Friday, April 18, 2014

Domino Effect of Blessings at Holy Family Mission

A couple youths at Holy Family Mission in Yeleswaram
 hand painted the statues for their new entrance arch.
This "before" photo shows the arch
before its renovation.
A friend joked with Fr. Varghese Kalapurakudy that he was "running like a race horse" in these final weeks as pastor of Yeleswaram's Holy Family Mission, because he and his people were pursuing so many beautiful projects.

Dozens of his faithful chose to take vows as "Deekshas," meaning they lived Lenten penitence with a special intensity. Fr. guided them through daily scripture readings and prayers. As many as 60 others followed St. Louis de Montfort's exercises for the first time, leading them to Jesus through consecration to Mary. Fr. Varghese translated the de Montfort prayers into the people's Telugu language daily, then presented a talk nightly as he led people through the consecration journey. He, himself, renewed his de Montfort consecration, which he made for the first time last year.

As Lent unfolded, Fr. Varghese and his people also beautified their mission.

One event set off a domino effect of blessings. Fr. Varghese blessed a new Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine 10 kilometers distant in his mission outpost in Yerraverram, and a conviction took hold of one of his parishioners at the mother church, back in Yeleswaram.
Villagers gathered sand and stones, and went door to door begging donations to complete their new shrine in Yerraverram. Families from the U.S. donated funds for the statue and grill. The building of this shrine triggered a domino effect of blessings for the region.
India is a land of shrines, but being around 97% Hindu and Muslim, the shrines honor various deities. Catholics rejoice when they can pray at a grotto after their own faith and heart.

At Holy Family Mission, a man and his wife had donated an Our Lady of Good Health statue to Fr. Varghese's mother church last year. The man was so moved by the beauty of the new shrine and refuge of prayer at the village of Yerraverram, he offered to meet half expenses of constructing another grotto to house his Our Lady of Good Health statue at the mother church in Yeleswaram.

Our Lady of Good Health
is distinctly Indian in
appearance, a rare
image of the Blessed
Mother in Indian sari.
Across the globe in the U.S., a wife and mother was sorting through her bills and unable to get the needs of Fr. Varghese's missions from her mind. The Feast of St. Joseph was nearing. Her husband's name was Joseph. Whether she consciously made this connection or not, she took a breath, and sent the help needed to rent a crane to bring Our Lady of Good Health statue down from its rooftop location. Just a day before five priests arrived to concelebrate the Feast of St. Joseph at Holy Family Mission, the statue was moved to the road by crane, and then carried in the arms of Fr. Varghese and a team of volunteers to its new grotto.
Other projects progressed at Holy Family mission at a miraculous pace. A new entrance arch for the church and concrete replacement of church steps, handicapped ramp, and portico, unfolded as parishioners worked to beautify their compound before Easter. Because the needs of these day laborers, or "Untouchables," are so pressing, any sort of physical building up of their mission has been a struggle. Funds usually go to feed people, especially during times of monsoon and crisis; rescue children from child labor situations; help the poor pay emergency medical bills and bury their dead.

Crumbling concrete in this handicapped ramp, stairs and patio below, 
made for dangerous footing at the mission.

For Holy Family Church and its missions to be blessed with refreshed concrete, two new Marian grottoes and a new entrance archway in just a matter of weeks, is a miracle and an amazing uplift to the spirits of these poor laborers.
Faithful gather for the arch and grotto
blessing at Holy Family Mission on the Feast
of St. Joseph.
Faithful of all ages helped water new concrete to help it cure, painted statues for the arch and a sign board for the new grotto, and helped position stones for the grotto exterior.

Jesus in the new entrance archway now blesses passersby on a main road in Yeleswaram, and the grotto of Our Lady of Good Health faces off the back of the compound, toward a street where many broken families live. This street is rough and has seen its share of brawls, but now features a new oasis of peace and prayer.

Moments before the unveiling of the Mission's 
new entrance arch.
Funds from the woman in America and one of her friends, also purchased sand and cement and a protective grill for finishing touches on the grotto of Our Lady of Good Health, and provided for a distribution of yellow rice after the blessing Mass. Finally, Fr. Varghese was able to position a new St. Joseph statue atop Holy Family Mission's stage, the site of Holy Day Masses and special events, such as Communions and Confirmations. He chose to do so, after dreaming that St. Joseph was urging him to give the Saint a prominent role at Holy Family Mission.

When the funds came to him in the final possible moments to complete these mission projects in time, Fr. Varghese wrote that he was "so happy and jumped and danced like David the King."

The shrine of Our Lady of Good Health
features an innovative design, where
faithful can enter from the street or the
mission compound.
Just a day before the Feast of St. Joseph, when five priests were due to arrive to bless the grotto and arch at his mission, Fr. Varghese said he was "in front of the Blessed Sacrament for one hour thanking the Lord," but that he was also "worrying whether the grotto may (be) complete."

Thankfully, most of the work was finished in time for the Mass.

"The blessings were very solemn, " wrote Fr. Varghese. "The priests are all happy. More (than) that, people are happy. More than (that), Mother Mary is happy…So that's why I am happy.

"The grotto is blessed by Fr. Mareddy. The Archbishop congratulated and sent blessings...After the Mass I was able to give yellow rice to the people.

Five priests traveled in to bless the new arch and grotto,
a special honor for Fr. Varghese, as he celebrates
his 10-year Jubilee.
On May 5th, Fr. Varghese celebrates his 10-year jubilee as a priest. His people are preparing to say “goodbye,” as the priest is reassigned to serve another poor mission after Easter. He leaves behind a more beautiful mission compound that honors God, uplifts the dignity of the faithful, and offers blessings to the next pastor.

Blessing yellow rice 

to be distributed to the people.

Fr. Varghese (left),  and Fr. Mareddy, from the Diocese of Orissa, up north. 
Crowds gather as the new shrine of Our Lady
of Good Health is unveiled.

Receiving Communion at the feast day Mass.

A sign board tells the story of Our Lady of
Good Health.

St. Joseph now takes his rightful place
at Holy Family Mission.

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