Fr Urbano Fernandes

Father Urbano Fernandes, former missionary in Macau, dies aged 82

Marco Carvalho

Father Urbano Fernandes, a Goan priest who exercised part of his priestly ministry in South China, died on December 23rd at his residence in Agonda, India, after a short illness. In Macau, where he lived for 16 years, Father Fernandes is remembered as a man of God, “impeccable and helpful,” and as someone that was always available to help the disadvantaged.

Helpful, considerate, dedicated and always ready to help others. This is the sound legacy that Father Urbano Fernandes, who died in Goa two days before Christmas, left in Macau. Born on December 8, 1939, the Goan priest exercised his priestly ministry in Macau for over a decade and a half. During his time in the territory, he distinguished himself as someone who would go great lengths to reach and help the most disadvantaged.

The work carried out by Father Urbano Fernandes earned him, in his native Goa, the sobriquet of “the father of the poor.” In Macau, the Indian priest’s willingness to help was not forgotten either: “I didn’t have a close relationship with Father Urbano Fernandes, but I always enjoyed his work. If I remember correctly, he didn’t have the status of parish priest, but he was very active in helping at the Cathedral and other parishes,” Anabela Ritchie told O CLARIM. “The feeling that I have is that people really liked his work. He was a very dedicated missionary, who paid close attention to people’s needs and someone who did his work with gusto. His dedication was enormous and I have the most wonderful impression of him,” the former President of the Legislative Assembly adds.

In addition to the pastoral work that he developed, Father Urbano Fernandes taught Moral and Religious Education at the Portuguese School of Macau (EPM), where he crossed paths with Pedro Lobo. Still a teacher at the educational institution, Mr Lobo remembers the Goan priest as someone “impeccable” and always available to help those in need: “I think that was his true vocation,” Pedro Lobo recalls. “He taught Moral and Religious Education at the Portuguese School of Macau and was always impeccable, always very helpful. He was very well considered by everyone, teachers and students alike,” he claimed.

The dedication Father Fernandes placed in the pastoral work he conducted, Anabela Ritchie recalls, helped to consolidate the involvement of the faithful in the community affairs. When Father Urbano Fernandes took up the defence of a cause, few people refused to help him: “In Macau, he gave a lot to the most disadvantaged. He had no problem approaching people, asking them for help and explaining why such help was needed. He was very dedicated to the work of the Diocese. I know many people who helped him in his dedication to the most disadvantaged,” the former president of the Legislative Assembly stressed. 

Few words, a lot of good intentions

Born in Daman, a former Portuguese colony in India, but living in Macau since the 1980s, Óscar Noruega considers Father Fernandes’ dedication to the underprivileged as the great attribute the Goan missionary has shown during the years in which he exercised his priestly ministry in Macau. The missionary, Mr Noruega emphasized, was a simple man, filled with good intentions and a builder of bridges and consensus: “He was a simple man, he didn’t speak too much, but he had undeniably good intentions, his sole purpose was to help the others,” Oscar Noruega recalls. “He was a man who liked unity, who cared for the well-being of the community and those most in need. If I remember correctly, he would ask those that were better off, so that they could help the poorest, those who had the least. This sort of procedure was often misunderstood by many.”

From a pastoral point of view, the great legacy that Father Urbano Fernandes left to Macau was, according to Oscar Noruega, the reinstitution of the cult of Saint Francis Xavier. The feast of the patron saint of Goa, who died in Shangchuan Island, near Macau, continued to be celebrated long after the Goan priest returned to his native country: “He resumed, with the help of the community of Goa, the celebration here in Macau of the sacred feast of Saint Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa. The feast of Saint Francis Xavier was celebrated for several years during his stay in Macau and continued to be celebrated for many years after he left,” the Daman native. “He was the parish priest of the Saint Lawrence parish, where he made many friends, especially among the Macanese. He always sought unity and consensus between the people of Goa, Daman and Diu. He tried to bring together the community of Goa-Daman-Diu whenever possible, in an attempt to bring it closer to the Macanese, the Portuguese, the Chinese, the Filipinos and people of other nationalities living in Macau,” Oscar Noruega recalls, stressing the temperament of a man of few words but of great deeds.

In Agonda, where he died on December 23rd following a brief illness, Father Urbano Fernandes has sponsored over the past few years one of the 24 scholarships offered by the Secondary School of Our Lady Mother of the Poor. The scholarship, which he named after his parents, Caetano and Fransquinha Fernandes, was awarded to the eighth grade student who achieved the best results in the study of the English language.

Ordained priest in 1968, Urbano Fernandes exercised the priestly ministry in several parishes of the Archdiocese of Goa. In addition to Macau, the well beloved priest developed pastoral work in several parishes and churches in his state of origin, Oscar Noruega told O CLARIM: “As everyone knows, Father Urbano Fernandes served the Diocese of Macau as a missionary during 15 years or so. He served in several churches in Goa, with particular emphasis on the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Panjim and the Holy Spirit Church, in Margão. He also exercised functions as a priest at the Pastoral Institute in Old Goa and at the Bishop’s Palace in Altinho, Panjim,” the Damanese recalled. 

(Photo courtesy of the Macau Diocesan Archives)