It was Sunday, the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross. Everything seemed to be going on as usual. Most of us in the provincial community were enjoying a well deserved Sunday afternoon siesta. Suddenly somebody received the shocking and unbelievable news of the death of Fr Silvio Sassi, our Superior General. At first it was communicated to each other in murmurs and whispers because the news had to be verified as it was hard to believe. Many who heard the news rushed to their offices and turned on their computers and ipapds. Others tried getting connected to Rome through their mobile phones. Yes, what we heard was true! Fr Silvio Sassi, Our Superior General, was no more!!! It took quite some time for us to come to terms with what we had just heard. Fr Silvio Sassi has gone for his eternal reward on that Sunday early morning!
Several of our communities in India, Nigeria, Great Britain and Ireland made plans for special Requiem Mass the very same evening or the next day to pray for the departed soul and for the grace to live through this time of deep sadness and terrible loss with serenity and peace, and above all to take everything in the light of our faith in Him who is the author of life and death.
The communities of Mumbai together with all the staff of the apostolic sectors held a condolence meeting on Monday 12 noon in the Alberione Hall to mourn the sudden and sad passing away of our beloved Superior General. Glowing tributes were paid to Fr Sassi both by members and staff. The Superior of the community, Fr Joe Eruppkkkatt, said we felt lost and orphaned at this juncture as we have lost the Father of our family. He shared his own personal experience with Fr Sassi, who, he said, was deeply human and was concerned about the happiness and well being of every individual Pauline member. The Director General, Fr Jose Pottayil, who had worked with Fr Sassi as his Vicar General, said "I do not know what to say at this moment of sadness, I am shocked. Fr Sassi's untimely departure has left a deep vacuum in the congregation and in the Pauline Family which can never be refilled".
The Manager of St Pauls Press and Administrator of St Pauls Media Complex, Br Mathew Elavunkal, expressed his grief and sorrow at the loss of Fr Sassi and recalled his able guidance of the congregation. Representing the Staff, Ms Sophie D'Souza, said, "Though I have neither seen him nor heard him, from what I have heard from some of the Fathers, I know he was a holy priest and an able leader and guide. We will miss his guidance and leadership. May his soul rest in peace." Another member of the staff, Mr Chavan, a Hindu by religious belief, said we feel orphaned at the passing away of Fr Sassi. May God Almighty bless him and reward him for all the good that he has done to his fellow human beings. Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!!! (Peace, Peace, Peace!).
As a mark of respect for our departed Superior General, the second half of the day was declared a holiday for all the offices in the campus. Later in the evening, a special Requiem Mass was offered for the repose of Fr Silvio Sassi. Provincial Superior, Fr Michael raj, presided over the Eucharist in which a large number of religious, both Paulines and non-Paulines participated. Fr Jose Potayil preached the homily during which he shared his own experience working and living with Fr Sassi. Fr Provincial requested all who were present at the Mass to continue to pray for Fr Sassi and for the Congregation.