MUMBAI, India – A priest who was a pioneer of education in the Archdiocese of Bombay who died on Thursday was hailed as a “great educator and visionary” during his funeral Mass on Friday.

Msgr. Nereus Rodrigues, 97, spent over 60 years in the archdiocese’s education apostolate and was the founder of St. Andrew’s College.

During his time in education ministry, Rodrigues served as the inspector of Catholic Schools. He also headed the Headmasters’ Association, which represented all schools – religious and secular, and was once awarded the State’s Best Teacher Award. Later, he was elected the president of the All-India National Association of Catholic Schools.

Msgr. Nereus Rodrigues. (Credit: Courtesy to Crux.)

“No doubt his loss is huge. But his legacy looms much larger,” said Jesuit Father Charles Rodrigues, the late priest’s nephew, in a video message played during the funeral.

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“With his head Father Nereus was an extraordinary planner, organizer, thinker and administrator. But those of us who knew him well would be moved by his tender heart that cared for people, prayed for people and built life-long relationships—across generations and all around the globe–that still endure,” the Jesuit said.

“Yes, he always made time for his family and for so many others who approached him for wisdom and counsel. But his ‘prime time’ was always for the Eucharist and prayer. Many of you may know Father Nereus as an exemplary disciplinarian; not many would know what an incredibly disciplined life he lived himself—in his diet, his habits, his correspondence, his reading and scholarship—but above all in his time for prayer,” his nephew continued.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias presided at the service, and said despite his age, Rodrigues still had much to offer the archdiocese

“I felt sad, I felt strange [when he heard of the death]. He had so much yet to do, he had so much unfinished business so many ideas so much wisdom, so much guidance,” the cardinal said.

“He was my own parish priest, my only parish priest, I was his assistant, and he molded us into one family: The priests, the sisters all worked together,” Gracias continued.

Father Magi Murzello, the current rector of St. Andrew’s College, told Crux the news of Rodrigues’s death was “terribly heartbreaking.”

“His passing is a big loss to the archdiocese. Monsignor left a rich legacy behind,” he said.