This morning as we celebrate All Saints Day, the reading from the book of the Revelation (Rev 7:2-4, 9-14) began with the lines, “I, John, saw another angel come up from the East…” In another instant my phone buzzed, and the message read: RIP Fr Romuald D’Souza SJ. One of the finest Jesuit educationists of our times, Romuald D’Souza SJ (1925-2019) had now joined the great multitude “from every nation, race, people, and tongue” to begin his journey in another life. But for us mortals here in Goa, we will miss Romuald dearly. Adeus padre.
Born in Goa in 1925, Romuald studied at the St Xavier’s College, Bombay before joining the Society of Jesus (popularly known as the Jesuits) in Bombay in 1945. He was ordained a priest in 1958. Having worked as a teacher at Loyola High School, Margao and St Paul’s High School, Belgaum; and later as principal at St Vincent’s High School, Pune Romuald had established himself as an educationist very early in life. In 1973 when the Jesuit Superior General, Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ appointed Romuald the Provincial of the Goa-Pune Province, his leadership position would prove to be decisive for the Jesuits of this province. In the following years, it was his ventures into business management education that catapulted him among the leading educationists in his field. Yet, for all his professional accomplishments, Romuald remained a committed Jesuit and a human at heart.
As a young Jesuit confrere who had lived with Romuald in the Jesuit community at the Xavier Centre of Historical Research (XCHR) in Porvorim, one could easily be drawn by the fine impressionist strokes he could leave over your mind and soul. Look at it closer, and all you see are daubs of paint or short brush strokes that reveal light; step back, and you see the masterpiece unveil a vista, deeply illuminated. In order to understand Romuald, one had to step back and recontextualise what he spoke within a larger frame of reference. When he typically began his conversations with “You see, …”, you saw that they were in fact calling you to reorient your thinking. These conversations — let me admit, they were often narratives — revealed his deep insight and acumen that were also evocative of his decision-making capacities.
It is not too difficult, as a Jesuit, to trace the roots of such capacities to the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. Already in the first year of joining the religious order, every Jesuit novice undertakes the month-long Spiritual Exercises. Herein he is enabled to employ the rules of discernment and arrive at a decision about his own life without being influenced by any inordinate affections. He does this by contemplating his own life as it is mirrored through the gospel values revealed in key meditations on the life of Christ. In his later years, this capacity for discernment would become an interpretive key in navigating his own life, as well as enabling others to arrive at good decisions about their own lives. Surely, decision making remains a key attribute of modern business management, but also a 450-year-old Jesuit tradition.1 It is no mere conjecture that Romuald would have deployed these tools from his own spiritual heritage to influence his brand of business management education. Moreover, until this day, the mark of a Jesuit is gauged by the manner with which he lives the Spiritual Exercises in his daily life.
In a typically Romualdian fashion, it would do well to recontextualise this narrative within Romuald’s own Jesuit pasts. You see, … Over the last five decades since the 1970s, Romuald emerged as among the leading educationists in his beloved Goa and the country at large. This was well recognised by the Government of India when in 2010 it awarded him the Padma Shri for his contribution to education.2 But this phase wasn’t without its fair share of trials. In the seventies the Society of Jesus underwent a renewed ideological focus as the General Congregation 32 (1974-75) articulated its mission as the service of faith and the promotion of justice” wherein a “preferential option for the poor” became its rallying call. These shifts were also accompanied by voices within liberation theology that reinterpreted the Christian faith through a socioeconomic analysis of poverty and its accompanying injustice on the poor. By the 1980s Jesuits had been particularly re-evaluating their ministries in the light of social justice norms. Jesuit business schools became the cause célèbre of these times, as an increasing number of Jesuits considered them too elite for their times. It would later be interestingly to note that Romuald, as the Provincial Superior of the Goa-Pune Jesuits. was a delegate to the GC32.
In 1982 Romuald would be invited to be the director of the Jesuit business school, the XLRI (Xavier School of Management), in Jamshedpur where his management skills would bring financial stability to the institute. In 1987 the government of Orissa invited him to founded the Xavier Institute of Management (XIMB) in Bhubaneshwar. Even though Romuald’s forays into business management education was proving to be a success story, he would get right into the crosshairs of the ideological debate within the Society of Jesus. Whereas Jesuit social activists had clearly raised concerns against the elitism that could befall Jesuit business schools, Romuald had been firm about how Jesuit business schools could in fact contribute to the development of the social sector and the state economy. Romuald sought to humanise business management education by introducing courses on business ethics and organisational behaviour; and these eventually became among his core competencies. Debates within Jesuit ministries do not cast them at variance with one another, but rather add dynamism to their works. In this case, Romuald clearly subscribed to a more pragmatic view of Jesuit education — ad civitatis utilitatem — for the good of the city. Jesuit ministries do not operate within the religious sphere alone, but also contribute to a larger cultural and civic mission.3
In 1993 Romuald would establish yet another premier business school, the Goa Institute of Management (GIM) in Ribandar, with its main campus now in Sanquelim, Goa. Last year, when GIM celebrated its silver jubilee, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama accompanied by Fr. Romuald D’Souza took centre stage for a celebratory address. Here the chairman of GIM, Ashoka Chandra, revealed how one of the basic tenets of GIM’s educational philosophy was driven by ethics and human values, and that it was possible to be ethical and successful simultaneously. Romuald later averred that the GIM had offered business ethics courses right from its beginning. He informed how students were presented a traditional rational approach which enabled them to reason that what could possibly be considered right, was good for them and the society at large. The Jesuit vision of a spiritual and civic mission that contributed to a common good was clearly at display in the educational philosophy outlined by Romuald at GIM.4
When Romuald formally stepped down from GIM in 2010, he never appeared to quit. While continuing his association with GIM, he established an institute for healthcare management for the Archdiocese of Goa. Later, just as he neared ninety, he launched a post-graduate programme in wellness counselling. Here life did seem to come a full circle as he had professionally been trained in counselling with degrees from Fordham University and Columbia University, New York.
Having lived next door with him in the Jesuit community, there was a particular trait that was always striking about Romuald, even in his nineties — he was always dressed for work, whether he was moving out or working from home. In a sense, it characterised a Jesuit trait of availability, that also implied mobility. In a more spiritual sense, it also meant being available to the Lord. Behind the business management edifice, what is often missed is that Romuald was also a deeply committed Jesuit priest; I had never seen him miss his 7 pm evening Eucharist. However, while Romuald was deeply rooted in his Catholic faith, there was a certain catholicity about it — he was open to every tradition. I vividly remember when attending a few summer inputs at the GIM campus in Ribandar in 2000, Romuald led a group of motley Jesuits to prayer to a room that was just a carpeted empty space — call it a chapel if you like it that way, he told us. It was meant to be a place that welcomed everyone, irrespective of their religious beliefs or traditions. This idea of a meditative open space would later be transplanted to the GIM campus in Sanquelim.
Earlier this year, as I sat with Romuald in the Jesuit refectory discussing with him some of the shifts within twentieth-century South Asian Jesuit history for my own research — for he had lived a-good-50-days-short-of a grand 94 years — there was a sense of how he viewed time. Romuald was essentially a man of the longue durée. He had the capacity to see across time while also looking for ways to effect time. That was the reason he lent himself — and he was well sought after — to the academic council of the Goa University, various government think-tanks as also Jesuit committees. For Romuald it was evident that if change had to be effected, it had to be first accomplished through policy. He clearly believed that as humans we are collectively enabled to effect time for our common good. You see, …
A key institution that Romuald established was the Xavier Centre of Historical Research in 1977, as also later advocating the setting up of the Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr for research in the Konkani language. Romuald viewed the XCHR to be at a critical juncture within Goa’s histories that then needed to be view its pasts and imagine its futures within its post-1961 entanglements. These entanglements still remain, and we might do well to borrow Romuald’s large iconic glasses if they could for a while afford us his pragmatic Jesuit vision — ad civitatis utilitatem.
Romuald needs no epithets. He lived beyond the realm of these titles. However, if we do enshrine any of these visionary legacies upon him they reveal more about our desires to encapsulate his vision for our collective good. While he could be occasionally stubborn, he was also wilfully resolute in achieving more in the light of the Jesuit magis. For Romuald, there was always something more to do. He could momentarily get impatient, but he peppered this with a good dose of subtle humour. I can still hear him impatiently implore his computer, “Come on, come on, …” — humanising it into action, but also chiding it for what it needed to obviously do.
In Romuald’s own estimates, this was too young to die. There is still so much more to do.
So long, farewell.
For an alternate shorter version of this write-up, read:
Rinald D’Souza SJ, “Romuald D’Souza and a vision for the collective good”, The Times of India, Goa edition, 4 November 2019, p. 3
- Lowney, Chris. Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2005. Chris Lowney, a former Jesuit who later served as the Managing Director of JP Morgan, underlines four pillars of leadership that shaped the Society of Jesus: self-awareness, ingenuity, love, and heroism. ↩
- The Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian award conferred by the Republic of India in recognition for one’s distinguished service. ↩
- John W. O’Malley, “The Distinctiveness of the Society of Jesus,” Journal of Jesuit Studies 3, no. 1 (2016): 1–16. | Read more: Rinald D’Souza, “The University as Proyecto Social”, Historia Domus, 31 July 2018, https://historiadomus.net/2018/07/31/the-university-as-proyecto-social (accessed on 1 November 2019) ↩
- The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “The Relevance of Ancient Indian Knowledge in Contemporary India”, Dalai Lama, News, 8 August 2018, https://www.dalailama.com/news/2018/the-relevance-of-ancient-indian-knowledge-in-contemporary-india (accessed on 1 November 2019) ↩