History of the Society
The society of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier, (Society of Pilar), Established in the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman, was founded on the 26th September 1887 by Fr. J.M.C Bento Martins. Its Principal seat was shifted from Agonda, Canacona, Goa, to the erstwhile Franciscan Monastery of Our Lady of Pilar, Goa in the year 1890. The Missionary work of the founder was not only in Goa but it was spread to the New Conquest areas as well.
In 1891, the then Patriarch of Goa, Dom Antonio S. Valente gifted to the fledging Society an abandoned monastery perched on a hillock which eventually became the mother house of the Society. The hillock with the locality is called Pilar and is situated 12 kms southeast of Panjim, the capital of Goa. Thus the Fathers came to be known as "Pilar Fathers", after the monastery that had as its patroness Our Lady of Pilar, a devotion to Mary prevailing in Saragosa, Spain that was brought to Goa by the Franciscan monks. The Society adopted Our Lady of Pilar as its patroness. Hence it is also called the Society of Pilar or the Pilar Fathers. Though a small batch, the Society was very vibrant in missionary activity catechizing in various talukas in and outside Goa. The Society also had renowned preachers and Pilar became a centre for retreats and renewal. One of the members of this Society,
Fr. Agnelo de Souza, was well-known for his heroic sanctity. Soon after his death on 20th November, 1927, his fame spread far and wide. People flock to his tomb to pay their respects. In 1987, the Holy Father declared Fr. Agnelo D'Souza, Venerable and the process of beatification is still in progress in Rome.
However, when the society was on the verge of extinction, six priests and two brothers re- organised it on 2nd July 1939, transforming it into a New Missionary Society, continuing the Old and updating its constitutions according to the prevailing Code of Cannon Law. The new era was ushered in by these re- organizers namely, Fr. Menino Conceicao Rodrigues, Fr. Francisco Jasso Sequira, Fr. Baltazar Remedios do Rosario Gomes, Fr. Manuel Jose Barreto, Fr. Joseph Albuquerque, Fr. Theodoline Cabral, Bro Peter Mascarenhas and Bro. Paixao Lacerda are our second Founders. the foundation and the re-organization form two distinct moments in the life of the Society of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier - the latter transforming the former, this being a unique phenomenon rarely witnessed in the history of religious institutes and societies of apostolic life. The re-organized Society of 1939 is canonically, the continuation of the same Society founded in 1887.
Immediately after the profession of the first batch and under the guidance of the Re- organizers, the Society took over the very backward area of Nagar Haveli in 1940 as its field of missionary labours. In 1942 the Society took the bold step to start its own Mission seminary to ensure its growth and stability. 1942 the association of Xavierien Cooperators and in 1944 the that of Spirtual brothers and sisters were started. In 1944 the publication of V. Ixxt, with the society's own press, was taken up and in 1950 the India Magazine. In 1951 the Society accepted the Mission of Ambernath in the Archdiocese of Mumbai. At that same time the Misssionof Sanguem in Goa was taken up for Apsotolate. In 1957 the Fr. Agnel Ashram was started at Bandra in Mumbai as a common house of Society which has grown into a huge complex of Technical Education. In 1961, the Society was entrusted with Punjab- Haryana mission. In 1965 Andamans and Nicobar island were taken up for Apostolate. The latter mission became the Diocese of Port Blair in 1984 with Msgr. Alex Dias, a member of the Society as its first Bishop. The Society also launched huge educational and socio- developmental projects fro the upliftment of the marginalized in all its missions. The Society there after spread out in all directions. Today its mission are covering more than sixteen dioceses in India and has members working abroad.
On September 30, 2010 His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, having received the favorable opinion of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, benevolently granted the society the new status as The Society of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier (Society of Pilar) as a Society of Apostolic Life for the Missions ad gentes of Pontifical Right.