Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June 2nd Confirmations draw 2,000

This picture says it all -- gratitude. Fr. Varghese
(hand on chest) and Archbishop Prakash
Mallavarapu exchange glances at the event. 
Days of deadly temperatures reaching up to 116-degrees F. and a stage construction project that encountered weeks of tough challenges, did not stop the historic June 2nd Confirmations in Yelleswaram. The Holy Spirit descended upon 212 Confirmandis at Holy Family Mission at the first Confirmations held there in 10 years, thanks to a rainstorm that dropped temperatures to what Fr. Varghese described as "pleasant," heroic labors of volunteers, and funds that arrived anonymously in the nick of time. Parishioners painted, cleaned and arranged up until the last moment, finishing just half an hour before adoration began on June 2. Results were miraculous.
Incense rises toward heaven like prayers
as the entrance procession forms.
Blessing the faithful with holy water.
 Fr. Varghese is left of the Archbishop.
The Archbishop cuts the ceremonial ribbon and blesses the new 
stage before the Mass and Confirmation ceremony.
The stage, just one day before Confirmations...
...and completed, shown with
Our Lady of Good Health, gift of a donor.

Archbishop Prakash Mallavarapu of the Archdiocese of Visakhapatnam praised the discipline and hard work of the faithful, who fulfilled a 12-year-old dream by completing their new stage. The Archbishop also commended the people's young, energetic pastor, urging people to appreciate Fr. Varghese and his guidance.
Eucharistic adoration provided a prayerful start to the evening.

The successful event inspired him in his own efforts serving five scattered missions along the Bay of Bengal, said Father Sridhar, who had traveled in from his new mission assignment to concelebrate the Confirmation Mass. 

"I am proud to be a classmate and friend of Fr. Varghese," he said, referring to his and Fr. Varghese's years together in the seminary. Fr. Sridhar marveled at how impoverished people had worked together with their pastor to improve the mission and host a beautiful event.
As many as 2,000 people attended, traveling in
from scattered villages. In the background is Fr. Varghese's

newly-whitewashed little presbytery (rectory).
The Confirmation ceremony took place within the Holy Mass.
In his homily, Archbishop Prakash Mallavarapu
praised the faithful for their zeal and energy
in living their faith. He spoke of people's need of the
Holy Spirit, and encouraged Confirmandis
to embrace their new life.
Confirmandis attended classes for weeks, preparing themselves
to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The devotion of the Confirmandis showed clearly
in their reverence.

The Archbishop was "excited to see the piety of the people in a remote village" and he praised the "discipline" of the crowd, said Fr. Varghese. After his homily, the Archbishop read out names of Confirmation candidates. After the Confirmation ceremony, he announced names of donors who had made the event possible, praying for them in a special way.

Altar boys shared the honor of caring for the
Archbishop's crosier.
A rented sound system helped the vast crowd hear the Mass.

Girls from the mission performed a welcoming
dance for the Archbishop, and then presented him with a gift.
The Archbishop thanked those of all ages who volunteered 
many hours toward constructing the new stage 
and beautifying their mission.

Elders honored Archbishop Mallavarapu by presenting
him with special shawls and flowers.

After the Mass and ceremony, the mission served nearly 1,200 attendees cool drinks, tea and a meal of rice, sambar (vegetable stew) and appadam (flat bread). Fr. Varghese later thanked his tireless volunteers by serving them a special lunch. (Shown below.)

Finishing the Archbishop's visit on June 2nd, Fr. Varghese led him and visiting clergy up newly-constructed stairs to the freshly-whitewashed roof of his little house, to share a meal. The Archbishop enjoyed the setting, encouraging Fr. Varghese to hold catechism classes on the terrace. Then the Archbishop took his leave, heading for a distant church for feast day celebrations the following day.

Because people had traveled in from scattered villages, around 700 "stayed back in the church and left early in the morning," said Fr. Varghese. In the morning, "we gave them bread and tea."

The mission serves people in times of need,

like when Godavari floods displaced locals
last year. More than 150 found food and 
housing at Holy Family Mission for weeks.
Faithful are grateful to their church and
eager to serve God, says Fr. Varghese.

Some days ago, the missionary described all the marvelous activity unfolding at his mission as a "wonder" and "like a dream." 

After the Confirmations, he said people were "thrilled, excited. In their life it was the first time they attended such a beautiful function." As for their faith, they seemed more "active and enthusiastic." He believes this event will truly change their lives.

"I and my parishioners thank all who helped us to success. By knowing our poverty, you came forward to help us. We all love you and we all thank you. Please continue to help us and pray for us."
Worn out but touched by what Fr. Varghese called
the  "overcrowd," Archbishop Mallavarapu
encouraged Fr. Varghese and his people to
continue in their zeal. His visit will long be 

remembered by the people of Yelleswaram.

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