Fr. Varghese Kalapurakudy

A country priest comes to Kakinada, finding joy with his people in Christ's Sacred Heart.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Move to the Sea

Above, Fr. Varghese's new location takes him to India's southeast coast. In Kakinada, also known as "Fertilizer City" due to its fertilizer factories, locals include shopkeepers, factory workers and mariners. In bottom photo, helpers maintain the grounds at Father's new Sacred Heart of Jesus Mission, a parish yet to build a church.
Fr. Varghese returned to India from his first-ever trip to the U.S. on June 5, flying into temperatures of 118 -degrees F. Newly recovering from pneumonia, the missionary prayed many Rosaries through his 20-plus hour flight from Chicago's O'Hare to Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Airports. 

A sweltering bus ride to Kakinada delivered him to his new mission assignment at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Kothi Kakinada. A kind priest friend oversaw the moving of Fr. Varghese's household goods and animals to their new home. Before leaving India for America, Fr. Varghese built cages so his animals could be safely delivered to his next assignment. Crates of his belongings and some joyous greetings from his dogs awaited him upon his arrival at his new home.
Gypsy the dog had a long month, without his master.
Fr. Varghese said even Gowry the cow "jumped for joy" at seeing him after a month's absence. Happiest of all, was Fr.'s adopted orphan Akhila, who Fr. said was also "ecstatic" to receive her books for a fresh school year and start at a new school.
How a modern missionary catches up with
correspondence. Fr. Varghese is shown here
with Gowry the cow. A gift from a grateful parishioner,
Gowry is named after a Marian shrine in India.
Akhila doing her homework on the mission rooftop. 
She is happy to dig into her studies at a 
brand new school.
Fr. Varghese found that the water purification system at the mission needed replacement, so he accomplished that first thing. And for the first time ever, he had a small air conditioning unit installed in one small room in his residence, to help combat his migraine headaches brought on by heat. As temperatures continued to top 118-degrees F., Father brought his animals into his room to cool them. Relief is sketchy, however, since power outages are frequent. 

Most people stay indoors after 8 AM and before 6 PM to avoid this hottest time of the year. But Fr. Varghese still goes about his ministry, burying the dead, and blessing the sick and homebound. One day, he visited a man in the hospital who had injured his head digging rock. 

Another day, Father wrote that he "traveled for a house blessing 10 kilometers in the hot sun on my motorcycle, then for a burial 7 kilometers away, then finally to a lady, age of 45, unmarried, who was very sick these past six years. Today she was very serious in her situation, about to die..."

Fr. Varghese brought her Holy Communion, and took her to a good doctor in Rajamundry, who started her on the healing process with appropriate medication.

"I got a call from her Dad," wrote Fr. Varghese. "She is okay."
Having one little room with air conditioning
provides some needed relief from 118-degree F. temps,

in between frequent power outages.
Sacred Heart faithful welcomed Fr. Varghese at his first Sunday Mass with shawls and flowers. People come to Kakinada from all across India, so, Father celebrated his 8:30 AM Mass in English, his second Mass in Telugu and his third Sunday Mass in his native language of Malayalam. When a priest in another village succumbed to heat stroke, Fr. Varghese hopped on his motorbike and drove there to fill in, celebrating his fourth Mass on his first Sunday in Kakinada.

Some of his faithful are Anglo-Indians, and have some British ancestry. Others are from the states of Kerala or Tamil Nadu. One of Fr. Varghese's challenges as a pastor, is to unite all his people of various backgrounds into one loving community.

To help do this, one of his first actions as new pastor was to invite the people to begin praying a daily 7 PM Rosary in front of  the Sacred Heart of Jesus Statue and Pieta grotto at the front entrance to the compound. Ten people showed that first night. 

"I pray it will soon be 100," wrote Fr. Varghese. "Mother Mary, help us."

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