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.
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