A few days before Christmas, Rev. Fr. Rocky D’Silva, VicarGeneral of Archdiocese of Gandhinagar, spoke to a priest companion whose brother had fractured his leg in a road accident, and added : “I understand it is painful to be suffering in bed. It is betterto see the end at once.” Was it a premonition of his ownend when on 30th December 2013 a truckhead-on rammed the car he was driving?
Father Rocky and I had spent that morning together with our seminarians at our Jivan Vikas Kendra (Pastoral Center), Pethapur, near Gandhinagar town. After Holy Mass, lunch and some lighter moments in the afternoon, the seminarians sipped their tea and dispersed to their missions. A while later, Fr. Rocky drove his car to collect some medicines for a cold he was nursing. He was soon on his way back to Jivan Vikas Kendra, and very near home, when the tragic accident took place. I was visiting a family just when the call came to go to the hospital where I saw his body lifeless. There were tears in the eyes of all who had gathered by then.
The funeral on the afternoon of 2nd January 2014 was a testimony to the love and esteem that all whose lives he had touched in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar and beyond had for him. When I was appointed Bishop of Ahmedabad in 1990, I needed to appoint a VicarGeneral and I sought the opinion especially of the Diocesan Priests. They spoke overwhelmingly in favour of Fr. Rocky which opinion was confirmed by religious who knew him as a dedicated Pastor. I had him as VG, first in Ahmedabad, then in Gandhinagar. Along with his role as VG, he has been PP in the Mt Carmel Cathedral Parish of Mirzapur; when there was a need he readily took up the Parish of Gomtipur; and then he moved to the totally new area of Nana Kantharia. Himmatnagar had to be opened, and I thought of him. At Vianney Vihar, the residence of the diocesan theologians studying at our Regional Seminary in Sevasi, Vadodara, he was Rector and Father, Counsellor and Friend to our seminarians. When that term was done, he willingly accepted the appointment to Jeevan Vikas Kendra. From the Pastoral Center he would help the Archdiocese even more.
Wherever he was asked to go, he went willingly and left a lasting impression on the lives of his priest companions and seminarians, the religious sisters, brothers, priests of the area and his parishioners. He was available to all, ready to go when called, consoling and guiding individuals and families. He was also confessor and spiritual father to many. Fr. Rocky cared for those who sought his assistance and reached out to those who felt lost.
Without saying it, his love was manifest. Wherever he was placed, lasting friendships were established, that became so evident on the day of his funeral when so many from so many parishes came to Gandhinagar to pay their last respects to a man they trusted and loved. A senior Jesuit priest sent me these words : “I had unusual respect for Father Rocky not only as a priest and VG, but as a human being, and honourable and trustworthy one.”
During all these years as Vicar General : Fr. Rocky was for me a confidant, a companion and a friend. Though we resided in different centers or missions, whenever I needed his counsel, he always came and I could share my deepest thoughts and anxieties. There were many moments I needed to speak to him, and he listened to me quietly. He would share his experience, and follow it up with his views and his counsel. That helped me form an opinion very different from what I originally had. With his counsel, I found strength to look ahead.
Fr. Rocky was not an academician; but he was eager to know and to learn, which he did quietly. In the solitude of his room, he read books. But more than books, he formed himself with his down-to-earth experiences among people. He was cut out to be a counselor, to accompany people whether priests or nuns, seminarians or lay-persons. He was a simple person and opened himself to welcome people into his life, making them feel at home with him. His homilies contained something practical for those who listened to him. His short sms messages made one reflect on oneself. The presence of so many members of his family and the many priests and religious and laity is the tribute of the role he has played in each one’s life. And even as he guided others, he was growing in the spirit, and moved forward in his own pilgrimage towards his Father in Heaven. The sms quote he sent on 30th November 2013 sums up his life mission: “It is not important to go to Heaven after we leave. But it is important to create Heaven in someone’s heart before we leave.” Father Rocky : you have created Heaven in so many hearts that await to meet you in the eternal Heaven.
The last words Father Rocky spoke to the seminarians at the end of the morning sessions and Holy Mass on that fateful day were : “Wherever you are and whatever you be, let your presence make a difference.” Father Rocky made a difference to our lives.
Gandhinagar, 14th January 2014 Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes,sj