From Lucia and Gelindo Sanmartin
We first met Archbishop Leobard D’Souza at a Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner, October 13, 1986 . He was the first Indian we had ever met, and initially we, and our daughters Sandra and Claudia, were intimidated at the prospect of dinner with him. That lasted for all of about five minutes as he greeted us in Italian, and apologized for his lack of classic Italian, explaining that he had learned his while in Rome at Propaganda Fide. We laughed our way through that dinner and have done so several times since. His warmth and laughter and obvious enjoyment of the food and the company were special.
On his subsequent visits to Canada – which have been far too few in our opinion – we have had the pleasure of entertaining Leo in our own home. The one particular time that stands out for us had to do with our daughter Sandra. Both Claudia and Sandra had come to the conclusion that all cultures were basically the same. They were comfortable with dating and having as friends, women and men across many racial and ethnic traditions. Our experience as their parents was and is that there are many differences and some of them subtle. We know this even as Italians in terms of the cultural differences from one end of our native land to the other.
At dinner, after Leo said, “Prego, Mama”, for one more bowl of Lucia’s pasta, Gelindo began a discussion of this issue. It was not at all intended. It was truly spontaneous. Leo began to talk about his own experiences in India alone and we learned then of what he called “communalism”, of the many communities that are in India , and the difficulties that occur among them, not only connected with marriages, but with relationships in general.
Sandra began to explain her position in terms of these relationships and Leo stopped her at that point and explained that if she were in India, probably not matter the community, she would have been told to keep quiet, or would have been called an “old grandmother”, or told that she was speaking out of turn and hadn’t lived long enough nor learned enough to be entitled to express that opinion.
At that point Sandra could not believe her ears. At the table we could see her taking this bit of information to heart and we knew that this thinking would become part of any decisions she made about future relationships. We learned later from a mutual friend that Leo at the Thanksgiving Dinner and again at this one was delighted with how articulate both our daughters are. He wished that the young women whom he knew in India had their ability to speak and determination to be part of the thinking about them and around them.
It is not just this incident or the other times that we have been in Leo’s company that have made such a difference for us. It is our on-going knowledge of his service to the church and to all whom he encounters.
At the end of that famous dinner with Sandra, she bid farewell to Leo in her own inimitable way, with her right arm raised, and in a fist, and shouted at him, “Rock on, Baby!” Leo was so delighted he insisted on learning how to do this himself, and for all we know may still leave people that way.
We can think of no better way to congratulate him on this special anniversary of his birth than to say with all our hearts, “Rock on, and on, and on, and on, Baby!”
Lucia and Gelindo Sanmartin
Hamilton , Ontario , Canada