Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 22, 2004
He lives in his Father's House
Priest from India joyfully recounts his spiritual journey
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Father Alfredo Pereira was about 10 years old when he entered a minor seminary in the Indian state of Goa, a tourist destination that houses the relics of St. Francis Xavier, the state's patron saint.
Becoming a priest was part of a deal the lonely young lad had made with God in exchange for his mother's return.
Then in 1993, at the height of his priestly career, Pereira took off for Canada to raise some money to help his dying father build a house before he died.
Now he is the chaplain of the charismatic renewal movement in Calgary and pastor of St. Bernard's and Our Lady of Assumption parishes in the city.
Pereira shared his testimony March 13 at a charismatic prayer breakfast. Some 130 people attended the event at ChÉteau Louis Conference Centre.
A child of God
The fourth of six children, Pereira was devoted to his father Felix, a devout Catholic who attended Mass regularly and helped out in his parish. He was devoted to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, to whom Pereira would pray as well.
In 1965, tragedy struck the family as one of Pereira's brothers caught diphtheria, a deadly disease with a high rate of mortality.
"You could die within 48 hours," noted Pereira.
Against all odds, his father carried the young boy to the hospital for medical attention. He remained in hospital for six months and was the only one to survive out of 77 cases.
His father took care of him day and night, always praying to the Lord for his son's recovery.
Back home, the family tragedy compounded as Pereira's mother, Martha, suffering from a severe case of postpartum depression, left home and went to live with her parents in a distant town.
She stayed away from home for years.
When Pereira's sick brother came home, he looked like a stick and was too weak to walk. There was little money for food to eat and no mother to nurture the Pereira children.
Pereira, then eight, felt lonely and abandoned and wanted his mother home.
"I started praying to the Lord for my mother to come back," he said. "I told him I would do anything if you bring my mother back."
She didn't, but Pereira felt he had to go on and at age 10, with his father's blessing, he entered a minor seminary operated by the Missionary Society of St. Francis Xavier in Pilar, some 40 km away from his hometown.
His mother returned home 15 days after he enrolled.
Pereira was ordained in 1987. His brother Mario was ordained three years later and is now rector of the minor seminary.
Following his ordination, he served as a prefect at the seminary for a short period before being sent on a mission to Punjab and Haryana states.
While there, his mother died and Pereira came back to Goa for her funeral.
He recalled that on the day of his ordination his mother had given him her blessing and had asked him to pray for a graceful death for her and his dad, which he did.
Her mother had spent 14 years bedridden following a stroke and she wanted to avoid a similar fate.
He returned to mission work in Punjab, but was soon called back to Goa and appointed assistant parish pastor at Sanvordem.
After two years as pastor he was sent to the capital city of Pengim to complete his bachelor of arts.
His father, a fabricator and welder, was sick at the time. He had survived a heart attack and then went into a deep depression after he lost an eye following a surgical eye implant.
His doctor told the Pereira kids to take care of their dad.
"Charity begins at home," he said. "You maybe are out there doing beautiful things for God but your father needs you now."
According to the doctor, a source of his father's depression was that he felt like a failure because he had never been able to provide a home for his family.
So the Pereira kids decided to help their dad build his own house where he could live and die in dignity.
That's when Pereira started looking for priestly opportunities in North America. He would be able to send money to his beloved father to complete the house.
A Calgary priest vacationing in Goa helped him come to Calgary, where he arrived in October 1993.
"I said I'll stay five years in Calgary and then I'll come back to Goa," he laughed. In 1996 he joined the Calgary Diocese.
Since his arrival he has served in Calgary, Medicine Hat and Oyen.
He was in Oyen when his father died at age 69. He died in his own house, which Pereira and his brothers helped finance.
"I've been very happy in my priesthood," Pereira said. "The calling to the priesthood comes from God and I'm very happy he's selected me as his servant."