Fr. George D’Souza SJ was born in Pune on April 3rd, 1938.
After graduating from St. Vincent’s High School in 1954, he studied for a year at Wadia College. He joined the Vinayalaya novitiate on June 20th 1955. Between his philosophy (1959-1963) and theology studies (1964-1968) at the Papal Athenaeum, Ramwadi, he spent two years teaching, and running the boarding at Dnyanmata Vidyalaya, Sangamner. He was ordained a priest on 17th March 1967 on St. Vincent’s grounds, Pune. He studied the sociology of development at the Delhi School of Economics from 1969 to 1971 gaining his MA. In 1972-73 he did his tertianship under Fr. Anthony D’Mello.
This was interrupted when he was asked in 1973 to organize and manage the famine relief service for the Nagar district on behalf of Caritas. He continued this work and other tasks connected with famine relief, rural development and so on till 1986. He pronounced his Final Vows in February 1977.
George visited Switzerland for the first time in 1981 and made a stay of three months in Africa – in Senegal and Burkina Faso – at the request the Swiss NGO ‘Direction for Development and Cooperation’ (DDC) which wanted to carry out a study on the differences between African societies and Indian societies, namely, on the system of tribes and castes. It is during this mission that he got in touch with several members of the DDC, with whom he continued to collaborate.
In 1984, during his second visit to Switzerland, he met the director of the University Institute for Developmental Studies (IUED), now the Higher Institute of International Studies and Development (IHEID), at the University of Geneva (UNIGE). The same Institute offered him a post of visiting professor.
George was active in the international community of Geneva, notably as a visiting professor at the University Institute for Development Studies (IUED) of UNIGE (1986-1991), and as an accredited observer at UN. He also collaborated with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (DDC) on microcredit projects in Bangladesh and Senegal.
During the 1980s, George D’Souza was commissioned by the DDC to evaluate the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC). He continued working with the DDC to evaluate micro-credit strategies in Bangladesh and Senegal in order to find ways to alleviate mass poverty.
In addition, he attended the UN Human Rights Council meetings for many years as an accredited observer, focusing on the status and treatment of the poorest people in India, including Dalits, and on relations between India and Pakistan.
Fr. George D’Souza was a member of the Pune Jesuits for over 50 years before being trans-scribed to the Swiss Jesuit province in February 2008, but had already joined the Geneva Jesuit Community some years earlier.
On October 13th evening, George had a nasty fall on a street not far from the Jesuit residence. Passers by called emergency services and he was moved to the intensive care unit of the regional Hospital of Geneva. He was in a coma till the end. On October 16th around 7pm, he passed away in hospital surrounded by his relatives and members of his Jesuit Community.
Our sure hope is that he rests in the peace and joy his Creator and Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ, who welcomes all who have served the poor and the suffering. For the person and life of Fr. George we give thanks.
- Tony Sequeira, SJ