BIS #7121 Fr Lawrence D’Souza Laid to Rest

By Br Aliester D’Souza for BISMumbai

Fr Lawrence D’Souza SDB was laid to rest in the Salesian Cemetery at Sewri Christian Cemetery at noon on 16 December 2023, in the presence of Salesians, his family and loved ones. Earlier in the morning, his mortal remains were brought to the Shrine of Don Bosco’s Madonna, Matunga, where many poured in to pay their respects. At 10 a.m., the Holy Eucharist was celebrated by Fr Savio Silveira, the Provincial.

Fr D’Souza passed away at 8:30 p.m. on 12 December 2023. He was 77 years old; a Salesian for 56 years, and a priest for 48 years. He has been versatile, with the ability to handle all sorts of responsibilities - from working in the missions of Africa and for the marginalised in the province to being an administrator, principal or parish priest.

The Province of Bombay has indeed lost a beloved Salesian. How much Fr D‘Souza meant to his confreres and the people he ministered to was evident in the jam packed Shrine, where his mortal remains were brought at 9:15 a.m. accompanied by the Bosco Band of Don Bosco High School, Matunga. There was no doubt that he was loved very much.

Here is an excerpt from the homily by Fr Godfrey D’Souza, Rector of Don Bosco - Matunga, the community where he was assigned.

We gather here this morning with heavy hearts to bid farewell to Father Lawrence D’Souza, a remarkable man, a shepherd of souls, and a beloved retired senior priest who was still active till the last moments of his life here on earth. 

It was like any other day in his programme, a routine: he was up at 05.00 a.m.; participated in the community Eucharist at 6.40 a.m.; had breakfast at 07.45 a.m.; took religion class for the Catholic students of Grade 9, met the Vice Provincial at 10.20 a.m.; had lunch; met Fr. Ajoy and me at 4.15 p.m.; and, as always, began teasing and worrying Ajoy at the table. Ursula his sister called a little later at 04.45 p.m. to check if he was going to be home on his Ordination Anniversary; he then went to the Shrine to hear confessions at seven in the evening. Little did we know that these were his last moments here on earth.  Ten minutes into the community meeting, we heard two sighs from him, and he was gone! We tried to revive him, splashed cold water on his face, and did CPR to get him back!

The Lord had other plans for him!

The whole community was with him in his last moments, and being a devout son of Mary, he passed away on her feast day, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In the first reading from St Paul, we heard: “None of us lives for himself, and none of us dies for himself. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s!”

 The death of a priest is unlike the death of any other: we feel it differently and deeply. We sense that in losing him, we have lost not only the man but also his unique way of manifesting God. The voice that spoke of God has been silenced; hands that once blessed are impotent. Since a priest takes the person of Christ, his leave of us is something of a loss in our very communication with the Lord. No one will ever again exemplify Christ for us in the singular way that this particular priest, our brother and confrere, Fr Lawrence D’Souza, has done.

Father Lawrence was not just an ordinary priest; in his youthful days, he was a force of nature. He left his home in Dadar to join the seminary at Tirupattur in Tamil Nadu and was then sent to the novitiate at Yercaud in Tamil Nadu. Dynamic, enthusiastic, cheerful, and demanding—these are but a few words that capture the essence of the extraordinary life he led. His presence radiated joy, and his passion for his calling as a religious, priest and pastor was infectious. Whether he was delivering a sermon, offering guidance, or sharing a laugh, Father Lawrence had a way of touching the hearts of everyone he encountered.

His enthusiasm was not confined to the pulpit; it permeated every aspect of his life. He was an excellent cook and made mouth-watering dishes for the community on several occasions. He approached each day with an unwavering commitment to his faith and an uncontainable zeal for spreading the love of God.  Father Lawrence believed in living out the gospel, not just preaching it. His actions spoke louder than his words, leaving an indelible mark on the lives of those fortunate enough to cross his path.

Father Lawrence was not content with mediocrity. He challenged his flock to rise above complacency and embrace the fullness of their faith. His demands were not borne out of a desire for control but rather a deep-seated belief in the potential of each soul to achieve greatness. He saw the beauty within each person and pushed them to recognise it in themselves. In doing so, he helped countless individuals discover strengths and talents they never knew they possessed.

Despite his demanding nature, Father Lawrence approached life with a contagious cheerfulness. His laughter echoed through the hallways of our parishes where he served and our community residences, and his smile was a source of comfort to those in need. In times of sorrow, he provided solace; and he spent many hours in the confessional healing penitents and bringing hope to the lost.  In times of joy, he celebrated with unmatched exuberance. He was a beacon of light, illuminating the path of faith with his joyous spirit.

In 1980, when “Project Africa” was announced to the Congregation, Lawrence volunteered for the Sudan and was the first batch of missionaries to East Africa and to the war-torn country of the Sudan in particular. 

As we say our final goodbyes, let us not mourn the loss of Father Lawrence but celebrate the life he lived and the legacy he left behind. His dynamic presence, enthusiastic spirit, cheerful demeanour, and demanding love for God and his people will forever resonate in our hearts. May we carry forward the lessons he taught us and continue to live out the faith he so passionately embraced. 

Rest in peace, our dear confrere, Father Lawrence, and may your soul find eternal joy in the presence of the Almighty.