Tuesday, August 22, 2006

CHENNAI: Loy Manohar Fernandes SJ Drowns

Jesuit Scholastic Drowns At Tsunami-Hit Beach In Chennai

August 22, 2006

CHENNAI, India (UCAN) -- For the past 25 years, Jesuit seminarians in a southern Indian city have been going to a nearby beach to take a swim to beat the sultry heat.

But a tragedy on Aug. 18 off a tsunami-battered Chennai beach will change the way students of Sacred Heart College, a Jesuit philosophy college, spend their weekends. Chennai, about 2,095 kilometers south of New Delhi, is the capital of Tamil Nadu state. Teachers and students are in a state of shock after Loy Manohar Fernandez, 25, drowned in the sea off Tiruvanmiyur beach, which had been struck by the tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004.

Fernandez and six other seminarians had bicycled to the beach for a swim after the last of their mid-semester exams. "The sea was slightly rough that evening, but we never expected him to drown," said Xavier Binai, 27, who accompanied Fernandez.

The college's 92 seminarians formed separate teams to search for his body, which was found 24 hours later at another beach 16 kilometers away. He was buried at Jesuit-run Loyola College on Aug. 21.

The college rector, Jesuit Father Maria Vincent Amalanathan, told UCA News that students from the seminary have gone to the beach for the past 25 years. "Until now, nothing happened," he said, but he added that he would no longer permit his students to go to the beach to swim.

The sea off Chennai has become unpredictable after the tsunami, says Vel Murugan, a local fisherman. He told UCA News Aug. 21 that more than 50 people have died in the sea there since the tsunami. Even local fishermen are "sometimes scared of the sea," he added.

Fernandez, eldest of three sons, came from to Mangalore, a Catholic stronghold in the neighboring state of Karnataka. "He was very promising, and very lively," Father Lawrence Fernandez, his teacher, told UCA news. His younger brother also is a Jesuit seminarian.

The deceased seminarian wanted to become a journalist and wrote for a local community newspaper.

His father, Ligoury Fernandez, told the people at the funeral Mass, "God had given him only 25 years, but he lived it fully."

The youth was fond of sending e-mail messages to his friends. His last message on the day of the accident read: "God has opened a window for me and asked me what I want. I told him to bless all the people who read this message."

According to media reports, the 2004 tsunami devastated hundreds of coastal communities in coastal areas of southern India and claimed just under 10,800 lives, with another 5,600 still listed as missing and presumed dead.
Reproduced by Konkani Catholics with permission from UCAN (

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