MAC celebrates Monthi Fest in Canada

Report by Janet D’souza
Photographs by Ivan Lobo

“Monthi Fest” or the Nativity of our Lady kindles and evokes a flood of sentimental and wistful memories in the minds of the Konkani Catholic community within Canada – recollections of succulent sugarcane, red sticky homemade candy, fresh flowers, scrumptious organic vegetables and so on. Through many generations, the harvest festival has evolved to embrace solemn customs and folk traditions such as the blessing of the rice kernels, showering of flowers to Infant Mary, consuming the grains of the new harvest in a cup of milk or sweet “Vorn”, and serving an odd number of vegetarian dishes at the festive meal. Monthi Fest is an intrinsic part of the Konkan culture as it celebrates not only the harvest and hard work by the farmers but also emphasizes the significance of the birthday of our dear Mother Mary.

The Mangalorean Association of Canada (MAC) celebrated “Monthi Fest” on Sunday, September 8, 2019 with devotion and grandeur befitting our Mother Mary at St Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Mississauga.  John D’Souza, Cultural Coordinator, welcomed the faithful and quickly summarised the flow of religious events.  A solemn procession of little children carrying trays of beautiful flowers entered the hall and they enthusiastically offered flowers in honor of Mother Mary to the lilting tunes of “Sokkod Sangatha Mellyam” and “Moriyek Hogolsiyan”.  As this ceremony ended, people walked with deep devotion accompanied by the choir to celebrate the Konkani mass.   While Rev. Fr. Henry Alva, the main celebrant led the mass, Fr. Roshan D’Souza’s evocative and passionate homily stirred the hearts and minds of the congregation.  The co-celebrants of this mass were Fr. Edwin D’Souza, our Spiritual Director who blessed and distributed candles to all sponsors, Fr. Baptist D’Sa, Fr. Denis D’Souza, Fr. Andrew Lewis and Fr. Boniface Furtado.  Sr. Ferdinanda, our most ardent supporter attended the religious ceremonies as well as the cultural program.  The Eucharistic celebrations were made even more exceptional as the rafters of the church resonated with the effortless and harmonious choir led by the immensely talented Merlyn Rodrigues.  Gerry D’Mello, multi talented Konkani writer and strong supporter of MAC welcomed the congregation at the beginning of the Holy Mass and thanked all those who supported the church ceremony, at the end.

The cultural program commenced at Pope John Paul II hall with some snacks and a heartfelt welcome by the dynamic and incomparable President of MAC, Manohar Pais.  Manohar highlighted the prominence of Monthi Fest in our culture, thanked the clergy, sponsors, volunteers and performers for their abundant generosity, invaluable support, valuable time and energy and then introduced two outstanding and gifted youngsters, Juan D’Souza and Linton Pinto.  Juan and Linton were the emcees of the Monthi Fest cultural program and they were shining stars who lit up the stage with their wit, enthusiasm and innate bond with the audience.  The program encompassed magnificently written and acted comedy skits, exquisite traditional and contemporary dances in striking costumes, captivating songs transporting the audience in reminiscent journeys to their hometowns and symphonic band music by enthusiastic and talented youngsters.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everybody can be great.  Because anybody can serve.  You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know a second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace.  A soul generated by love.”  This is what Merlyn Rodrigues; our celebrated choirmaster exemplifies and practices.  Quietly and fervently working in the shadows, Merlyn has brought forth music that has touched hearts, uplifted souls and provided an unparalleled serenity lifting listeners to another dimension. In recognition of Merlyn’s numerous contributions, MAC instituted an award to honor her during the Monthi Fest celebrations, a ceremony that was skillfully and graciously conducted by Manohar Pais.  Merlyn was bestowed a framed “Letter of Distinction” in Konkani, a Plaque and gorgeous silk shawl by present and past presidents of MAC as a mark of respect and tribute.

Education contributes to economic success, personal growth, awareness, understanding and nation-building.  The Mangalorean Association of Canada uses its resources to impact and influence the lives of students seeking higher education.  The youth in our community are an indispensable part of our future and legacy and in support of this investment, the Scholarship Program was established.  The 2019 winners of the Scholarship Program were Terence D’Souza and Cassandra D’Cunha.  Terence was awarded CAD 1000 and Cassandra was awarded CAD 500 and both are talented youngsters with an incredible work ethic and priorities and determined focus on their career paths.  The sponsors of the top scholarship award were Vincent and Prescilla Machado, committed supporters of the association.  Both have generously championed events such as the Annual Social and the Monthi Fest for the past three years.  The sponsors of the second scholarship award were Reginald and Mary Fernandes, dedicated supporters of the program since its inception.  Both have stood by the association and volunteered their time, energy and skills.

Dinner was a splendid array of delicious vegetarian delicacies such as Pothrade, vegetarian cutlets, pasta, lentils, pickles, okra, black chickpeas and the eagerly anticipated and awaited “Vorn”, a concoction of lentils, coconut milk, jaggery and cashews.  Konkan Delite surpassed all expectations with their catered meal and the guests commended the quality and taste of this authentic Mangalorean meal.  The Monthi Fest celebrations ended with Laudate and the cheers of a satisfied audience.  A resounding salute and thanks to the participation and selfless commitment of the Executive Committee, organizers and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make this event an astounding success.

Click below for pictures:

MAC to honour Merlyn Rodrigues during ‘Monthi Fest’ on Sept 8th

The Monthi Fest is of special importance to the Catholic community residing in Canada, as it celebrates not only the birthday of the mother of Jesus Christ but also the new harvest. Through this feast celebration, people demonstrate unity and solidarity in the Catholic faith, their rich ethnic heritage and work towards enriching their children’s love of Konkani culture. 

The Mangalorean Association of Canada (MAC) to whom this pioneer venture is attributed to, is organizing the event on Sunday, September 8 at the St. Maximilian Kolbe Church followed by a cultural programme at John Paul II Polish Cultural Centre in Mississauga. Children are encouraged to bring flowers at 3.30 pm to offer to Mother Mary and sweets will be distributed to the participants. A Konkani High Mass will be celebrated by over 6 priests including Fr Henry Alva OFM.Cap.Provincial of the Franciscan Capuchins of ‘Mary Mother of Good Shepherd’ province, in the region English speaking Canada as the main celebrant. Renowned Konkani singers in Canada will join the angelic choir under the dynamic leadership of acclaimed musician Merlyn Rodrigues. 

This year, the Konkani community in Greater Toronto and surrounding areas will be privileged to celebrate their most cherished ‘Monthi Fest’ witnessing a unique honour bestowed on Merlyn Rodrigues, popularly known as the Konkani Nightingale of Canada, for her immense contribution for the community through her great talent of music. This is the first time ever MAC is instituting such honour. 

Konkani singer Merlyn Rodrigues has always chosen to keep a low profile.   That does not mean her contribution as a Konkani singer is insignificant or is not recognized by connoisseurs of Konkani music. Those who have heard and seen her singing vouch for her mellifluent voice etched in their memory. Born and raised in Mangaluru, Merlyn is the second among six children of the late Ligoury D’Souza and the late Alice D’Souza from the renowned parish of Derebail, Mangaluru. She is married to Lancy Rodrigues and they have a son and daughter and two grand children. 

Merlyn has been singing since her childhood days. Started singing in the church choir since high school, which gave her an opportunity to hone her music talents. She joined St. Dominic Church choir , Ashoknagar when the new church was built in 1970 and was choir leader for over 8 years before she moved to Abu Dhabi after completing her studies in search of greener pastures. She met her life partner Lancy Rodrigues in Abu Dhabi who remained as her great supporter in all her extra-curricular activities in the church as well as other cultural events. 

Merlyn fondly remembers and wishes to express her gratitude for the encouragement that she received from the parish priest late Fr Reginald Cardoza who introduced her to the late Patrick Carlo , a renowned musician at Bishop’s House, Kodialbail, Mangaluru and the late Fr Walter Albuquerque S J from the Retreat House , who were instrumental in training her and enhancing her talent in singing and music.  

After moving to Abu Dhabi she was a member of St Joseph’s Church choir for 15 years and choir conductor for over 8 years . During this time , she had the privilege of conducting the choir for the celebration Mass in Latin for the   late Bishop Bernard Gremoli’s 50th priesthood anniversary and 25years as a Bishop and was also recognized for her services with a Certificate of Papal Blessing from Rome. 

Merlyn was also Executive committee member of Konkan Cultural Organization (KCO Abu Dhabi ) since its formation in 1995, contributed to the cultural events organized by KCO and was the choir conductor for Monthi Fest and monthly Konkani Mass until she immigrated to Canada. 

Apart from the Church activities she also participated in the activities and concerts organized by the following groups in Abu Dhabi:

*          Abu Dhabi Choral Group

*          Indian Ladies Association

*          Khaleej Times Women’s’ Association

*          Karnataka Sangha – Managing Committee member 

After moving to Canada she joined the St Francis Xavier’s Church Choir in 2001 and has been singing with this group until now. She was one of the founding members of the Mangalore Association of Canada and has been conducting the Konkani choir for over 15years. She took an active role in singing with Sangeeth Samraat Henry D’Souza during Lorna Henry Live in Concert in Canada organized by Radio Mango. 

She also took lead in organizing Konkani Choral singing at the ‘Voices for Christ’ event organized by the Knights of Columbus in December 2018 in Mississauga, Canada. Professionally she started her career as a banker working in Abu Dhabi for Khaleej Commercial Bank for 7 years and Citibank for 10 years before moving to Canada and has been working for Royal Bank of Canada for the past 15 years as a Financial Advisor. 

In addition to the honour for Merely Rodrigues, a power-packed cultural programme has been organized to satisfy the clamoring demands of the community. Manohar Pais, the dynamic president of MAC, informed Daijiworld that the preparations are going on in full swing and that there will be a big turnout this year. He urged the Konkani community residing in Mississauga and surrounding areas not to miss this golden opportunity and to attend in large numbers to celebrate our Blessed Virgin Mother’s birthday celebration. An authentic sumptuous vegetarian Mangalurean dinner ‘Novem Jevonn’’ catered by Canada’s one and only ‘Konkan Delite’ will be served at the Monthi Fest. He also informed that only a few tickets are available and requested to buy entry passes at the earliest to avoid disappointment.  Undoubtedly this will be a unique and memorable Konkani event for Konkani Diaspora residing in Toronto and surrounding areas.