Sydney, Sep 16: Sunday September 10 was a day of beautiful sunshine, spring warmth, and joy in the hearts of the large number of Mangalorean Sydneysiders who came together to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity (Monthi Fest) organized by the Mangalorean Catholic Association of Sydney (MCAS) Inc.
The day began in devotion to Mother Mary, with Holy Mass conducted at the Galston Community Centre. The wooden cathedral ceiling of the hall lent a countryside character and provided a distinguished backdrop to the altar as well as the proceedings. The celebrant was Fr Peter Rebello who kindly agreed to travel from Coffs Harbour parish in the state’s north to offer the Mass especially for Monthi Fest. The altar was solemnly adorned, and the grotto of Mother Mary was elegantly decorated with flowers, palms and sugar cane stalks. Clinton Pereira entered the hall with the crucifix, leading in Fr Peter as well as the two altar servers, Emma and Crystal Pereira who assisted dutifully and diligently throughout the Mass. Caryl Dickinson provided the introduction to the Mass.
The choir, with the voices of Joylene Moras, Brendon Moras, Delcy Moras, Deena Moras, Prima Pereira, Daphney Fernandes, Mariet Andrade, Blaston Noronha, Darryl D’Souza, Lavina Misquith, Michelle Cornelio, Bernadine Lobo, Nireeksha D’Souza, Jermine Lobo and little Eva Moras sang melodious hymns in perfect harmony that permeated a wonderful feeling throughout the entire venue. The Mass was well coordinated by Onita Saldanha, Roopa Menezes and Preema Lobo who ensured it all went smoothly without a hitch.
The first reading in English was delivered by Migel Lobo, followed by Blossom Fernandes with the second reading in Konkani.
Fr Peter Rebello imparted an inspiring sermon to the congregation, and extolled the virtues of Mother Mary, which are humility, faith, obedience, prayer, mortification, purity, charity and patience. Fr Peter also reminded that all should honour their own mothers and families.
A heart-warming sight was the procession of elder members of the community, several of whom are on holiday in Sydney from India, bearing vegetables for the offertory. The prayers of the faithful were beautifully read by the little ones - Nathan D’Souza, Keith Lewis, Siona D’Souza, Ian Moras, Hazel Lobo, Zoe Lobo and Gabriel Fernandes.
At the conclusion of Mass, the recessional hymn of ‘Besanv Di Sorginchem’ was exquisitely sung by the young children’s choir, made up of Dayne D’Souza, Davian D’Souza, Alston D’Souza, Siona D’Souza, Ian Moras, Elvis Moras, Evelyn Moras, Kaitlynn Picardo, Kamerynn Picardo, Myra Andrade, Evangeline Fernandes, Gabriel Fernandes, Danica Furtado and Hazel Lobo. It was indeed a beautiful sight to behold the next generation showing devotion to Our Lady in mother tongue.
The children were then led by Ajith Lobo and Ethan Furtado to gather at the grotto on the lawn outside the church to shower Mother Mary with flowers in keeping with the Mangalurean Monthi Fest tradition. The excitement on the faces of not only the children, but of the whole crowd was evident as the statue of the Infant Mary was submerged in a deluge of flowers amidst the singing of Sakkad Sangantha Melyan and Moriek Hogolsian. It was a true spectacle of veneration to the Blessed Mother.
With the infant Mary enveloped in bright and abundant flowers, the attendees then made their way back to the hall for festivities and an exuberant celebration. The hall was brimming to capacity and it was a sea of colour and vibrancy.
To kick off the proceedings, the two MCs, Onita Saldanha and Felix Pais welcomed all the attendees and worked in complete synchronization as they compered the event in both Konkani and English. A welcome dance was performed with enthusiasm by Lavina Misquith, Nireeksha D’Souza, Nikita D’Souza and Daphney D’Souza.
The commencement address was presented by the MCAS president Rowena Sequeira, who thanked the community for their attendance and steadfast support to MCAS over the past 16 years. She applauded the service and leadership of the past presidents, and the hard work and commitment of ex-executive committee members as well as their families. Rowena thanked the gold sponsors for the event – John Menezes and Taylor Bredin for their generosity, as well as the several anonymous donors who allowed the committee to go that step further in delivering a great celebration.
The rest of the hardworking MCAS committee were introduced – vice president and social secretary Roopa Menezes, treasurer Savio Monis, general secretary Adeep Rego, as well as executive committee members Felix Pais, Nelson D’Souza and Jeevan Tauro.
The cultural segment of the occasion had the whole crowd enthralled. A children’s dance enthusiastically performed by Evelyn Moras, Kaitlynn Picardo, Kamerynn Picardo, Evangeline Fernandes, Siona D’Souza, Danica Furtado, Gabriel Fernandes, Ian Moras and Elvis Moras was expertly choreographed by Deena Moras. This was followed by a future little superstar Dayne D’Souza with an energetic performance of “Believer” by Imagine Dragons. The audience’s cheers and applause boosted the morale of the kids. Rowena Sequeira then presented all the participating children with a gift and a certificate of appreciation for their hard work and wonderful performances. The scintillating performances continued with a heartfelt Konkani song sung by the melodious Moras sisters Delcy and Deena.
Onita and Felix conducted the ice breaker game “Know your Roots” with gusto, and the crowd came together in truly Mangalorean fashion. This was followed by a hilarious Konkani skit enacted by Joylene Moras and Richie Rebello that had the crowd in laughter from start to finish. An exciting trivia organized by Nelson D’Souza tested the attendees on their knowledge of Mangalore, from the meaning of Konkani proverbs to the composers of well-known Konkani songs.
Scintillating music was provided by DJ Joylene Moras, who kept the crowd entertained throughout the afternoon. Children were excited when three beautifully decorated cakes came out to centre stage, where they gathered around to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Mother Mary. The MCAS committee then distributed mini rosaries to every child present with the message to pray to the heavenly Mother regularly for guidance and solace.
Fr Peter Rebello then blessed the novem, specially ordered by Nelson D’Souza from northern New South Wales for the Nativity celebrations. The novem was then served to guests soaked in milk in small individual shot glasses.
The Mangalurean food catered by the talented Reggie Rego and his family was indeed outstanding and the attendees raved about the feast. The menu consisted of entrees of samosas, spring rolls and chicken 65, with the mains being scrumptious sannas, bafat pork, chicken sukka, channa, vegetable sambhar and karamb, accompanied by white rice, homemade pickle and of course delicious vorn to finish off a delectable meal.
The brother and sister team of Nelson D’Souza and Jermine Lobo then put on a spirited presentation of the benefits of growing one’s own vegetables with an entertaining dance and skit. An ‘MCAS Backyard Farmer’ initiative was introduced, encouraging members of the crowd to maximise the potential of their land, with prizes to be given next year to the most prolific vegetable growers.
Savio Monis delivered the vote of thanks, acknowledging all the attendees, sponsors, participants and those who helped make the event truly memorable. The event proceedings concluded just as it started - in prayer, with ‘Laudate’ echoing through the hall. And then it was time for live baila by Joylene Moras, Darryl D’Souza and Blaston Noronha who had people tearing up the dance floor!
The smooth flow of the event would not have been possible without the hard work and support of the several volunteers who assisted behind the scenes, from hall set up to registration at entry, to helping serve the food and later assisting with pack up at the end. The MCAS committee is truly grateful to each and every one of those who came forward to lend a hand. Special thanks goes to Roshan Picardo for capturing wonderful moments and memories of the day with beautiful photos and videos to share.
Suffice to say, the MCAS Nativity Feast celebration of 2023 was a resounding success, bringing back memories of Monthi Fest celebrations back in Mangaluru and invoking a sense of nostalgia. This was largely due to the attendees, participants, performers, sponsors and donors for their overwhelming presence and patronage.