A fortuitous encounter with a Sri Lankan individual led me to the enchanting Church of Our Lady of Assumption in Bolawatta. This sacred site houses the mortal remains of Father Jacome Gonsalves, a revered figure hailing from the serene island of Divar in Goa. The Facebook post I shared about this experience garnered significant attention, striking a deep chord with the multitude who held Father Jacob Gonsalves in high regard.
Kasten Miranda highlighted my journey through an article published in the Herald newspaper on July 3rd. For those intrigued to read about it, the article can be easily accessed on the Herald’s online website: heraldgoa.in or their epaper: epaper.heraldgoa.in. Here is an excerpt from the article, offering a glimpse into this poignant discovery.
The Goan connection: Cyclist Lynn Miranda traces Fr Jacome Gonsalves’ footsteps in Sri Lanka
During a chance encounter with locals, Lynn discovered the existence of Bolawatta, an area in Sri Lanka named after the renowned priest from Divar; the road in Bolawatta leads to the Our Lady of Assumption Church, the final resting place of Fr Gonsalves, whose mortal remains are preserved for public viewing
MARGAO: Lynn Barreto Miranda, a heritage enthusiast and photographer from Margao, stumbled upon an intriguing Goan connection during his solo cycling expedition across Sri Lanka.
During a chance encounter with locals, Lynn discovered the existence of Bolawatta, an area in Sri Lanka named after the renowned Fr Jacome Gonsalves from Divar. The road in Bolawatta leads to the Our Lady of Assumption Church, where Lynn uncovered the final resting place of Fr Gonsalves, whose mortal remains are preserved for public viewing. Fr Jacome Gonsalves, born on June 8, 1676, in Chorao, passed away in Bolawatta, Negombo, on July 17, 1742.
The church holds a multitude of tributes to Fr Gonsalves, including inscriptions highlighting his accomplishments, a statue in his honour, and three framed paintings that depict various aspects of his remarkable life. Lynn also had the privilege of meeting a descendant from one of the 14 Goan families who migrated to Sri Lanka during Fr Gonsalves’ time. This encounter shed light on Fr Gonsalves’ assistance to St Joseph Vaz during their shared missionary work. Fr Gonsalves arrived in Ceylon during the Dutch occupation, a period when the Dutch sought to establish Calvinism as the official religion after ousting the Portuguese.
Describing his journey as a “search for a Goan in Sri Lanka,” Lynn recalled another serendipitous encounter during his trip. While photographing Volkswagen Beetles in Kalpitiya, he struck up a conversation with a car owner who happened to be an alumnus of St. Jose Vaz College in Wennappuwa. The car owner revealed that the road leading to his house in Bolawatta was named after a Goan priest, deepening Lynn’s intrigue.
Having completed a 2200-kilometer cycling tour around the Sri Lankan coast, Lynn then made the decision to retrace his steps and uncover this Goan connection.
For Lynn, visiting the church and Fr Gonsalves’ grave held great significance. Not only was Fr Gonsalves a fellow Goan, but Lynn’s own great grandparents’ house was a mere 150 meters away from the priest’s former residence, which now serves as a school under diocesan management. Additionally, Lynn discovered a personal familial connection as Fr Gonsalves is the great great-granduncle of Glenda Miranda.
Lynn also had the opportunity to meet Ms Souza, a descendant of one of the Goan families that settled in Sri Lanka during Fr Jacome’s time. She mentioned that numerous Goans visit the church each year during the feast.
Before returning to Goa, Lynn plans to revisit the church and engage in a conversation with the Parish Priest, who was absent during his initial visit. This will allow him to gather further insights into the life and legacy of Fr Gonsalves.
Notably, prior to his trip to Sri Lanka, Lynn embarked on a solo cycling tour across Vietnam, covering approximately 2,000 kilometers.