Ivo Coelho sdb NASHIK, APRIL 19, 2009: Fr. Vincent Vaz passed away some time in the afternoon of April 19, 2009, Divine Mercy Sunday. He had suffered a mild stroke towards the end of October 2008, leading to hospitalization. But he rallied, and, though significantly weakened, he got back into his daily routine of writing and ministry. His hair was whiter, his voice weaker and more reedy, his walk unstable, and he had to call in a brother to kick start his Kinetic so that he could go for the chaplaincies. The wonderful thing was that he worked practically till he died. I saw him just the day before at table; he was in a good mood and was trying to pull my leg. On the way to the station yesterday, I remarked to Vally and to Wyman that we would not even know if anything happened to him up there in his room. He would not, probably, have the presence of mind to call to anyone, and we would assume that he was busy working or resting, and would not bother to check out. As it happened, he did not come down for lunch today, and Fr Savio D’Souza, the Rector, did go up to his room, and found him fallen on the floor. It has been all very sudden. We knew he was getting weak, but we did not think that he would go so quickly. Fr Vincent Vaz came to Nashik in 1996, the year the MPh course began. He had a PhD in Education, and was needed on the faculty. It was, I think, a big sacrifice for him to leave his comfort zone of Matunga and come up to Nashik. We in Nashik went out of our way to make his settling down comfortable, and he did settle down beautifully. Like many of his age, he was not one to express his feelings directly. But he did tell the Salesian Sisters that he was very happy, and that the community was wonderful, and they passed on the message to us. The provincial, Fr Tony D’Souza, was good enough to allow Fr Vincent to keep a room in Matunga, and to move between Mumbai and Nashik as often as he wanted, and that suited Fr Vincent fine. He plunged into his writing, and was probably the most productive professor on the campus. He took up the teaching not only education for the MPh but also a variety of courses for the BPh, ranging from Christian Doctrine to Latin and Italian. He never said no to a request for ministry, be it mass or confessions or recollections or retreats. And whatever he did, he did perfectly. He endeared himself to the brothers. On occasion he would pull out his music books and teach the community the traditional songs and hymns: Kookaburra, the Man with the Mandolin (or was it the Accordion), and so on. And he was quite independent: he did not make demands on anybody’s time (unless you asked him questions about mathematics or about the organ), he was quite busy and found fulfilment in his work. One of the brothers once did some photocopying for him, but the copies were smudged, and the young brother was afraid of what Fr Vincent would say. Finally he plucked up courage and handed over the papers to him. ‘Why so late,’ Fr Vincent asked. ‘I was afraid,’ said the brother. ‘Don’t forget, Brother, I also have a heart,’ replied Fr Vincent. During the celebrations of the golden jubilee of his priesthood, he had shared with us about the heart attack he had suffered while in Matunga: some confreres had remarked, ‘At least now we know he has a heart.’ I think we can say quite confidently: Fr Vincent Vaz received the grace to grow old gracefully, as gracefully as I have ever seen anyone do. He was happy and grateful to be a religious, a Salesian, a priest. He was contented. He was able to say that he had done all things out of love. In the last few years of his life, Fr Vincent kept putting his prodigious expertise in mathematics to good use. Quietly and silently he went wherever he was called: to Jhabua, to Ahmednagar, to Sulcorna, and perhaps to many other places, teaching teachers as well as students, unfazed by problems of language and managing to communicate despite the linguistic barriers. In Nashik itself there are many students who he has helped, some of them in astounding ways, like the girl who came to him exactly a week before the SSC exam, and came out with flying colours in his mathematics papers. Here was a man who was given a gift, and who used it happily and to the full. Divyadaan and Nashik will miss the silent, unfussy presence of Fr Vincent Vaz. God bless him and give him peace.