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Bishop Isidore Fernandes: A Visionary Shepherd

Manoj Stephen Manoj Stephen
08 May 2023
Rt. Rev. Isidore was one of the youngest Catholic bishops in India at the time he was consecrated.

Bishop Isidore Fernandes, the Bishop of Allahabad from 4 August 1988 to 31 January 2013, passed away on April 26 due to massive heart attack.  

Bishop Isidore was born on 2 January 1947 in Shirva (Our Lady of Health Church), Karnataka, formerly in the Diocese of Mangalore and presently in the Diocese of Udupi. His parents were Mr. Casmir Fernandes and Mrs. Lucy Fernandes. He was the eldest among the five siblings. His sister Florin Fernandes is a nun in the Congregation of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. His parents were devout Catholics who brought up their children deeply rooted in Catholic faith and morals.  

He completed his school studies at St. Mary's High School in Shirva, Udupi. He then joined the St. Paul's Minor Seminary in Lucknow on July 1, 1963.  His major seminary formation, both philosophy and Theology,  took place in the Papal Seminary, Pune. 

Deacon Isidore was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Allahabad by late Bishop William Gomes, the then Bishop of Pune, on 29 October 1972. 

After his ordination, he was appointed curate in Holy Rosary Church, Pratapgarh. Thereafter, he was appointed Vice Principal at St Joseph’s College, Allahabad. He was the pioneer Director of the Nazareth Hospital, Allahabad, now Prayagraj. Besides, he held the post of Diocesan Procurator. From 1980, he was appointed the Vicar General. 

After the retirement of then Bishop Baptist Mudartha, a veteran Bishop to promote Hindi Apostolate and Dialogue ministry, Rev. Fr. Isidore Fernandes, the principal of St. Joseph’s College, was appointed as Bishop by Pope John Paul II on 5 May 1988. He was consecrated Bishop on  August 4, 1988, by Most Rev. Cecil D'Sa, the then Archbishop of Agra. 

His Role as Shepherd of Diocese

Rt. Rev. Isidore was one of the youngest Catholic bishops in India at the time he was consecrated. He was only 41 years. He exhibited his leadership role with his many God-given qualities, both in Agra Regional Bishops’ Conference and at National level.  He was a member of the National Youth Commission (CBCI), the National Commission for Dialogue and Ecumenism (CBCI) and the CCBI Commission for Evangelisation. He was appointed the Regional Chairman of the Youth Commission. He was the Chairman of St. Joseph’s Regional Seminary, Allahabad for three consecutive terms of five years. 

He paved the way for handing over Sangeet Sadhana Mandir, a diocesan institute in Pachmarhi, M. P, a summer school, to promote Hindusthani music, with an agreement signed by four Bishops to the CCBI Commission for Evangelisation. At present it functions as Suvartha Kendra, Pachmarhi, under CCBI.  

Leader of Church in North India

His painstaking long 24 years witnessed many bold and dynamic initiatives. He made use of Hindi in every area of the Diocese to promote ministries. He dedicated his life as ‘a charismatic leader’. He was a visionary and led his flock as a true Shepherd. He was very pastoral and inter-religious in his approach to multiple ministries in the Church.  

Under his leadership, he renovated many old buildings, constructed presbyteries, Churches, School buildings, Convents, houses for the poor living in the village areas and created new infrastructures for better functioning of the ministry in the diocese. He organized a number of diocesan and regional programmes – i.e. educational and pastoral. His regular visits to Mission Stations, Parish houses, Educational Institutions, Convents, the poor and marginalized were very significant and remarkable.  He showed his concern for the aging senior citizens by conducting many charitable programs. 

On 31 January 2013, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop Isidore Fernandes, from the pastoral care of the Diocese of Allahabad, according to Canon Law 401 § 2. Bishop Ignatius Menezes was appointed as the Apostolic Administrator till Most Rev. Raphy Manjaly, the then Bishop of Varanasi, assumed the office of the Bishop of Allahabad on December 3, 2013. 

The Lord called him to his eternal home on April 26. May his soul rest in peace! 

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