Jul 4, 1924 – Oct 10, 2016
On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, the statue of St. Andrew dressed in a brown robe in its niche at the entrance of St. Andrew’s Church, looked down benignly on the final journey of its creator, Flavian Frank, whose funeral wound its way below. For Flavian it was a homecoming to a church he knew well. His artistic genius had shaped some of the statues in the church – the outdoor statue of St. Andrew and the Pieta which is at the side – towards the back of the church. Flavian also crafted the double sided Crucifix (Msgr. George Fernandes’ idea) which for many years hung between the main altar and the front pews.
The facet of his life as a sculptor remained unknown till his son mentioned it in his eulogy and tickled an interest to elicit further details. Flavian Frank began his career working as an apprentice in Mangalore for a renowned sculptor. His sculpturing skills were neither in-born nor inherited, but with dedication, self-motivation, hard-work and self-confidence, he established himself as an entrepreneur in his early twenties. When he came to Bombay in 1947, he made statues comparable in quality to the ones imported from Italy. As he grew in confidence he set up the “Flavian Statuary Company” at Mahim. Over time, he started supplying statues to various churches in Bombay and later all over India and beyond – to Karachi, Sri Lanka and Nairobi. Some of his other handiworks were crucifixes at the Goregaon Seminary, life size statue of Our Lady at Marinagar compound in Mahim and statues for Fr. Agnel’s Ashram Bandra.
Many years later, in New York, he noticed a statue of Our Lady with a missing palm at one of Mother Teresa’s convents. As was his nature, he volunteered to restore the hand. Although, he had long since retired, he had not forgotten his skills and did such an excellent job of repairing it even without a mould, that the nuns were so highly impressed that they suggested he should set up shop in New York!!
But it was not just the statues in St. Andrew’s that bore witness to the faith and dedication of Flavian. He was seen regularly hobbling amidst Hill Road’s merciless rush hour traffic on his way to and from church from daily mass. It was a heart-stopping time for all those who watched with bated breath till he successfully crossed, generally eschewing assistance, as he was a strong votary of self-dependence till almost a week prior to his last journey.
As testimony to his active Christian life, Flavian belonged to the SVP, serving the underprivileged. He was known to actively participate in social causes and civic society through active involvement in the ALM; promoting garbage recycling; resolving local issues and signature campaigns for improving civic amenities and services. He also participated in social outreach as a member of the Bombay Catholic Sabha.
Flavian’s life was a testimony of ‘giving’. He led a simple life, spending little on himself…but giving generously – often silently and anonymously. Being a man of few words, he let his actions speak for themselves.
For years Uncle Flavian would be seen every evening briskly walking down Bandstand, with a trademark stride he loved to call his ‘Soldier’s walk’. Among his admirers were people of various communities and age groups who would take a break from their evening walk to tell him that he was an inspiration. He had a small fan following who tried to pries out of him his secret to a healthy and long life. He’d succinctly reply: ‘Spiritual exercise and physical exercise’!!
……….. a road paved with good intentions – and deeds!!!!!