras and vipers with seeming ease and they in turn were his pets! A strange hobby indeed for a future bishop! Imagine, even as a bishop, besides dogs, he had a languor as his pet who used to snatch away the veils of sisters and run away, wearing them himself!

A bishop of the poor

Like Jesus, his master, the bishop had a special love for the poor. As a young bishop he opted for the Talasari Missions in the archdiocese of Bombay. It was here I think, his love for the poor got intensified and found concrete expression. As a bishop, he shunned pomp and show and was genuinely interested in the poor. His favourite place of visit was Shantidhan, the home of mother Teresa sisters for the differently abled and special children and adults. There he knew everyone by name. As he had worked as the director of caritas India earlier, he could organize projects for the poor to put them on their feet. His rapport with the poor was excellent as he related with them at their level. Personally, he was quite austere with himself, never allowing an ac or for that matter evens a cooler in his room or in his car, an inspiration for many of us today.

A Missionary Bishop

His special love for missionaries and missions was quite obvious, Mission stations like Amloh, Phatak Majri, Jhundan, Devigarh, Rajpura, Ropar and many stations in Karnal, Bathinda and Shimla areas were begun during his tenure. The IMS Father in Karnal area and Pilar Fathers in Bathinda area under his tireless guidance began to systematically establish the church in their respective regions. The bishop constructed St. Joseph’s minor seminary at Kauli to foster local vocations and the diocesan pastoral centre in Chandigarh to organize pastoral programmes. As a policy the Bishop kept his priests available for missionary work and not gets carried away by the glamour of schools. A policy that is followed by the diocese even today. He also established several schools for the education of children and had hostels attached to them for poor village boys and girls in places like Ajrawar, Kauli, Bathinda, Bhurewala etc.

A Tribute

Our beloved Late Bishop Gilbert Blaize Rego, had left for his eternal reward on 21st June Thursday 2012 at Clergy Home, Bandra, Mumbai. He died of long illness (Alzheimer) at the age of 91. The mortal remains of Bp. Gilbert was brought to the Diocese for burial from Mumbai to Chandigarh by air on 23rd Saturday 2012 at 12.00 noon for public homage. There were large number of Catholics and people of other faiths who joined us in prayer service and followed by the Holy Eucharist. On the following day, 24th June Sunday at 4.00 pm at Christ the King Cathedral, Chandigarh, the entire Catholic Community of Simla Chandigarh Diocese participated devotionally in the Holy Eucharist presided over by Most. Rev. Abp. Vincent Concessao, the Archbishop of Delhi in the presence of Most Rev. Gerald John Mathias, the Bishop of Lucknow, Most Rev. Patrick Nair, the Bishop Emeritus of Meerut and Clergy, Religious and Laity.

Lives of great men all remind us; we can make our lives sublime;
And departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.

Fr. Kejus R.