“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day...”(2 Tim 4:7-8a)
In the late hours of March 9th Friday 2007, our dear, Rev. Fr. Richard Castelino was called to his eternal reward. We were all stunned, as the very thing we wanted to avert had happened. Fr. Richard had undergone major cardiac surgery and it was a joy to know that all had gone well. All looked forward to his happy home coming that was not to be. Though the surgical intervention was apparently successful there was a sudden turn of events for the worst due to high diabetes. It was indeed shocking, but we humbly submit to the divine plan. Thus a veteran missionary of our province passed onto the pages of history. He was lovingly called Martin Castellino (his baptismal name) by his relatives and familiar neighbours and friends. He was the sixth of ten children. There were two priests in the family Fr. Alphonse Castelino, a diocesan, and Fr. Ligoury Castelino, a Jesuit. Of his three religious Sisters, one preceded him to our heavenly home. Hailing from such a deeply devout family, Martin thought quite early in life of giving himself to a congregation that was especially devoted to Mary. Hence joining the neighbouring Discalced Carmelites, at the other end of his parish at Kulshekar, who often came to the parish for confessions etc. was a straight choice. He completed his primary and secondary schooling at St. Joseph’s Primary School, Kulshekar, and at Padua High School, Mangalore, respectively. The Carmelite community, founded in Kulshekar a few years earlier, welcomed this promising candidate with open arms, on June 22, 1958, where he stayed as an aspirant with 11 other boys for six months. Those were the initial days of the Carmelite presence in Mangalore in recent times, and the Mangalore community had belonged to the Belgian Province, but would henceforth be integrated into the Manjummel province. This meant that the aspirants would have to go to Kerala for their initial formation. On March 18th, 1960 after two years of aspirancy in Ernakulam, Martin changed his name to Richard and began his novitiate at Podanur under the well-known novice masters, Frs. Vincent and Basil. In 1961 he made his first profession in Podanur. Then he had to go to Manjummel for one more year to study Latin since Latin was considered very important in those days. In 1962 he began his philosophy studies at Alwaye seminary while residing at Manjummel. In 1964 he made his solemn profession at Manjummel. He did his theology studies from 1965 to 1969, during which he returned to Mangalore for his priestly ordination in 1968. Immediately after completing theology in 1969, he was sent for specialization in philosophy at the Pune pontifical athenaeum. After obtaining his degree, he was appointed professor of Latin 1970 – 1971 in Alwaye.
As a missionary
In 1971 the Manjummel province embarked on a great missionary initiative in Andhra Pradesh to cooperate with the mission efforts of the PIME Fathers in the Warangal region. They needed prospective missionaries and Fr. Richard was chosen as one of the three pioneers, along with Fr. Bernadine Luis and Fr. Banda Antony. On the 31 July 1971 he reached Kothagudem, and began his missionary life. On 1st October Fr. Richard was appointed parish priest of Thallada having picked up the local language without much difficulty. As the mission began to acquire face and form he was appointed mission superior in 1975. Under obedience he accepted, and continued in that office until 1981 when the Karanataka-Goa province came into being. Fr. Richard kept the missions close to his heart even in his last days. Their memories gave him joy and a sense of fulfillment. The Karnataka-Goa province would expect much from him: he was appointed the first superior of the Carmel Hill community, Mangalore (1981 – 1984). Then he became the superior and the parish priest of Londa, 1984 – 1987, a quasi mission in the diocese of Belgaum which was entrusted to the Carmelites in 1982. In the chapter of 1987 he was elected third councilor and again appointed superior of Carmel Hill, Mangalore. Meanwhile he had also to see to the new foundation in Mumbai. Fr. Richard showed great readiness for any new venture undertaken by the province, putting up with all the inconveniences that go with it. When Fr. Philip Sainz de Baranda, as superior general, requested his help for the growing mission in Tanzania, Fr. Richard did not wait for his term as councilor or superior to expire, but left immediately for his destination in Africa.
ON AFRICAN SOIL:
In Tanzania he was appointed the mission superior and the delegate general in 1989. To Fr. Camilo Maccise the next superior general and Fr. Flavio Caloi, the vicar general, who visited the Tanzanian mission in the 1990s Fr. Richard proposed the idea of sending students to Tanzania for theology so that by the time they were ordained priests, they could adapt themselves to the new place and learn the local language and thus become ready for their future mission. That paved the way for successive generations of our philosophy students to receive their theological formation in Africa itself -- first, in Nairobi, and then in Morogoro. Meanwhile, the Tanzanian mission was transferred to the jurisdiction of the province in 1992. Fr. Richard was once again appointed mission superior, and he was in Kihonda till 1994. From 1994 to 1997 he was the superior of Malolo. In 1999 he was the mission superior once again. Then, in 2000 he was appointed the first parish priest of the new parish that was taken up at Mbezi Louis, Dar es Salaam. Fr. Richard with a smile on his face accepted the burdens of mission leadership, doing his best to contribute to the development of the mission.
A Final salute
As a pastor too, be it in Andhra, Londa, Mumbai or Tanzania, he tried to reach out to the people in their needs. After 12 long years of his mission work in Tanzania, he wanted to take a break and go for a long holiday as his hearing was becoming impaired. If his health permitted he wanted to go back after his holiday in Mangalore to the missions. During his long break he wished to live a solitary life anywhere in the province. He longed to follow the regular observance and community-life.
Fr. Richard in his last days used to say, “I am 62 years old now which means I have a short time here.. God may invite me at any time. So I need to prepare myself for a good death. Hence I think of spending these holidays in solitude”.
The community of Mapusa was privileged to savor the richness of Fr. Richard’s personality. If he was a silent bridge between the contemplatives and proactive styles among the members; he was also a bloomer, with his sense of humour during the day and a spicy contributor during the shuttlecock play in the evenings. With his availability and kindness, he was a much sought after friar for confessions in the seminary and anointing of the sick in the local hospital --- he himself had to be admitted to St. John’s Bangalore, for the above-mentioned surgery.
His youngest brother was there attending on Fr. Richard after the operation. The Mapusa community asked the regent, Br. Deepak Pinto to take over and accompany Father back to Goa when he felt fit to undertake the journey. When Br. Deepak arrived at the hospital on the 7th morning along with Fr. Jossey, Fr. Richard seemed healthy and relaxed. His brother left that evening. All was well, so it seemed, after the surgery. Two full days had gone by without any untoward incident.
Unexpectedly, on the night of 8th March Father experienced some pain in his right leg and some physical discomfort, and was also running high temperature and was restless. Frequently he was saying in konkani “ Lord Jesus have mercy on me”. The nurse gave him some tablets and said everything would be okay. But his condition worsened by the time the doctor came around 9:30 in the morning.
After some time Father felt some difficulty in breathing and so he was immediately shifted to the open heart postoperative care unit. Late in the evening they said that his condition was becoming critical. Soon the community at Sadbhavana was informed. By the time the friars arrived the doctors said that Father had passed away. His mortal remains were transferred to Mangalore on 10th March after a brief halt at Sadbhavana, during which besides the community, the SMMI Sisters who also had taken care of him during his stay in Bangalore came to pay their last respects.
The idea of taking the body to Carmel Hill had to be given up because of a liturgical celebration in the shrine. Instead it was taken directly to the mortuary in Fr. Muller’s Hospital, Mangalore. Fr. Patrick Lobo, joined the relatives and a few friars for a prayer service. The next day, his body was brought to the shrine at around 2.00 p.m. All the friars who had come from various communities, sang the office of the dead and ‘Libera me’ in Latin. Fr. Provincial who was in Kuwait, managed to arrive in time to preside over the Eucharist, during which Fr. George Santhumayor, preached a homily. One of his nephews Fr. Tony Pinto sdb, was one of the concelebrants at the altar. Fr. Walter Lobo, the first councilor of the province, who is his first cousin, conducted the last rites, before he was interred in the cemetery at Mangalore. A couple of diocesan priests and his relatives and friends from his parish of Kulshekar formed a large part of the congregation at the Mass and burial. He was the first friar from our province to be laid to rest in the newly constructed graves, built with laterite stones.
So concludes the earthly pilgrimage of a humble Carmelite friar who went about crossing the rivers and the oceans as a missionary with a contemplative heart. Fr. Richard always wanted to do what he could each day so that others might have a brighter day.
Life Journey of
Fr Richard Castelino OCD
Alwaye, Andhra Pradesh, Mangalore, Londa, Tanzania, Koteshwar, Shimoga and Mapusa.1968 - 2007
at St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore09 March 2007