Father Johnbosco Villaphadass, known in the community as Father John Bosco, was only one week away from returning to his home in India for his brother’s wedding when he was struck by a vehicle late Wednesday evening.
“It’s a shock to all of us,” said Bishop Peter Joseph Hundt of the Corner Brook and Labrador Diocese of the Roman Catholic church. “He walked three times a day in that area where there was very seldom vehicles at all. We can’t believe this could have happened.”
Villaphadass came to the diocese in November 2014 and began his work in Bird Cove in February the following year. He spent most of his time in Newfoundland in the area. He was known to travel home to India each summer.
Hundt says while the Bird Cove is deeply saddened by his loss, it’s particularly sad for Villaphadass’ family with his return so close.
The RCMP in Flower’s Cove responded to the accident around 8 p.m.
Police say Villaphadass died while en route to hospital. No one else was injured in the accident and the police say their investigation is ongoing.
Irene Myers, town clerk and chairperson for Bird Cove’s Our Lady of Grace parish, said Villaphadass enjoyed walked in the area where the accident occurred.
“He found that was one of the best places to walk because there wasn’t much traffic,” she said.
Villaphadass was known to enjoy his time in Bird Cove more with each passing year and left a lasting impression on the community. Myers saw Villaphadass on a daily basis and said he was always conversational and happy.
“He would always have something to talk about,” she said. “If I didn’t see him one day, I knew he had to be off to Corner Brook or somewhere.
“He was doing good work here and got along with everyone.”
Bird Cove local Regina Purcell was like family to Father Bosco. The two had grown to have such a loving and caring relationship that Villaphadass soon began to call her his mother away from home.
When he needed help cleaning the house, preparing meals for guests, organizing with the church, or a friend to speak with, he always called Purcell.
“We were very close and we were always together,” said Purcell. “He told me he could trust me with everything.”
Moving from India to a rural outport in Newfoundland can be a considerable adjustment. Purcell said he was nervous at first but would catch on to things very fast and came to be very comfortable with the community. He became like a member of her family.
“There’s so much I’d like to say but don’t have the words right now,” Purcell said, choked and emotionally strained by the loss of Villaphadass.
Father Bosco’s death marks the second time a priest has been killed in a motor vehicle collision in the community of Bird Cove. In January 2013,
Father Biju Antony was killed in a collision with a snowplow. For a town that is overwhelmingly Catholic, it has been a devastating tragedy to all.
There are plans for a wake service and funeral mass in Bird Cove before Villaphadass’ body is taken to India where a funeral and burial will take place.
“Father Bosco was a good priest, a friendly priest, and we believe that he’s gone home to eternal life,” said Hundt. “The grief here is not for him but for us because we’ve lost a friend.”
* This story has been updated to include Father Johnbosco Villaphadass' full name, some additional information, as well as comments from Irene Myers and Regina Purcell.