WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Fr. Vincent Braganza was expected to follow his uncle's footsteps into the seminary.
Vincent Braganza's uncle was studying for the priesthood, but died of jaundice before he was ever ordained. Since Braganza was born about the time of his uncle's death, he was given his uncle's name, with the expectation that he would someday become a priest.
From infancy, the assumption was that he was called to the priesthood. In eighth grade, people in his community in India started calling him a priest.
But by Grade 11, he was having doubts. He told his sister he would not become a priest. His sister, convinced he was making a mistake, broke the news to their mother.
"My mother, who had named me Vincent in the hope that I would follow her brother in becoming a priest, turned to my sister and told her, 'If he doesn't wish to, no one on earth is ever going to push him into the priesthood.' At that moment, one of my concerns dissolved," said Braganza, knowing that joining the priesthood to appease his mother was the wrong motivation.
"If I was only joining to keep Mommy happy, then someday when Mommy is gone, if God didn't want me there, what is going to become of me?" he said.
Free to make the decision for himself, he joined the Jesuits in 1967, at age 16.
Jesuit Father Vincent Braganza was the guest speaker at the Edmonton Catholic charismatic prayer breakfast, Nov. 9 at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre. His message was that every individual must determine where God wants him or her, and then strive to carry out that plan.
"Today, I respect every layperson. We tend to pay so much respect to priests and nuns. But I respect anyone who follows God's plan. If you become a priest, and that's not God's plan for you, then sorry, you're in the wrong place," he said.
During his stay in Alberta, he said it was "pure delight" to visit the province's lakes and mountains. While he admits to finding God in nature, as others often do, he said he also finds God in the laboratory. Doing research in the biosciences has been an important dimension of his experience of God.
Braganza found his niche as the director of the Loyola Centre for Research and Development in India. He has a doctorate in biochemistry and biotechnology, as well as a master's degree in electronics and physics.
"I revel in science. My experience of science is the unraveling of the infinite divine. I enjoy being in the lab," he said.
The Jesuits have a preferential treatment for the poor - a concept that he says he lives out every day. He calls himself a crusader of science for the poor.
"We are in an age of science and technology. Science and technology are erasing the poor to the brink of total annihilation," he lamented.
Christians are dependent on what they do for others, not what they do for themselves. Therefore, the concept of having preferential treatment for the poor applies to science and technology as well.
The Loyola Centre for Research and Development trains the poor in entrepreneurship, so they are not dependent on handouts and transitory solutions.
Braganza also spoke of learning to pray without ceasing. "I knew how to say the rosary, I knew how to say a basic prayer and I knew how to put words into my own personal prayer.
"But when I entered the novitiate, they wanted me to meditate," said Braganza.
Then, on an 11-day retreat with Jesuit Father Antony de Mello, he was taught, as St. Paul instructed Christians to do: pray always and without ceasing. This was something altogether new.
From de Mello, Braganza learned to pray, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner." He repeated the prayer over and over daily for six or seven years, but nothing seemed to have happened. One day, when he was having personal problems, the prayer entered his mind spontaneously. Now, it is automatic.
"In moments when I am dejected and lost, when I am tense and don't know what to do, I don't remember the Lord. He remembers me, and that prayer starts," he said.
"When it starts, I am so calm and thanks to Jesus I can conquer whatever comes my way. I can take on anything in the world."