Fr. Varghese Kalapurakudy

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Sacred Heart Feeds the Hungry in the New Year

"The poor feeding...Christmas, festivals, celebrations...all concluded," wrote Fr. Varghese on January 6. "It was grand success. So many poor people benefitted."
At the last possible moment, funds swept in to cover the distribution of blankets to the poor (100 blankets split with two other mission priests), much-needed new clothing for the nine students friends support with tuition funds, and food to have a Christmas "Agape Meal," spreading Christ's love through feeding the hungry. 
Fr. Varghese did several shopping runs to prepare for the meal, purchasing the large quantity of rice, vegetables and other staples needed to feed a neighborhood. Prices were inflated due to recent flooding in Chennai and a scarcity of goods. Then, just a day or so before the scheduled feeding, Fr.'s gas ran out on his simple 2-burner cooktop. He could only afford half the cost of the new gas cylinder, so friends helped with a replacement. The night before the scheduled feeding, Fr. Varghese traveled to missionary friend Fr. Mariadas' mission (shown below), to concelebrate a special Mass to bless a new little tin-roofed building to serve the mission.

Returning home around 12:30 AM, Fr. Varghese had just a few hours of sleep before arising to celebrate daily Mass and oversee preparations of the food and his compound. All ages were fed at the event, which had already been rescheduled twice -- once due to a lack of funding, and the second time due to inclement weather. 
"Poor people are coming one by one," texted Fr. Varghese around 1 pm. 
Reflecting on the event as evening shadows lengthened, he wrote, "Thank you, thank you, thank you," to those who had made it a reality. 
"God is great."

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Merry Christmas from Sacred Heart of Jesus Mission!

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to All!

Fr. Varghese wrote a thank you to friends, listing all the events that had unfolded leading up to and through Christmas: "Carol singing, Confessions, breaking the Word of God, prayer services, poor feeding, distributing blankets to the widows and poor, and orphans. Extending help towards nearby missionaries, giving clothes to the lepers, conducting devotional programs for small kids in our parish. Going 31st night to the railway station, bus depot, streets and giving gifts to the beggars and homeless, telling that 'Jesus loves you.'"

Nearly 1,000 people came to Sacred Heart Mission's outdoor Christmas vigil Mass. A tent was erected on the compound, the hall was newly scrubbed and painted, and Father Varghese and some mission boys had built what the priest called a "meaningful crib" -- a sizeable nativity scene.

His days were "very busy" leading up to Christmas, with "Confessions, Mass, meetings, discussions on Christmas, etc," wrote Fr. Varghese.

At the beginning of Advent, he housed a Bible in a small creche, representing the "Word made Flesh," and invited his people to light candles, pray and choose one special intention to pray for throughout the season.

Planning for Christmas was made difficult by a shortage of funds, but "in spite of all our struggles," wrote the priest, "God is great, protecting our cause and helping the situation...Child Jesus will show us the way at even the last moment."

On December 15th, the pastor scrubbed the floor of his hall with an older lady who came to help (the mission lacks a church, so uses a multi-purpose hall).

That night, Fr. Varghese set off with faithful for the first night of a nine-night novena of Christmas carol singing. Costumed Santa Clause danced and sang with the children. A parishioner played the tabla drums as faithful added "Jingle Bells" to their religious carols. Families received a little calendar, a blessing and prayers from Fr. Varghese, and a printed message telling of the love of "Child Jesus."

Akhila is shown here at the Mission, helping to arrange the calendars. It was "nice" how the children and other faithful chipped in to help with preparations, wrote Fr. Varghese.

On December 22, he texted a friend in the U.S.: " Hurray, our blankets are at hand!"

Friends in the U.S. had provided funds so Fr. Varghese and two fellow priests in East Godavari Deanery could distribute 100 blankets to the needy at a feeding for the poor, scheduled for January.

Old friends arrived to visit from Fr. Varghese's former mission in Yelleswaram, and the pastor took extra effort to make guests welcome, carve out his personal prayer time and maintain his regular round of pastor's duties, while "arranging the things in order."

Caring for Fifi, the mission puppy, added to the excitement, as did the arrival of a neighbor's calf just days before Christmas.

At the last moment, needed funds arrived from mission friends to help provide new outfits for nine school-children Fr. Varghese had saved from child labor situations.

In the hours leading up to the December 24th Vigil Mass, an outdoor altar was erected and a garland of balloons strung. Rented chairs filled the compound and the choir gathered. A banner declaring  "He is our Liberator," next to the Divine Mercy image of Jesus, could be seen from the last row.

Fr. Varghese blessed the infant Jesus in the nearby manger, and strung a garland of flowers around his crib, then proceeded to celebrate the long-awaited Mass.

"It was beautiful," he wrote. "Everything went on well."

Just days prior, he had written a letter praising "Jesus, the only true God Who lives in the "Word of God, miracles and the poor."

With such enthusiasm and reverence, Jesus' birth is truly celebrated in our missions.