Vibrant Faith in Vasai: Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Remedies

-Fr. Thomas D’Souza, Remedy

All over Maharashtra, in the month of June, the farmers eagerly await for the monsoon. Likewise, all over Vasai Diocese and the neighbouring dioceses of Maharashtra, the Catholic community awaits for the annual Novena of Our Lady of Remedies. In the Memorare, we boldly and confidently pray, “Never was it known that anyone who fled to you implore your help or sought your intercession was left unaided”. This is the experience of the Faithful of Vasai and others. They believe that they have never returned empty handed. This experience is not just that of Catholics but of the people of other faiths, too. The very word, ‘Remedy’ means ‘Cure’. It is a relief from sickness, both physical as well as spiritual. Our Lady of Remedies intercedes for all types of diseases and problems.

For centuries the people of Vasai and other parts of Maharashtra have experienced this miraculous power and strength of the intercession of Mother Mary. Therefore, thousands and thousands of devotees flock to the Shrine every Saturday of the month of June. The Shrine is one of the oldest churches of the Diocese of Vasai. It was built by the Spanish Dominican missionaries in the year 1577.

To understand the origin of this unstinted devotion to Our Lady of Remedies, one has to go back to the last quarter of the 16th century. The Church of St Gonsalo (not to be confused with St Gonsalo Garcia) was erected by the Dominicans in the Vasai Fort. Twelve years later a Dominican priest Fr Lobo Cardozo started erecting a church in Remedy. The church was completed in 1577, thanks to the generosity of a Portuguese lady Donna Anna Ortiz. The church had an image of Our Lady that was accredited with miraculous powers. 120 miracles were attributed to Our Lady of Remedy in 1605. A Portuguese chronicler, Diogo do Couto, notes, “Our Lady has performed so many miracles that the walls of the church are covered with pictures representing them”. In 1662, a famous Jesuit Fr Manoel Godinho had to undertake a crucial mission at the behest of the Viceroy of Goa. Fr Godinho writes, “I went to the Church of Our Lady of Remedies which is at a distance of two cannon shots from the Fort. In the presence of the miraculous statue, which is worshipped by Christians, Hindus and Muslims alike, I offered to God any adversities I would encounter in the course of the journey I proposed to undertake and after taking the blessings of Our Lady with great confidence in her patronage, I started on my way”.

The Church was damaged by two massive fires in the first half of the 20th century. Fr Leslie Ratus notes that the present edifice was erected in 1939 after a fire destroyed the main altar. Interestingly, somewhere around this time, the Cathedral at Bhuleshwar was closed down and the altar from this Cathedral was transferred to Remedy. In 1947, the roof and the main altar of the church were gutted by fire. Fr Sebastian Vaz garnered funds and the church got a new altar in 1952.

The Diocese of Vasai was erected in 1998 and His Lordship, Bishop Thomas Dabre declared Remedy Church as the Diocesan Shrine. Today, it stands out as one of the greatest pilgrim places of Mother Mary in our Diocese. The specialty of this devotion is that it is held on all the Saturdays of the month of June. The first Mass begins at 5.00am and many devotees from far and wide come walking to the Shrine.

The statue of Our Lady of Remedies is inspiring. She is in sitting posture in an arm chair with Child Jesus on her lap and a rod in one hand and the globe in other hand. The rod may indicate the Shepherding aspect of the Mother and the Globe indicates the universal dimension. The Mother calls all the devotees to her Child. What does Mother Mary say to the devotees? Mary utters her famous seven words which she said in John’s Gospel at the Wedding in Cana, “Do whatever he tells you to do” (Jn 2:5). The faithful have experienced tremendous power in these words of the Mother. They flock to her not only to ask for favours but also with gratuitous heart to thank and praise God and her.

In this Year of Faith, Archbishop Felix Machado has declared the Shrine of our Lady of Remedies as one of the places for Plenary Indulgences. A visit to the Shrine and proclamation of faith with devotion can grant one the benefit of Plenary Indulgences. During these novenas we pray for all the faithful of our Diocese. May Our Lady of Remedies intercede for our Archbishop, Priests, Religious and lay faithful! May all enjoy good health and peace of mind in this Year of Faith!