Sunday, April 28, 2013

Confirmations Postponed until June 2

A volunteer enjoys a meal break at
Holy Family Mission.
First, the good news. Activity peaked at Holy Family Mission around a week ago, when a compact diesel-powered cement mixer started churning out cement for the foundation of the new stage.  Volunteers carried stones, sand and cement, filling the forms to create foundation walls. In spite of brutal temperatures around 109-degrees F., people's spirits were high. When the forms came down, sturdy walls remained.

Something to celebrate:
Now, for challenging news. Building activity slowed this past week when funds ran dry. Fr. Varghese met with his workers and everyone agreed the work needed to pause. Father refuses to go into debt for this project, so the cement roof and floor of the stage can not be poured until more funds appear.  At this point, not enough time remains to pour the cement and let it cure for the original May 8th Confirmation date. 

When Fr. Varghese called the Archbishop's office, the secretary said, "Oh, Father. The Archbishop was asking to change the Confirmation date due to the heat." Temperatures have been hovering around 109-degrees F., so that May 8th date needed to change, anyway. That buys the workers a little extra time, but not much.
Working outside all day in 100-plus temperatures
is grueling. A worker takes a needed break.
People have signed vouchers promising donations, but struggle to cover basic living expenses in a state where 69% of the population earns less than $2 a day. Most people can't give a donation until payday, at the end of the month. Meanwhile, laborers are willing, but supplies are scarce. 

"People have learned very well" in their Confirmation classes over the past weeks since Easter, says Fr. Varghese. Their spiritual preparation is coming along nicely. So why the urgency to build a stage?

This group of faithful  took special vows of penance
 during Lent. No sooner was Easter celebrated, than the Mission
entered an intense and special period  of formation for
Confirmations, a time Father has called
 a "Way of the Cross."
"We expect nearly 2,000 people" on Confirmation day, explains the priest. "The church can accommodate a maximum of 1,000."

Since Father's mission covers scattered villages and four mission outposts besides Holy Family, tribal people will travel in from far and wide for the event.

Although Archbishop Prakash Mallavarapu feared temperatures would be too intense for participants on the original May 8th date, volunteers have continued gathering at the mission nearly daily to clean and beautify the buildings and grounds. Altar boys scrubbed Father's little house with whisk brooms, and now the house wears a new coat of paint. Everyone wants to honor their Archbishop and the coming of the Holy Spirit by making their mission shine.

Please consider donating to help these people who are so faithful and willing to labor for their God, but who need a helping hand.  100% of donations that come through the Paypal donation button at right, go directly to Fr. Varghese and his people, for their mission's basic operating costs and for their new stage, which will serve the community for years to come. God bless you for your prayers and generosity!

Altar boys scrubbed Fr. Varghese's two-bedroom house
so it could be painted.

Text by Marianna Bartholomew
Photos by Fr. Varghese

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pray for our dream and a miracle

Holy Family's new stage will benefit the mission 
and the surrounding community for years to come.
The old, crumbling concrete slab has given way to this 
new framework.
The concrete base of the new stage is curing and Fr. Varghese, his altar boys and other volunteers are watering the pillars to keep them from drying and cracking under the fierce sun. Will their new stage be completed by the May 8th deadline?

Unlike America, "we don't have latest equipment or techniques to make work go faster," says Fr. Varghese. "We always depend on manual and daily labor."

Just a few days ago, funds ran dry and volunteers stayed home. A few concerned friends sent a donation to provide supplies. But more funds are needed for this project to be completed by May 8th, when Archbishop Prakash Mallavarapu arrives to celebrate the first Confirmations held at Holy Family Mission in ten years!

Holy Family Church is too tiny to fit the projected overflow crowds accompanying 200 Confirmandis, their sponsors and families. A crumbling concrete slab on the property was an eyesore and had to go. Day after day, volunteers have been arriving by foot, bicycle and scooter, and working toward this dream: a worthy setting for their Confirmation ceremony and other future events. 
Volunteers are smiling in spite of 109-degree F. heat!
Even non-Catholics in the area are interested in the new stage taking shape, says Fr. Varghese, and some have donated supplies like stones. When the structure is complete, the mission can rent the stage out for community events, generating much-needed income to cover basic expenses like water and electrical bills.

Volunteers are also helping to build a staircase to the top of Father's two-bedroom home two miles outside Yelleswaram, India. If the staircase is ready in time, Father will invite the Archbishop to climb up and take a meal under the leaves. 
Scrubbing Fr.'s presbytery is one way to cool down.
With no air conditioning in Father's home and temperatures reaching 109-degrees F., the new rooftop nest will do more than offer visitors a shady retreat. The hottest midsummer nights drive Fr. Varghese from his stifling house. He lies under a tree trying to catch a breeze, hoping cobras and other wildlife keep their distance. A rooftop retreat will allow for better sleep, a precious gift to a missionary often awakened for emergency calls to the sick and dying.
Cooking up a meal to feed volunteers.

Volunteers are excited to help beautify their little mission.
"Please pray for our dream," urges Fr. Varghese. 

He and his people have their hearts set on a suitable setting for their Confirmations and have been putting all their heart and efforts toward that goal. All funds sent through this site's donation button until May 8th will help Holy Family Mission with construction and daily maintenance costs, and with preparations for May 8th Confirmations. 

See previous posts for more amazing photos!

Text by Marianna Bartholomew
Photos by Fr. Varghese

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Classes and construction continue for May 8th

Sisters of St. John Bosco in Yelleswaram, India, are helping Fr. Varghese teach the faithful in preparation for May 8th Confirmations. Around 200 candidates aged 12-45 will be standing up before Archbishop Prakash Mallavarapu of the Archdiocese of Visakhapatnam.
Volunteers are laying the last framework for a new stage for the event, since Holy Family Church is too tiny to hold the projected overflow crowds. Today, Fr. Varghese said families were working in 43-degree Celsius temperatures (that's 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit)! The foundation is scheduled to be poured tomorrow, and Father promises to send more photos. The deadline for completing the stage is very tight and funds are scarce, so please keep Holy Family Mission in prayer. Any funds sent through this site's donation button at right will be sent in their entirety to aid the Mission in preparing for its Confirmation ceremony on May 8th. 

See more photos and info. about their stage project here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

This pious organisation named "MARIADALAM SODALITY" helps me in prayer and parish activity

We formed this group for pious activities and as a payer group. They do church cleaning, family visiting, visiting the sick, donation collection, Saturday prayer leading, free cleaning of the mission compounds, and they pray for different intentions of the world and the Church.

"We are happy to work for the Lord"

Monday, April 15, 2013

Just three weeks more for a miracle to unfold...

Raising pillars for a platform roof takes team effort.
Dozens of volunteers have pulled down the old, crumbling concrete slab on Holy Family Mission property and are erecting a proper platform. The energy and activity around the Mission is incredible. People heard their Archbishop would be coming to celebrate the first Confirmations here in ten years, and they got to work. Skilled craftsmen are helping with the most technical steps, but the rest is being handled by the faithful. From young to old, everyone senses the urgency, since the ceremony is set for May 8th. Will they meet the deadline?

Read how their whole project began, here.

Besides keeping alive the sacramental life of his scattered missions with daily Mass, and filling all the roles of a pastor (visiting the sick, counseling the troubled, organizing catechists, etc.), Fr. Varghese (below in checked shirt) is right on hand overseeing and helping with construction.

In spite of India's mid-Summer heat, spirits are high as people transport dirt, rocks and brick.
An assembly-line approach speeds the work. Below, volunteers unload bricks amidst Holy Family Mission's little Plantain grove.

Bringing order to chaos is back-straining work!

Parishioners are asking for local donations for supplies like bricks and sand. The problem, said Fr. Varghese, is that nobody gets paid until the end of the month. Also, while the people give what they can to keep their mission running, most parishioners are "coolies," unskilled day laborers such as field workers and rickshaw drivers. Their wages are slim.

Parishioners are seeking donations locally for supplies like stones and bricks.
Elders are canvassing the area for donations. People
promise to provide funds by a certain date and then
receive this "voucher," written in the local Telugu
language.  Most people are "coolies," unskilled
 laborers, and don't get paid until the end
of this month, so funds are running dry.
Please pray that this Dalit community raises enough funds to complete their new "stage" and to host a dignified and beautiful Confirmation ceremony. The focus, of course, is on the coming of the Holy Spirit, and special classes are already in session to complete the formation of those about to receive the Sacrament. Confirmation candidates and their sponsors total around 400 people! Please keep them and their families in prayer.

Some day, this child might tell grandchildren about how people
flocked to the mission to work together in a time of need. 

Still a long way to go, but...
villagers are seeing a miracle unfold as they transform a pile of dust into something beautiful to honor God.

Text by Marianna Bartholomew
Photos (except the one in which he appears) by Fr. Varghese.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Setting the stage for the Archbishop's visit

Volunteers use an assembly-line approach to remove excess dirt from the
construction site.
It's been an exciting week at Holy Family Mission! The formal announcement about Archbishop Prakash Mallavarapu coming on May 8th to celebrate the first Confirmations here in ten years happened at Fr. Varghese's Sunday Masses. By the next day, volunteers were gathered at the mission compound to start preparing for the big event. Men and women wielded sledgehammers to break up an old concrete stage on the property (See photos here). They stood barefooted or in sandals, digging through rubble with bare hands. 

On Tuesday, a parishioner who just started his own business brought a large digging machine. In thanks for prayers answered, he volunteered his labor, and the machine dug out an area for a new stage.   (See Fr. Varghese's post.)

Volunteers returned the next day to remove excess dirt. Piles of dirt, pebbles and larger chunks of rock grew as children joined in the work, sifting dirt by hand through strainers.
Most Holy Family parishioners are day laborers called "coolies." They
lack formal education and literacy, but are generous in giving time
and energy to the church. Here, volunteers construct frames to be placed
on gravel before cement for the stage is poured.
Paid laborers were needed today for more technical aspects of the work, says Fr. Varghese, but "tomorrow we need more volunteers for pillaring." Soon we'll see photos of those new pillars for the stage, rising into the sky...
This old stage, a project begun 13 years ago by a previous pastor but
never completed, is now history. By God's grace and the people's hard work,
the crumbling, uneven foundation will soon be replaced by
a sturdy new structure.
The mission is buzzing with activity as parishioners pour volunteer
time and labor into preparing a space for their landmark
Confirmation ceremony.
Funds are urgently needed to complete this project! The Archdiocese of Visakhapatnam is a mission diocese with no funds to contribute to Holy Family's upcoming Confirmation. When Fr. Varghese approached the five nuns at the local Catholic high school, they offered their service and prayers, but said, "Father, we have no money to give. Our mother house was unable to send us any funding this year."

So, please keep Holy Family Mission, Fr. Varghese and all his people, in your prayers. And consider showing your support in a practical way by sending a much-needed donation through paypal. The "donation" button at right is a secure and easy method.

God bless you for your love and concern for India's missionaries and the faithful they serve.

Text by Marianna Bartholomew
Photos by Fr. Varghese