WE CAN NEVER SAY GOODBYE TO YOU!
Whether you were in Mangalore or in New Delhi; in France or in Kenya- you always made friends and reached out to them in very personal and specific ways. You have always been able to communicate a spiritual depth, a great intellectual calibre and a loving warmth which has endeared you to them.
By Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ
Dearest Aunty Linda,
On 31 May you said “good bye” to your life here on earth and to us, your loved ones; the next day 1 June, your mortal remains were interred. As I look back these days since your departure, there is just one feeling that keeps resonating in my heart and in my mind: ‘we can never say goodbye to you!’ Strange as it seems, that is the plain truth!
On the day you died, I wrote a spontaneous tribute to you; in that I highlighted three qualities which epitomised you : compassion , that remarkable gift which you had to reach out in love, to one and all- particularly to the lost, the last and the least; courage, that special gift you had to walk the unbeaten path, to go where none others dared to go, to be a pioneer, in a world where ‘mission’ is often relegated to a comfortable act; charismatic ,radiating and exemplifying those gifts which truly come from the Holy Spirit. Just basking in these exceptional qualities means ‘we can never say goodbye to you!’
You celebrated your golden jubilee of your religious profession in the Congregation of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary on 15 August 2012. It was also your 87th birthday; the Feast of the Assumption and the 65th anniversary of the independence of our country. In my homily on that day, I used an acronym, ‘OLINDA’ for Mary, the Mother of God, saying at the end, “Olinda as a Daughter of the Heart of Mary, has in more ways than one, tried to imitate Mary, her model in Ownership,Leadership, Interiority, Nurturing, Dedication and Availability. Through her exemplary life, we all know, she has meant so much too so many people all these years from the time she made her first profession in the wake of Vatican II exactly fifty years ago”. A clear indicator that ‘we can never say goodbye to you!’
In 2015, you completed ninety years on this earth: no small achievement, besides you were physically rather agile and your memory phenomenal. That day, I compared you with Sarah, the wife of Abraham- who received an extraordinary blessing from God at the age of ninety saying, “in a world which is plagued with all kinds of ills and problems, a woman like Olinda Pereira comes like a breath of fresh air: ninety years young with deep faith, tremendous fortitude and great foresight! Ninety is the beginning of new life!” Since you have bequeathed to us that faith, fortitude and foresight means ‘we can never say goodbye to you!’
The following year in a tribute to you, I recalled that immortal song of yesteryears by Nat King Cole, ‘You will never grow old!’ Among many other things I said in that tribute is "You will never grow old!" is a sentiment that will be shared by many of your companions, colleagues, family and others whether you were in Mangalore or in New Delhi; in France or in Kenya- you always made friends and reached out to them in very personal and specific ways. You have always been able to communicate a spiritual depth, a great intellectual calibre and a loving warmth which has endeared you to them. For many you are and will always be a priceless treasure”. Since you will always be that priceless treasure there is no doubt that ‘we can never say goodbye to you!’
From the moment people heard that you were ‘no more’, inspite of the restrictions because of the pandemic, many at great risk, came to pay homage to your mortal remains. There have been hundreds of messages and calls from everywhere. Condolence messages also carry tributes to what you meant to people. Social media and well-known online portals have been carrying glowing tributes and even poems of what you meant to people across the years. There is one underlying message in all that people say: that is, ‘we can never say goodbye to you!’
In a tribute to you in his homily at the funeral rite, the Bishop of Mangalore Dr. Peter Paul Saldanha said, “our beloved Sr Olinda has done so much for so many people in the field of education, geriatric care, helping those who are struggling and suffering in life, in training and in social work. We should follow her as our role model. Everybody has a good word about her; she was a person who mixed with people irrespective of caste or creed. She has accomplished her mission on Earth, and she will now continue her work in heaven. Thank you Sr Olinda for all that you have done for our people and our city”. Sr Philomena D’Sa, the Provincial (South) of your Congregation in her eulogy said, “Asa faithful Daughter of the Heart of Mary Olinda lived the charism of our religious Society by being flexible and available to respond to the needs of the time and place, either by living in the community or out of the community, in the midst of the people as the mission demands of us.” And in an emotional address to you she added, “Dear Olinda by your simple, humble, selfless and unassuming service to humanity, you have inspired us”. True, ‘we can never say goodbye to you!’
In the last couple of years, you were ‘convinced’ that your grand-uncle, the Servant of God Msgr. Raymond Mascarenhas, the founder of the Bethany Congregation, was already canonized a Saint. You would vividly ‘describe’ how the process took place since this Pope had no doubt about the holiness of your granduncle. No arguments to the contrary could change your convictions; that however, no longer matters now: we are sure you are with him now in that communion of saints, blessing the Congregation he founded and all of us too .Sr Rose Celine the Superior General of the Bethany Sisters writes about you, “She was an embodiment of compassion to the poor and the neglected especially women. She committed herself for women empowerment. She had great trust in Bethany and appreciation for us”. Need we say why, ‘we can never say goodbye to you!’
What you have achieved in this life on earth is simply amazing: you were the visionary and the builder of some of the finest institutions in the country. You were able to help people when they were in dire straits: someone writes from Canada of how a scholarship you helped him get was the turning point in his life. People from all walks of life say that to them you were a friend, a companion, a teacher, a philosopher, a counsellor, a guide, a mentor, an inspirer, a light, an angel, a saint. The profound words and the metaphors used by them to describe the impact you had on their lives easily run into several pages. For us in the family, you were our lodestar, our guiding light, someone we could confide in, a ‘mother-figure’ particularly after Cynthia, your sister and our mother, left for her eternal reward in November 2010. The world recognized your talents and services too: you have received awards and other accolades whilst on earth. For you, those did not matter. You have run the race and that final reward is deservedly yours. In essence though ‘we can never say goodbye to you!’
There is much more to say dearest Aunty. I will stop here; when one’s heart is full, words really do not easily flow. In writing this, I needed to emphasize that your warmth, your compassion, your selfless service, your humility, your simplicity, your ability to reach out, will always be etched in the hearts and memory of all! You will live forever! Yes Aunty that is why ‘we can never say goodbye to you!’
(This is a tribute by the writer, a human rights and peace activist, to his aunt Dr OLINDA PEREIRA, a religious of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary who expired in Mangalore on Pentecost Sunday 31 May 2020. She was born on 15 August 1925. Dr. Olinda Pereira was the founder-principal of the College of Social Work in Mangalore and also started 'Prabhatara' in New Delhi. She has contributed commendably to the Church and India especially for the empowerment of women. Contact: [email protected])
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