A priest's life in Goa is not without its hazards when visiting parishioners, especially at this time of year.
In addition to long flights of stairs, constantly ringing mobile phones, reluctant young people and uncertain food, they face dogs.
This year, the priests have asked their parishioners to tether their pets and be present when they come to bless homes during the week after Easter.
“Over the years, we have had to face ferocious canine greetings,” says Father Anand Gama Pais, pastor of Holy Cross Church in Porvorim, on the outskirts of the state capital Panaji.
During announcements on Easter Sunday, he urged his parishioners to keep their dogs in their backyard. “The dog knows you, not us,” he told the congregation and cited a recent case of dog biting a visitor to a family.
The priest also asked people not call him to specify the timing of his arrival. “We cannot tell the exact time we will be visiting your house. We can only say the day,” he added.
The Porvorim parish begins the blessings at 4:30 pm with five priests although some parishes start at 3 p.m. The blessings go on until 8 p.m.
The archdiocese has allowed parish priests to request additional priests for the blessing visits. Previously, the pastors had to bless all the houses in their parishes, Father Pais said.
He says his insistence on full family attendance at the blessing has been successful. “There were times when we were greeted with servants.”
Multi-storey buildings without lifts, locked houses and long waits before the door is opened the door also take a heavy toll on the pastors, Father Pais says.
At times priests have to go back to houses they found locked earlier. “We cannot show we are angry because we go with the message of Easter joy,” he added.
He said that people have not understood that the blessing is not for a house but for its residents. People resist attempts to gather families at one place for the blessing.
Pilar Father Feroz Fernandes recalled instances where some priests had stomach problems after consuming snacks that the families offer.
Another priestly hurdle is youth. “Some young people do not want to face the priests, perhaps because we may ask questions on their whereabouts and why there has been no attendance at Mass,” says Father Eremito Rebelo, vice postular for of the Cause of the Canonization of Blessed Jose Vaz.
Father Rebelo says modern communications technology has made priestly life uneasy. “People phone for silly things. I have two land lines and one mobile. Sometimes all three phones ring at the same time,” he added.
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