Emmanuel D’Souza (Monnu Master) : The centenarian who served the parish of Belle with dedication

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By Dr. Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

Moodubelle, 21 November 2010: Though born in a poor agriculturist’s family, Emmanuel D’Souza who later became famous as ‘Monnu Master’ served as a teacher for nearly forty years. In fact during the long life that God had granted him, 101 years, Monnu Master practically became a witness not only to the growth of the parish and educational institutions but also the village of Belle. His service to the parish of Belle in various capacities had been simply unparalleled.  As a family man he was blessed with 13 children whom he brought up with great care, love and devotion as a result of which six of his children joined religious orders in the service of God and humanity. This is the great story of Emmanuel D’Souza, the centenarian who served the parish of Belle with dedication.



Emmanuel was born on 16 October 1903 as the second child of Sebastian and Catherin D’Souza. Among the four children of Sebastian-eldest daughter Maria was married to Xavier Fernandes of Kattingeri, second was Emmanuel, third was daughter-Angeline married to Jerome Fernandes of Shirva and the last was Lawrence, married to Florine Noronha of Gundibailu, parents of   six children including Prof. Wilfred D’Souza, author of the ‘History of the Mudarthas’ and Victor, Bellevision representative in Doha-Qatar.



As there was no official parish in Belle, Emmanuel was baptized in Our Lady of Health Church, Shirva. However, his parents fondly called him ‘Monnu’ a name with which he later became famous as ‘Monnu Master’.


After the establishment of the parish at Belle dedicated to St. Lawrence in 1910, Immanuel received the First Holy Communion in 1912. Emmanuel’s father, Sebastian was a well-known personality at that time.  He was a God-fearing man and was very particular about religious obligations. He worked as the ‘Shenoy’ (accountant) of the church and was very close to the parish priests. Prof. Wilfred D’Souza in his research work, “The History of the Mudarthas” writes that when Sebastian was young he had gone on a pilgrimage to Goa at the time of the exposition of the body of St. Francis Xavier without knowing that his Mudartha ancestors hailed from Goa.


Sebastian D’Souza


For his primary and higher primary education, Emmanuel had to  attend schools in Kattingeri, Belle and Shirva in that order.  After initial studies in Kattingeri,  he studied up to the fifth standard in Belle when the school that was handed over by its founder, Dasapayya-grandfather of B. Sadananda Rao to the church in 1913 was upgraded from fourth  to fifth standard. After completing the fifth standard, as he was quite clever and intelligent, Emmanuel was appointed as the teacher in the same school.



Realizing the potential of Emmanuel for  further studies, the then parish priest of Shirva, Fr. Gregory D’Souza suggested that he should continue his education in Shirva School  as the school was upgraded from the primary to higher primary level. But Emmanuel was not quite willing to join school at Shirva as a student as he had been working already as a teacher in Belle school. However, on the insistence of Fr. Gregory D’Souza, Emmanuel eventually relented and agreed to continue his studies. The then headmaster of the Shirva School, named K.V. Krishnayya was greatly pleased with the intelligence of Emmanuel and admitted him to the seventh  standard without having to complete the  sixth standard as other students did.


According to Prof. Wilfred D’Souza, it was quite difficult to get teachers in those days and it was strange that K.V. Krishnayya was only a lower grade untrained teacher who had just passed  fifth  standard, but was the headmaster in the higher primary school. When he was sent for the mandatory lower grade training, the parish priest of Shirva-Fr. Mathew Menezes acted as the headmaster of the school.


During those days the authority to examine the students of the eighth standard and issue certificate was that of an Inspector. The inspector who had come to examine the students refused to issue certificate to Emmanuel on the ground that he had not completed three years of studies in the higher primary as he was directly admitted to the seventh standard. However, Fr. Mathew Menezes, as the headmaster of the school issued a certificate to Emmanuel which was valid in those days.


As Emmanuel had the capability and interest in teaching, after completing the eighth  standard  he joined the higher grade training school at Mangalore when Panje Mangesha Rao was the headmaster between 1921 and 1923. While undergoing the training Emmanuel had to stay in the hostel. He came home only during holidays. He used to walk up to Mulki and from there board a bus that would take him to  Mangalore. While coming back during holidays, a group of boys would walk back after dinner from the hostel and would reach Padubidri by daybreak and each one would go their own way by the shortest route to their respective villages.


Soon after completing the higher grade training course, Immanuel re-joined the newly upgraded primary school in Belle as its headmaster in 1923. After about 12 years,  the school was upgraded as the higher primary school. For some time the post of the headmaster was filled by a secondary grade teacher brought from Mangalore, but later Edward D’Sa, originally son of Kajetan D’Sa, but adopted by Joseph D’Sa and brother of Willie Master,   who was trained as a second  grade teacher became the headmaster. Though, Emmanuel, by then famous as Monnu Master was relieved of the headmaster’s post, he  continued teaching in the same school as assistant teacher.  He was an effective teacher and strict disciplinarian. He retired from the teaching profession in 1963. As a teacher, Monnu Master had started Teachers’ Association of which he was the permanent secretary. He also initiated the Old Students’ Association.



Though Monnu Master took up teaching as his profession, he was primarily an agriculturist. Till 1927, he assisted his father, Sebastian in cultivating land at Manibettu and later cultivated his own land in Kattingeri and had a residence nearby which is presently occupied by Valerian Martis. Finding it difficult to cultivate the land, carry on teaching profession and also render service to the church,  Monnu Master sold the agricultural land to Maurice Martis, father of Valerian Martis in 1934 and along with his family moved to the present location, the hilly land and built a house there.



Monnu Master married Magdalene, daughter of Sebastian Cardoza and Regina Ferao of Belman on 28 February 1924 in St. Joseph’s Church, Belman. They were blessed with a large family of 13 children, nine sons and four daughters-Celestine, presently in Canada, Thomas-passed away in 2000 at the age of 72 at Goa, Pascal-expired at the teen age in 1943, Bernard- after working for many years as the Postmaster of Kattingeri has been looking after the family property at Kattingeri, Fr. Mathew-presently serving in the United States, Fr.  Edwin-presently serving in Canada, Bishop Alphonse-presently Bishop of Raiganj, Pauline-presently in Goa living with her family, Bishop Albert-presently Archbishop of Agra, Sr. Lucy who joined the Holy Cross of Chavanod order and expired in 1993 in Thane, Maurice,  Sr. Eugene- joined the Holy Cross of Chavanod  Order and presently Superior General of that order in Geneva, Switzerland and Andrew who is in Mumbai with his family.


Late Sr. Lucy & Late Thomas DSouza


Sr. Eugene & Bernard DSouza



As his father Sebastian had been serving in the church as the ‘Shenoy’, Monnu Master had close association with the priests of the Belle parish and throughout his life he became an integral part of the church in rendering his service in one way or the other. He served the parish of Belle as counselor, accountant, auditor, parish council member and community leader had been simply unparalleled. No other person in the history of the Belle parish had rendered such a long service as Monnu Master did. He was a community leader par excellence, renowned for solving family problems in the community courts also known as ‘panchetki’.  He acted as the mediator in various disputes regarding division of property among the children in various families. He was an orator of exceptional qualities who could hold the audience in rapt attention in any of the languages he spoke right from Konkani to Kannada, Tulu or even English.



Monnu Master was the uncontested administrator of the church on several occasions. He served as the Gurkar of his ward for several years. He was a member of several church associations such as Assumption Sodality, Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi, member of the managing committee, member of the Educational Fund in Memory of Fr. Casmir Fernandes, High School Building Committee Secretary and member and member and vice president of Vincent de Paul Society. After retirement was elected as the member of Belle Grama Panchayat for one term during which period he worked to improve the roads and other facilities.


When the post office was opened for the first time in Belle in 1920s, Monnu Master acted as the Postmaster for five years. Later, his son, Bernard took initiative to start a branch of the post office in Kattingeri in 1962 and served as its Postmaster for many years till 1998.



Monnu Master had a good flair for writing and had contributed a number of articles to the diocesan weekly ‘Rakno’. During the Platinum Jubilee of the foundation of the Parish of Belle in 1985, Monnu Master wrote the history of the parish in Konkani under the title, ‘Boliye Firgajechi Sankshipth Charitra’ that was published in the Souvenir commemorating the Platinum Jubilee of the foundation of the Belle Parish. Later, on the occasion of the blessing and inauguration of the new church building in January 2006, Boniface Barboza (Benny Master) used the history written by Monnu Master as the basis to reconstruct the history of the parish from the beginning till the inauguration of the new church building that was published in the special issue of ‘Suvaad’ issued on this occasion.


Monnu Mastr’s eye sight began to reduce since 1986 and gradually he lost it entirely. However,   he used to manage his daily activities without giving any trouble to the family members. In 1999,  he suffered a stroke by which his right  side was paralyzed. Later, he used a wheel chair and continued to live without any complaints. He was very happy when anyone came to meet him. He used to talk to them animatedly and used to be nostalgic about his work and association. He would recognize people through their voices. His son Bernanrd and daughter-in-law Regina took good care of Monnu Master till the end.



On the occasion of the completion of hundred years of his life on 16 October 2003, the entire family of Monnu Master had gathered for the centenary birthday celebration. It was a grand occasion that was attended by forty priests and three Bishops-two of them being his own sons-Bishop Alphonse and Bishop Albert along with the Bishop of Mangalore, Most Rev. Dr. Aloysius D’Souza. Following the thanksgiving mass in the church there was felicitation programme in the parish hall that was attended by not only the family members, relatives, friends, well wishers, but also many parishioners.



After living a fruitful and contented life for 101 years, Monnu Master passed away on 28 August 2004.  While he passed away, Monnu Master was survived by  10 children, 26 grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren. The funeral service was attended by a large number family members, relatives, friends, well-wishers,  priests, religious sisters, three Bishops including his sons and a large number of people from the Belle parish and village.  The entire parish community bid tearful adieu  to one of the most respected and admired centenarian who had endeared to the entire parish by his dedicated and exemplary service.



It is but rarely that such great people walk on the face of the earth and leave the foot prints on the sands of time. Emmanuel D’Souza, famous as ’Monnu Master’ was such a person who has left a lasting foot print on the history Belle parish in particular and the village in general. The legacy that he has left behind in terms of his family and tradition still continues.


(In writing this profile of late Emmanuel D’Souza, I have taken the help of the research book, “History of the Mudarthas” written by Prof. Wilfred D’Souza, retired lecturer from Milagres College, Kallianpur and nephew of Monnu Master. I had also received inputs from Bernard D’Souza, son of Monnu Master and Ronald Saby D’Souza, son of Bernard and grandson of Monnu Master. I express my sincere gratitude to all of them-Dr. Eugene D’Souza)



Comments on this Article
Leo Dsouza, Pezar/Navi Mumbai Sun, November-28-2010, 1:09
I happened to visit once to Monnu Master\ s House in the year 1980, during my visit to my friend Mr. Francis Lobo\ s House at Kattingeri. My friend introduced me to Monnu Master as well as to his son Bennab, who was the post master of Kattingeri in those days. It was my great pleasure and respect to God fearing person Monnu Master, when I realised his dedication of so many servents from his family to serve the Lord. As the visit was in the evening, we were served dinner, after the prayers of angelus and rosary. It is true to accept that he was a great personality of our time.
Benedict Noronha, Udupi Sun, November-21-2010, 9:12
Indeed a fine write of late Mr Emmanuel D souza of Belle. Though he was known as Monnu Master, the priests were highly depending on him for the Administration of the Parish. He knew all details and procedures. He was also called The church Shenoy, auditoor and every thing in one personality. He , for his services, had been blessed immensly. God was with him and his family. He was very close to my Noronha family of Pambur because he used to visit us along with the Priests.His Sons-Arch Bishop Albert and Maurice D souza were our classmates at the Belle High School level. It was a great experience to associate with Monnu Master, after retirement occasionally he used to visit our home while passing through. A great soul who had contributed in innumeravble ways to serve in vineyard of the Lord. Dr eugene it was providence that you should publish this in these columns for the information of the present generation. I thank you for a great job.
Francis Noronha, Mumbai Sun, November-21-2010, 12:30
Great personality. Monnu Master has dedicated his most valuable time for the development of the church. He is personality of the century and ste a great example to others by his quality of life. Though he is no more with us but he has left hehind his values as guidelenes. Thank you Dr. Eugene for your researched articles.
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