Grace’s Benemerenti

Born in 1923, Grace Sequeira led an ordinary life in a small village in Bassein*. She grew up to marry Patrick Pereira – who worked with General Motors in Bombay** and also lived in the same village – on 28 February 1944. To supplement their income and support their growing family, she roamed all over town sewing cholis*** for ladies while also performing her neighbourly and parochial duties to her best.

Mom Benementi_marked

Garashi (as folks called her) was 51 when she became part of an event that shone the spotlight on Roman Catholic India.

The year was 1964 and in December, Bombay, India played host to the 38th International Eucharistic Congress. His Holiness Pope Paul VI was in attendance along with a host of other religious, political and foreign dignitaries.

Benemrenti 21-09-1964 Gracy Pereira_marked
Grace Pereira receiving the Benemerenti Medal. She’s wearing the traditional vol (veil) worn by East Indian women over their lugras

Grace, along with Marshall Pereira and Susanne Pereira – all East Indians from Giriz, Bassein – was chosen by St Francis Xavier’s Parish to be the recipients of the illustrious Benemerenti Medal – Grace for her contribution to social work and Marshall and Susanne for their outstanding philanthropy.

benemerenti-medal-giriz-vasai-eastindian
L-R: Susanne Pereira, Marshall Pereira and Grace Pereira with the parish priests in the background. Grace and Susanne are wearing their East Indian lugras.

While they didn’t take the long journey to Bombay to receive the Benemerenti from the Pope, the parish church celebrated this honour by felicitating them in a memorable ceremony.

Gracy Benementi all 3_marked
Susanne, Marshall and Grace at the ceremony to celebrate the Papal honour. On the pew in front of them are the Benemerenti medal and the certificate they were awarded.

It feels right to share this story with you today as 6 March is the birth anniversary of Grace Pereira – who also happens to be my paternal grandmother, and a lady who has been a big inspiration to me personally.

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Nana’s Benemerenti Medal and the Certificate she received in December 1964. The dates were already inscribed in September – much before the visit was announced (in October).

I grew up hearing Nana’s stories – she had collected so many as she traveled all over Vasai – and each and every one were fascinating in their detail. The people in the village and even in the surrounding parishes knew of her and she could mentally trace the family trees of anyone who visited her – right up until she passed away, her mind still sharp at 83 years of age.

My family and I feel fortunate for being custodians of Grace Pereira’s legacy and we hope you not only enjoy her story, but that it also encourages you to delve deep into your own family’s history. Who knows what glories and stories you might uncover!

If you know of a similar story, do get in touch. Email the East Indian Memory Co. or post a comment below.

*now known as Vasai
**now known as Mumbai
***blouses

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Our aim is to create + document + share quality East Indian art, culture and history with the East Indian community and with the wider world. We are East Indians from Bombay and proud if it!

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