It was on January 26th, 1959 that the statue of Our Lady, Mother of the Forsaken, was enthroned in its present shrine. The following is its meandering history.
Origins at Valencia, Spain: 1409.In 1409 Fr. Gilbert Jofre was once strolling through the
streets of Valencia, Spain, when he saw a poor, mentally deranged man, being harassed by some people. Fr. Gilbert Jofre thought an institution should be started to house such forsaken people. He proposed the idea in his sermon on February 24th, 1409, and the result was the first mental hospital, “Mother of the Forsaken” Shrine was built.
In Gujarat. In the early 1930’s, a young Jesuit Missionary from Valencia, Fr. Vincent Tena, S.J. felt that Gujarat needed a Marian shrine. The one at Valencia seemed to be just the right answer. The sculptor, Senor Cuesta started a replica of the statue, when disaster struck. He was put in jail during the turbulent Spanish civil War (1936-1939) before he could complete it. His house was raided, his collection of works destroyed, but mysteriously this status, destined for Gujarat, remained intact! After the wait, it was completed. On 21st November 1950, it was given a fond farewell, reaching Mumbai on 26th January 1951. The statue did not reach Gujarat immediately. It was kept at the Chapel of St. Xavier’s High School, Mumbai, for a short time. Finally, the statue was sent to Baroda by a special railway car, normally allotted to high-ranking officials. Devotees gathered on the platforms of the main stations along the way up to Baroda. The Catholics of Baroda welcomed it at the railway station and took it in a procession to the Rosary Church, where it was kept for about seven years.
The present Shrine. The statue was an “honored guest” at rosary Church, nut a guest after all. When Fr. T. Campos S.J took over as Parish Priest in 1956, he strongly felt it deserved a home of its own. An old bungalow at Fatehgunj, owned by an English lady, Mrs. Powell, who was returning to England, seemed to answer the need. The Sale Deed was completed on 17th September 1956. The necessary adaptations were made in the Bungalow to receive “The Mother of the Forsaken”. The parishioners of the Rosary Church bade her grand farewell on Jan. 25th 1959 and the next day, 26th January 1959, they escorted the Statue to the present Shrine in crowds through the street of the town praying and singing. The present Shrine was planned by Fr. T. Campos S.J., and on 26th Jan. 1971, Rev. Bishop Ignatius D’souza DD, laid the foundation stone. The inauguration was held on 11th May 1975.
From then onwards, people have always “felt” the showers of blessings that flow daily from her tender heart upon all who appeal to her. Not much later, Our Lady made her presence felt visibly through several incidents revealing her graces and compassion.