Sunday, May 26, 2013

Deadly heat wave kills 274 in Andhra Pradesh

A vicious heat wave has been sweeping India, causing multiple deaths. See updates here. Fr. Varghese said temperatures topped 116.6-degrees F. over the weekend. He lacks air conditioning, along with his scattered villagers, so it's hard to fathom the depth of people's suffering and how they're keeping well in the extreme heat. Fr. wrote, "Pray for Andhra Pradesh. Lots of sun stroke is taking place." Unbelievably, volunteers are still working to have all in place by their June 2 Confirmation date. Many are coming at night to avoid the intense sun. Yes, pray for the people of India -- for a cooling breeze over the nation -- and for Holy Family Mission and its 200 candidates for Confirmation.



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Countdown to Confirmations on June 2nd...

Holy Family girls prepare a welcoming dance
for their Archbishop, for when he visits the mission June 2.
Confirmations at Holy Family Mission in Yelleswaram, India, are just 10 days away. Helpers from the Archdiocese of Visakhapatnam have visited to prepare the people spiritually, catechism classes continue, Fr. Varghese and parishioners are still going door-to-door to raise needed funds for the event, and Fr. and his volunteers have been preparing the mission daily. Construction of a sturdy new concrete stage is nearing completion. The stage was also a dream of a previous pastor 12 years ago, who saw the need to have a dignified setting for special Masses and events. The new stage will serve the mission for years to come, as a special extension of the little church. Renting the stage to the surrounding community will generate some income for the struggling mission.
Fr. Varghese led prayers to start out the final day of cement
pouring for Holy Family Mission's new stage.
Because their church is too tiny to hold the some 2,000 people expected for Confirmation day, a rented tent and sound system are also needed. Water and a simple meal will be provided, to keep people well in the 100-plus degree temperatures. An itemized list of needs are outlined in the "Fundly" campaign shown in the box at right. Click on the title to donate or to support the Fundly campaign for free. 
If the stage's new concrete roof is not moistened by 
9 AM each morning, it will crack as it cures.
Drawing water from the mission's bore well.
Watching the progress of a bucket as it's hoisted
up to the roof by a rope.
On May 24th, temperatures reached 116.6-degrees F. around
the Kakinada region. Fr. Varghese and his young
volunteers sifted sand from gravel, preparing for
workers who would arrive later that evening.
Getting a roof on the stage was a grueling process that took a huge team effort in mid-summer heat.
With no fancy construction equipment, workers
have to use ingenuity and determination to
get the job done.

The head becomes a useful carrying tool and a plaintain
leaf shelters a worker from the intense sun.
Little ones are curious about all the activity.
Workers take a welcome chai break.

Manually lifting concrete to the roof and pouring it,
 is tough and time-consuming.
Workers have to watch their step. One fell 15
feet off the stage roof last week and Fr. Varghese
ran to do first aid. 
Parishioners were thrilled to receive the donation
of 10 bags of cement.
Fr. Varghese has been overseeing and working side by side with
his people every day since Easter, to beautify their mission.
Here, he takes a rest near the Marian shrine he and volunteers
constructed out of stones from a nearby river.
Laying the final cement in a project that will bless
Holy Family Mission for years to come.

Soon to be complete...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

On this special Feast of Pentecost, Father Varghese and his
altar servers prepared the altar with special care.
People leave sandals at the door and pack in closely together
before the altar. Most sit cross-legged, with just a few
rows of chairs in the back.

During the Presentation of the Gifts (here and next two photos),
many parishioners offer rice or fruit instead of rupees (India's
currency), doing whatever they can to support their mission. 

Fr. uses the food for his meals, and to feed the poor and 
volunteers at his mission.

Faithful pray as temperatures soar in the crowded church.
Open shutters provide little relief in temperatures more than
109 degrees F.
Father heard more than 100 Confessions 
in the open air.

Spiritual preparations continue for those being Confirmed
on June 2. Mr. Srangaram and Mr. Seshu Babu (shown above) 
the Mariadalem Sodality and the Archdiocese of Visakhapatnam 
came to talk about the importance of the Sacrament of 
Confirmation. About 200 people aged 12-45 are
planning to be Confirmed.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Going door-to-door, construction hazards and more...

A volunteer takes a work-break for a meal. Fr. Varghese
feeds workers who put in many hours preparing his mission
for June 2nd.
Confirmations are little more than two weeks away and Fr. Varghese and his people are going door-to-door through villages begging funds to cover costs. The last weeks have been exciting...and grueling. Temperatures have reached as high as 109-degrees F. Work on mission projects has stalled several times as funds ran low for supplies. A couple days ago, a worker fell 15 feet off the new stage roof, and Fr. Varghese ran to do first aid. He said the man is strong, and recovering. The focus remains on the spiritual formation of those being Confirmed. But volunteers of all ages have also tackled these other projects: Ongoing cleaning of church and grounds, whitewashing the presbytery, building a stage to host the event, constructing a much-needed staircase to the roof of the presbytery, canvassing door-to-door for donations.
Members of the "Mariadalem Sodality" tidy up around the mission.
It's not all work around the mission. Cricket, anyone?
Their mission Archdiocese of Visakhapatnam is struggling too much financially to offer Holy Family Church special help for its June 2nd event, the first Confirmations held in Yelleswaram in 10 years. Ever since Easter week, when parishioners learned around 200 faithful would be confirmed on June 2nd and that their Archbishop would be coming for this historic event, they have been volunteering in every way to make the day a success. A new "Fundly" campaign has been launched to help raise needed funds. Click on the title of the campaign link at top right box, see some more great photos and a description and list of needs, and become a "supporter" for free, or a donor.   

Regular chores at the mission continue, such as cleaning 
church candlesticks and tamarind fruit harvesting. 
The pod-like tamarind is used in cooking and 
in traditional medicines.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A forest journey

The day after his ordination anniversary, Fr. Varghese helped a fellow priest move supplies to a new mission assignment. The trip involved an 8-hour bus ride north into remote territory, and then a two-hour trek through dense forest, home to tigers, poisonous snakes, and elephants.
The Sileru River, crawling with crocodiles.
Shrines to various deities dot the countryside, in a region that is 98% Hindu.
India's characteristic conical hills.

A roadside "shop."
The drought has been "heavy" this year, says Fr. Varghese, and every living
thing is struggling.
Water supplies are contaminated.
The mission has stood vacant for six months, so needs a lot
of care. Fr. Varghese and Fr. Bhaskar spent the night in a room
full of rats and mosquitos. 
Villagers told the priests that a tiger had come from the forest that
night and taken a newborn baby while the mother was out fetching
water. Please keep this suffering mother and family in prayer.
Arranging wares at a local market.
Seeking shade is essential in temperatures more than 109 degrees F.

In this area of no electricity or phone service, the people's lifestyles are

Fr. Bhaskar has degrees in education and music, and is taking up work as the principal of a little school amongst the "aborgin" people. He is packing in a "harmonium" to share his gift for music. The harmonium is a keyboard instrument operated by a bellows!

Of course, the most important thing Fr. Bhaskar will share, is his love of God. He is shown below at left, processing into Mass on May 5, Fr. Varghese's ordination anniversary.

In Fr. Bhaskar's new location, access to emergency healthcare is non-existent, and a lack of electricity and phones will cut him off from the outside world. As you pray and support Fr. Varghese and Holy Family Mission, as the new June 2 date for Confirmation approaches (the date was rescheduled from May to June due to severe heat and lack of funds), please also pray for protection for Fr. Bhaskar...God's blessings on his ministry!