Sunday, April 13, 2014

Welcoming Our Lady of Guadalupe to Yerraverram

Fr. Varghese and his parishioners walked and prayed
for nearly 10 kilometers, from the mother church in
Yeleswaram to Our Lady of Help Mission in
Yerraverram, to bless the new shrine of 

Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Our Lady was fashioned by a local
Hindu statue maker out of a cement/clay
"The blessings went on well," wrote Fr. Varghese Kalapurakudy, about the March 9, 2014 completion and blessing of the new shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe for his outpost, Our Lady of Help Church, in Yerraverram.
Parishioners prepared and carried a Pilgrim Virgin
statue in a heavy teak wood "house."
"We started our Papa Parihara Pada Yathra (walk for the atonement of one's own sin and others) at 4 PM," wrote Fr. Varghese. "The small wooden portable house for her (the Blessed Mother) is very heavy. It is made up of teak wood. It weighs 70 kilograms, so four people should carry every 5 minutes. We are walking for the atonement of our sins, and of the world."
Praying and processing to "repair"
the world's sins.

The faithful also prayed for the "well being" of friends in America, said Fr. Varghese. Funds from a family in the U.S. provided for the new five-foot-tall statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Homeschoolers provided the protective grill for the shrine.

The project launched around January 19, 2014, when Fr. Varghese told how his people had "a strong belief and faith that Mother Mary was protecting them from flood during these days, so they decided to build a grotto."
The statue is heavy to carry, but the
faithful felt honored to take turns
carrying this little mobile shrine.
The village of Yerraverram was hit by the worst floodwaters in the area this year, but no parishioners' lives were lost. When their chapel was closed, the people looked through windows at the statue of Our Lady of Help and prayed. They later begged Fr. Varghese for an outdoor grotto so they would have somewhere to pray when crises hit and their chapel is locked (it's closed off-hours to keep out vandals and thieves).

By February, Fr. Varghese reported that "Many are coming forward to help. Even though they are poor, they give their manpower and old materials...moreover, their prayer."

Fr. Varghese unveils the new shrine.
Villagers went door to door to raise funds, and gathered rocks and sand from streams to build the grotto. Fr. Varghese believes this is the first Our Lady of Guadalupe grotto in his Archdiocese of Visakhapatnam. With no precedent, the statue carver used as a model a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe sent to Fr. Varghese by a friend in America. 

While the people got to work on their new grotto, statehood tensions again heated up in their region. Another bill passed, bringing their state of Andhra Pradesh closer to being split in two, with a new state of Telengana formed. Although protests erupted across the region, the faithful pressed on to complete their grotto.

They processed and gathered with special gratitude on March 9, for the grotto blessing.
Power outages, common in India,
added a little challenge to the celebration.
"We reached (the church) by 6 PM and it was late, dark already fallen," said Fr. Varghese. "Immediately, we had the grotto blessings, and sprinkling the water, and garlanding (the statue), etc. Then followed by Mass. The photographer was not able to take snaps, because the whole Mass we did under no electricity. Then the power came."

After the blessing of the shrine and Mass, "We had a common meal," wrote Fr. Varghese. People shared "sambar (vegetable stew) and rice. The parishioners are happy."

Sharing a common "agape" meal
after the blessing.
Now, they have a special grotto to offer prayers, whether in times of thanksgiving -- or crisis. Two Catholic boys painted the church gate and wrote this quote in their Telegu language upon the shrine. The quote contains the Blessed Mother's words to Juan Diego: 

"Are you not under my shadow and protection?"

Fr. Varghese joins his people in eating rice
and sambar from a banana leaf.

Two boys from the parish painted this 
quote upon the shrine: "Are you not 
under my shadow and protection?"
The new grotto faces the village street to
bless passersby.
The inside of Our Lady of Help, with the little statue
of Our Blessed Mother that faithful venerated
as monsoons struck their village.

Villagers show their love of the Blessed
Mother by wrapping her in a native sari.

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