Is the Mother of God Church – Palle, the first church outside Vasai Fort? Fr. Conty claims that there was a Church in Sandor called St. Thomas Church in 1566. and could be ‘the first church outside the Fort’. The Mother of God Church is said to have been established in 1585, according to the Franciscan Chapter-lists of 1585, it can be presumed that it was built sometime between 1577 to 1585 (Meersman 1971-184). Fr. Achilles Meersman is a Franciscan in ‘Franciscans in Bombay’.
The Franciscan Chronicler speaks about the Church that was dedicated to the Mother of God and possessed “an image of Our Lady of great beauty” “pierced by a sword” for which the people of the area had great devotion. Fr. Paolo de Trindade, who wrote a book in Portuguese in 1638 mentions the Palle Church as being the first Church outside the Vasai Fort. Paulo de Trindade speaks of a ‘very beautiful statute of Our Lady in the Church’ The Church was situated at the Southern end of Bassein (Vasai) opposite the island of Panju.
Dr. Regin D’Silva, an associate of Fr. Paolo de Trindade speaks of the beautiful statue of Our Lady. He shares the story that Fr. Trindade had revealed. It seems there was a heavy storm on May 16, 1618, and that night the statue of Our Lady had fallen, and a veil was wrapped around her face. It seems there was a priest in residence here in 1635 by name Fr. Antonio. He had written a letter about this church to his superiors in Goa.
Portuguese kings had stopped sending financial aid and there was no financial support from the local converts. The churches were then facing financial crises. The annual contribution of the faithful was something like approximately Rs. 750/- per year says Silva Reg in ‘Documentacao’. This would mean that the average Sunday collection would be Rs. 10/-. The feast day mass or Christmas or Lenten contribution were separate.
There was a monastery of the Franciscans at Palle in 1730. Fr. Humbert informs us that the Franciscan fathers quit during the Maratha invasion in 1739 and it appears that the church and the Friary built by the Franciscans in honour of the Immaculate Conception, was destroyed during this invasion.
The Church in Palle was rebuilt between 1840-44. This building was on a new site about a hundred feet west of the original site. Even to this day the people of Vasai refer to this Church by its Portuguese name “Mae de Deus”. In 1854 the Catholic population of Palle was 1215 and in 1859 it was 1397. Rev. Fr. Manuel Salvador Pimenta on June 13, 1932 had bought for Mother of God Church a Title No. 609 from Nathea Govind Thakur survey No. 8 Hissa 4 and total land was 4 ½ gunthas and another piece of land from survey no. 9 hissa no.10 i.e. about 9 gunthas for Rs. 299/- only. The same priests bought 4 gunthas land in Pardi no. 24 and 7 guntha land from pardi no. 15 from Celestine Jerome D’Souza for Rs. 395/- as title no. 838 on September 23, 1937. Fr. M. S. Pimenta was wise enough to buy another plot of land for the Mother of God Church on January 31, 1939, from Tomu Jesinho D’Silva 11 gunthas from survey no 7 and 1 guntha from pardi no 13 for Rs. 495/-. This was title no 159.
Land from Dharma Devu Bhoir was purchased on May 29, 1942, by the parish priest Fr. Pimenta. One acre and 37 gunthas from Survey no 88. Hissa 1; and 1 acre 31½ gunthas from Survey No. 88. Hissa 3 for Rs. 495/-. Fr. J. Miranda may have come to this church from June 1942 but within two months into his tenure on August 20, 1942 he bought a plot of land from Pandurang Shinga Janglicha, a koli measuring 20¼ from Survey no. 8 and Hissa no 1 for Rs. 299/-. He also did another deal for Rs. 799/- and bought land from Janardan Nathubhai Thakur on January 1, 1943. This was 5 ¾ gunthas from Survey no. 9 hissa no 10/1 and 6¾ gunthas from survey no. 9 hissa 12. All this land was leased in favour of Zuzu Thomu D’Mello and Francis Zuzu D’Mello on June 3, 1942. This Parish consists of 1230 families with around 5,200 parishioners. It even today is addressed by its original Portuguese name “Mae de Deus”. Nirmal Church is said to have been built in 1556. The Mother of God Church is situated on the southern end of Vasai just opposite to Panju Island which is one and half km away from Naigaon Railway Station. The Church is fringed with palm grooves and flanked by the waters of Arabian Sea. Every year on 18 December, hundreds of faithful visit the Church to commemorate the Feast of Mother of God.