Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pilgrim journeys

A Lenten pilgrimage led Holy Family parishioners to three
distant shrines known for healing.
Holy Family Mission's Lenten pilgrimage got off to a tough start. At 4 AM Sunday, March 17, 2013, pilgrims gathered at the Yelleswaram mission, only to find that the bus company had sent a vehicle with 35 seats, for a 42-person group. If they went by this bus, the children and some others would have to "sit on the floor," explained Fr. Varghese. That would cause real suffering in an unairconditioned school bus traveling "300 kilometers up, and 300 kilometers down" over rugged roads.

Parish elders stepped in to negotiate and reorganize plans, and the tour to shrines  in Gowripatnam, Pedda Autupalli and Gunadala was rescheduled for two days later. In the meanwhile, Fr. Varghese had awakened the night before with a fever. His doctor came for a house visit, gave him an antibiotic injection and "fever tablets," and Fr. Varghese was recovered in time to lead parishioners on their Lenten journey.

Pilgrims headed first to the impressive Nirmala Giri Mary Matha Shrine
in Gowripatnam.

Many of the pilgrims were "deekshas," a group who lived special vows of
penitence and prayer throughout Lent. 
At the Nirmala Giri Mary Matha Shrine. Nirmala means
"spotless" and "immaculate."

The pilgrimage was "really wonderful," said Fr. Varghese. "Everyone was happy. Early morning at 5 AM we had holy Mass celebrating St. Joseph Feast...On the way we were praising God, praying rosaries and singing. All were moved by the spirit." Father spoke of several older ladies who were "crying out of happiness" to be on pilgrimage. Many had never before traveled far outside their villages.
The second shrine visit brought pilgrims to Pedda Autupalli
to honor Brother Joseph Thambi.

This 19th-century missionary
had a deep love for the poor.
Holy Family pilgrims pray at Brother Joseph Thambi's tomb.
Many who pray here attest to special healing and prayers answered.
Brother Joseph Thambi's cause is up for beatification.
Roads were "hopeless," says Fr. Varghese. "But we had a good driver. Somehow, without much trouble he took us." A midday stop at a seminary in Gannavaram offered refreshment to the pilgrims.

Pilgrims at the seminary in Gannavaram.
A priest in Gannavaram gives a spiritual talk.
The third shrine visited was in Gunadala. Here, pilgrims climb a hill to pray, traditionally offering penance by meditating on the rosary while circling on their knees a giant crucifix.

Offering penance on the hilltop shrine at Gunadala.
Marian images abounded throughout the day. Holy Family faithful have a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.

Setting aside a day of pilgrimage forges strong faith, and bonds families and parishioners. 

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