BANDEL, (C.M. Paul) – Over a thousand people attended the first death anniversary Eucharist held at the historical Marian shrine of Bandel for a celebrated Italian missionary who served Bengal missions for 75 years. Salesian Fr Louis Gobetti (91 years) died at Bandel some 60 km north of Kolkata on 22 September 2011. Twelve priests and Archbishop Emeritus Lucas Sirkar of Calcutta participated in the concelebration and prayers at the grave site. All 1,000 people who participated at the memorial service joined in the agape consisting of kichri (rice and vegetable) and vegetable curries, in the Fatima garden adjacent to the church.
At the solemn Eucharist presided over by the prior and Rector of Bandel Church, Fr Thomas Gomes addressed the packed church with the saying of Don Bosco “A good boy is a grateful boy, and a grateful boy is a saintly boy.” He complimented the gratitude of hundreds of people who turned up to express their gratitude to Fr Gobetti who gave them a place to call their home.
Fr Gomes, however did not fail to mention that some people cheated Fr Gobetti by selling off the property given to them through the Christian Home scheme.
Living through 1971 Bangladesh war of liberation which caused migration from then East Pakistan to India, Fr Gobetti settled hundreds of displaced people in Nadia and Hooghly districts of Bengal. In the last 23 years working in Bandel as prior, parish priest and administrator, Fr Gobetti, an Indian citizen by choice, settled over 300 (three hundred) families in five settlements (paras) providing them a small plot of land and a house at highly subsidized price.
Born on 8 January 1921 at Tarcento in northern Italy, Luigi arrived in India in 1936 and made his first profession on 8 December 1937.
Besides several national and international awards, in 2008, the Catholic Association of Bengal conferred on Fr Gobetti an award for his outstanding pastoral contribution in Bengal.
A prolific writer and editor of the magazine “Our Lady of Bandel”, Fr Gobetti authored several books of Christian inspiration. The Indian Catholic Press Association recognized his outstanding contribution in the promotion of Christian literature during its national Convention held in Kolkata in 2004.
In 2005, on the occasion of the diamond jubilee of his priestly ordination, Nitika Don Bosco produced a 25 minute documentary film entitled Mosaic of a Missionary. It narrates the missionary life of Fr Gobetti who came to Bengal as a minor seminarian from Italy at the age of 16. Over 70 years in Bengal saw him work in Krishnagar, Ranaghat and Bandel in Krishnagar and Kolkata dioceses. The film had English, Bengali and Italian language versions.
As a young priest Fr Gobetti assisted the Founder of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate (Krishnagar) Bishop Louis L.R. Morrow as Vicar General and Secretary from 1948 to 1969 with much “constancy and altruism”. Bishop Morrow spoke of him as “alter ego” – my other self.