Fr. Varghese Kalapurakudy

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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Going Ahead with Basic Needs Denied

An old classmate and friend of Fr. Varghese, Fr. Baskhar peers out 
from his new home, a rented house in the forest village of Kothakota. 
He lacks a permanent home or church in the village, gathering 
people for Mass in an old school.
"It was a good trip by bus, five hours of journey through jungle," wrote Fr. Varghese Kalapurakudy, after the special June 17th Mass introducing him as Pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Mission in Kakinada. After the Mass, he and eight visiting priests and co-celebrants from across Visakhapatnam Archdiocese enjoyed a dinner of fresh-caught fish from Kakinada Bay, and then sorted themselves onto Sacred Heart Mission's available couch, bed and floor, for the night. 

Next day, five of the priests, including Fr. Varghese and his old classmate and friend Fr. Baskhar, hopped a bus north, to help Fr. Baskhar celebrate his welcoming Mass at his new jungle mission. The priests first helped Fr. Baskhar move into a rented house near the old school that was converted into Infant Jesus Church, in Kothakota Village, north of Kakinada, 20 kilometers from Narsipatnam.
Jungle surrounds Fr. Baskhar's new mission.
Fr. Varghese and missionary friends Frs. Sahaya, 
Moses and John, helped move Fr. Baskhar into his 
new residence. Facing no electricity for days, 
they slept in the road surrounded by candles to
keep away snakes.
With no power for a week "we slept outside," wrote Fr. Varghese. It's an area of tigers, jackals, bears and "snakes of all kinds. Mosquitoes, cows, dogs and pigs were disturbing us, but we slept, because we have previous experience in different missions (as to) how to go ahead without power and other basic needs denied."
Fr. Baskhar works to bring order to chaos.
"The sad story of the mission is he has no cot (bed)," wrote Fr. Varghese. "The snakes enter the room and if he sleeps on the floor, imagine...Then he has no cooking vessels, gas stove to cook, no chairs, no water purification...he is in a helpless situation."

Three people in the village just died due to cobra bites, a danger to forest-dwellers across India. Fr. Varghese estimates he has killed 50 poisonous snakes over his lifetime --  many at his previous assignment, as Pastor of Holy Family Mission in rural Yeleswaram.

Just days ago, Fr. Baskhar also "killed a cobra with the help of a tribal," wrote Fr. Varghese. "Now Father (Baskhar) has to be very careful. Snakes come for the water."

Moving is never easy...
To fend off the snakes by night, the priests laid bedsheets in the road in front of Fr. Baskhar's residence, and slept there, surrounded by burning candles. Snakes fear fire, so that's a classic way to keep them at bay.

With no pure water available at his mission,
Fr. Baskhar must bring in bottled.
Around 150 Catholics traveled in for Fr. Baskhar's welcoming Mass. It is unusual for the villagers to come to daily Mass during the week because of the lack of transportation and "overheat," says Fr. Varghese. It's tough for faithful to travel far in the hottest seasons when temperatures reach 110-degrees F. and more.

Jesuit missionaries from France arrived in this region in the 1940's, living their Faith amidst Hindu worshippers of the goddess Durga. Human sacrifice still took place here in those days, and a monument remains in front of the mission compound, on the site of a famous temple to the goddess.

A crisis unfolded when one of the Jesuits was found dead in the forest around 1950. Some say the missionary died from cholera or snake bite. Many believe he was killed due to his missionary outreach. Afterwards, the Diocese of Visakhapatnam stopped sending priests to this area for some time.

The school-turned-church at Narsipatnam.
Missionaries only returned here in 1995, so Fr. Baskhar is taking up important work that reaches scattered Catholics from seven surrounding villages.

Despite his scarce resources, he prays he can soon build a permanent residence and church.

"After the Mass," wrote Fr. Varghese, "we had breakfast from the people and we started our returning."

Days after the trip, this pastor of Sacred Heart still couldn't get the plight of his friend from mind. 

"I think I should help him," he wrote. "I can send my cot to him because for me, I am in the city. I can sleep on the floor."

Fr. Varghese also wished for a way to provide his friend with a solar panel, so "he can get light for his room and cell re-charged."

Some funds will come from his Archbishop and people, explained Fr. Varghese, "but still he cannot meet his needs. When I took up my mission (his former mission of Holy Family in Yeleswaram) I had nothing, then some senior priests helped me with their old things. So, as I am his friend, I think he should be helped by me."
The bare mission compound in Narsipatnam
needs to be developed.
Great news reached Fr. Varghese June 29th, when he learned the problem of a bed for Fr. Baskhar had been solved. Just returned from renting a car and transporting a sick priest from another parish to the hospital, Fr. Varghese read his email and discovered that two brothers in America had come to his aid. They had celebrated a combined birthday party, and in lieu of gifts, 10-year-old J.J. and eight-year-old Conor had asked for help for missionary friend Fr. Varghese. Father directed some of that aid to buy Fr. Baskar's bed.
The missionary friends celebrate the highlight
of their trip -- the Mass introducing Fr. Baskhar (at microphone) to his people.
"Now my burden is over!" rejoiced Fr. Varghese, regarding this need for a bed. "I can be at peace that after coming from the U.S.A., I helped my friend. He will be very happy to receive it."

The funds cover the purchase of a solid wood bed frame and mattress. Fr. Baskhar's other needs remain, as do Fr. Varghese's, as he takes on a new urban assignment covering many square miles of need.

As for how the two priests feel about their new assignments,  Fr. Varghese says they are eager for the challenge.

Fr. Baskhar is "like me...ready to take up the new mission."

Fr. Baskhar elevates Our Lord in the Eucharist.
Around 150 villagers traveled in from seven
villages for the Mass.

Infant Jesus Church in Kothakota is rich in sacred statues and images...

...even though many are mounted atop blackboards on the former school's walls.

A little choir helped make the Mass beautiful.
Fr. Baskhar's people travel in from seven
distant villages.

No comments:

Post a Comment