This is Your Life, Leobard
Leobard, always known as Leo, you were born on the eighteenth day of January nineteen hundred and thirty to proud parents, Master Peter D’Souza and Hortencia D’Souza in a small town of Igatpuri in the state of Maharashtra. You were the seventh born in the family of eight, Gertie the eldest, Joe second, then Amy, Francis, Lucy (Sr. Wilfred Mary), Evarist, you LEO and Ida, the youngest of the eight.
When dad expired in 1936, we were all separated. Ma took you to Goa where you learnt to speak only Konkani. Later you were practically adopted by Uncle Sullivan, a close friend of the family and taken to Jabalpur for your education. You studied at St. Aloysius High School, were the school captain in your final year and passed Senior Cambridge in the First Division.
During your scholastic years, you came home for your holidays. By this time we all stayed with Ma and Joe. We brothers and sisters have pleasant memories of you during your vacation. We envied you, because you were our mother’s pet. Ma would make things of your choice and give them to you on the quiet. Every holiday, ma would roast a small chicken for you and you didn’t feel bad to enjoy it all by your self.
You and Evarist were known as `Corsican Brothers’. You both would play and fight with knives and sticks. One day it took a bad turn and in temper you nearly attacked Evarist. Seeing this, Joe emptied a chatti of cold water on you. Then Joe asked you how you felt. To this your reply was “ Better now”.
We have happy memories of the holidays we spent sometimes with Uncle William and Aunty Emily. We were all in teens, Winnie, John, Theresa, Eulalia, Tony, Amy, Lucy, Evarist, you Leo, Ida, Virginia (Sr Henrietta), Therese and Carmeline. We never failed to have concerts for which you were the organiser. We cannot forget our orchestra where we all held the same kind of instrument. Carmeline played the cymbals with the covers of the chamber pot and you were the conductor holding a hockey stick as your baton. Another funny game we played was `Train, Train’. John was the engine driver holding an iron in his hand, and were all chugged along behind him, from one room to another.
Soon after schooling, you decided to become a priest. You were sent to study BA at St Xavier’s, Calcutta. Having graduated successfully, you were sent to St Albert’s Seminary, Ranchi for studies in preparation for the priesthood. There you completed the course in Philosophy and returned to Jabalpur for a year of practical training at St Aloysius High School. It is learnt that when you left Ranchi Seminary, the Rector wrote to Bishop Dubbleman, “ If you have more boys like brother Leobard, send them to us”. It was now decided to send you to complete your priestly formation. Accordingly, you were sent to Propaganda College, Rome for the four-year course in Sacred Theology, during which you were ordained on 22nd December 1956. Returning to India and to the diocese of Jabalpur, you were appointed to serve at a mission called Junwani. You worked only for four months and you were called to Delhi to be the secretary to Papal Internuncio to India, Archbishop James Knox. During the five years in this capacity, you were no desk bound assistant, but found time to visit many families in far-flung Delhi, helping them in their religious spirit. After that you were sent to the University of Dublin, Ireland for the Master’s Degree in History, but before you could complete the course, the hand of God was upon you once again, and you were appointed Co-adjutor Bishop of Jabalpur, on 23rd Nov 1964.
In a deeply moving ceremony, at the International Eucharistic Congress, 1964, the Episcopal Ordination by Pope Paul VI, five priests from five continents were ordained. You then the youngest, not yet thirty-five represented Asia. The Eucharistic Congress was a great day for us. We witnessed your ordination with joy. You made it possible for all of us to be present. There was something special to remember, we, your brothers and sisters and our children were allowed an audience with the Holy Father. It was a reverent occasion.
With Bishop Dubbelman’s resignation, you Bishop Leobard took complete charge of the diocese of Jabalpur and served as Bishop for nine years.
Eighteen months after the death of Archbishop Leonard Raymond, the Catholics of Nagpur were thrilled to hear that the Bishop of Jabalpur was to be their next Bishop. Our new Archbishop Leobard was given a warm welcome on 15th September 1975. The church was packed to witness the ceremony of your installation.
We have much to be grateful for. You cared for us right from the cradle to the grave. You baptized and confirmed us. Your first baptism was baby Andrea Rita D’Souza. You educated us and married us. You blessed our homes, visited us in sickness and health. You prayed for us, offered Masses for us and in confession, you brought God’s forgiveness. You spiritually helped us and encouraged us in our enterprises. You blessed our children’s weddings anointed and buried our loved ones. You supported us in days of trial and counseled us. You shared our sorrows and kept in touch with all of us and above all we basked in your sunshine.
We take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the love you have shown us and we wish you all the best for your 75th Birthday.
GOD BLESS YOU, LEO!
From your brothers, sisters and all your loved ones.