Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fr. V.'s New Blog Home

Dear Friends, Fr. Varghese took up a new mission assignment May of 2014. See photos and stories of his work as pastor of Sacred Heart Mission in Kakinada at new blog home. The donation button to use credit card or Paypal to support his work remains here, at his original blog home, right hand column. 

To see the story that launched his new blog and that tells of his first trip to visit friends in the U.S., see: Fr.'s Trip to the U.S.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Sari Road for Palm Sunday

Saris, the traditional robes of Indian women, stretched as far as the eye could see, as Holy Family faithful laid a sari carpet through Yeleswaram for their Palm Sunday procession. 
Just as crowds laid their cloaks in the
road for Jesus,  his people
welcomed Christ by laying
their garments in the road, explained
Fr. Varghese.
Walking three miles from Holy Family Mission to the town of Yeleswaram, and then winding their way through the busy streets, the people held palms, prayed and sang, proclaiming their love of Christ to others in this only 3% Christian region.
Altar boys led the walk along
the sari carpet.
Proclaiming the Gospel via rickshaw
sound system. Fr. Varghese walks

behind as "Persona Christi" -- another

Besides the procession, Fr. Varghese celebrated Mass at Holy Family Mission and at Our Lady of Help Mission in the village of Yerravarram. Before he left for Mass in the village, he found his motorcycle tire punctured by a nail. He ran to find a parishioner who could loan him a motorbike to take him to his next mission.

Varghese means "George" and St. George is traditionally depicted slaying a "dragon." Palm Sunday took on a whole new dimension for Fr. Varghese when he had to slay a serpent -- a cobra -- on his mission compound (photos below).

Palm Sunday Mass at Holy Family

He says he has killed around 50 poisonous snakes in his lifetime! A girl at the mission saw this ten-foot one (below) slithering into the mission's plantain grove. Fr. went searching for it and parishioners came to help, but found no snake. They finally discovered him in a storage room at the mission.

"I saw the foldings of him under a pot," explains the priest, who positioned villagers with sticks around the room, since there was no telling what the snake might do if provoked. When the pot was removed  the snake was very agressive, "bussing and weaving," says Fr. Varghese. He finally dispatched the creature with a blow to the head.

All in the day of a missionary priest!

The ten-foot cobra Fr. had to battle on his
mission compound.

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.

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.