Born and raised in southwest India on the Malabar coast, Fr. Varghese was invited to consider the priesthood by his parish priest. Attending daily Mass and serving at the altar, "Rince" entered the seminary at age 15 and was ordained a priest in 2005 at the age of 25. With a special love for the poor, Fr. Varghese felt called to leave his home diocese in Kerala and relocate cross-country to mission work in the Diocese of Visakhapatnam. He serves Holy Family Mission in Yelleswaram, and four rural outposts amidst people known as the "untouchables."
|Life in Andrah Pradesh means sweltering summers without|
air-conditioning, when temperatures can rise as high as 117ºF.
Although officially outlawed, a caste system still persists in India, dividing peoples into various classes. The "untouchables" are the poorest group, and struggle for basic survival and human rights. With a love for simplicity, Fr. Varghese has taken on the lifestyle of his people, taking public transportation to reach his scattered missions, eating the simple, rice-based diet of the people, and experiencing inconveniences of the region such as frequent power outages and inadequate water supply.
Boiling his water and adapting to Yelleswaram's new climate, food and lifestyle was a struggle at first, says Fr. Varghese. A speaker of Malayalam, he learned the language of the region, Telugu, through immersion. He now speaks and writes Telugu fluently. The characters of this ancient Dravidian language seem exotic to English-speakers.
Fr. Varghese visits the sick, and provides special outreach to help with material needs. He has distributed blankets to the elderly, helped feed the hungry, housed the homeless and helped with relief efforts when the East Godavari River overflowed its banks this past September through October, in the worst flooding in the region in 20 years.
|Fr. Varghese helped feed and house 150 displaced flood|
victims during 2012 monsoons.
|People travel for miles on rough roads to reach Fr.'s mission.|
Shown in the background is his little residence or "presbytery."
Fifty-year-old Holy Family Church...