Fr. Tom Cassidy is in India until October 20, assisting with formation and administrative tasks. During his last week there he will be the moderator at the Indian District Chapter. Fr. Tom often keeps a journal while traveling; the following is taken from his first week of journal entries.
New district administration
Today began my three-day meeting with the new district administration who officially took office on this the feast of the Birthday of Mary. It was, by the way, also the 52nd anniversary of my own religious profession. We began the day with morning prayer and then the parish Mass.
At the Mass I used as my theme the “yes” of Mary that made both the incarnation and thus human salvation through the acts of Jesus Christ possible. I used that to show there were three other expressions of “yes” we were experiencing: 1) the “yes” of Fr. Dehon who said his inspiration to establish our congregation came together at a visit to the shrine of Loretto, 2) the “yes” of the students to their call to explore their vocation with the SCJs, 3) and finally the “yes” of Fr. Thomas and his council to accept the responsibility of leadership of the Indian District.
Our meeting day began at 08:30 a.m. and we planned four sessions for each day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. I called one of the first day’s sessions the “Game of 20 Questions.” Although this is my third visit, there is still so much I do not know of the SCJ Indian reality, especially within the context of church and society. The questions were a way for me to get a better understanding of the district and India itself.
I think we had a good day of meetings with a lot accomplished. Fr. Michael Benedict was asked to take minutes since a district secretary was a position still to be filled and he did it for a couple of years during the last administration.
I managed to get my walk in after lunch. Mother Nature was good to me as it stayed dry most of the afternoon.
On the last day of the meetings we celebrated the start of Fr. Thomas’ second term as district superior and the new term of his council. Fr. Emmanuel brought a cake, although it actually took a couple of days before we were able to eat it. Fr. Thomas and several councilors were away from the house for a few evenings, taking advantage of errands they could do in the larger city.
Speaking of travel to the city, all of the council travel is done by train. It takes most of the councilors 20 hours to get here by train. Much of that travel will be at night, so they’ll have second class sleeper arrangements: bunks stacked three high with no air-conditioning. No dining cars on the train. Meals are made in the community kitchen and packed for the ride.
Our last day of meetings ended at noon and I took my afternoon walk on one of the few streets of Kumbalanghi.
As I began my walk I ran into a Catholic funeral procession headed to St. George’s Church.
I knew it was a Catholic funeral since the procession was led by a purple banner bearing a cross. Instead of a line of cars with headlights on and funeral flags flying this procession was a long line of men and women dressed in their best, walking in silence heading toward the church.
At the end of the procession the body was carried on a cart pulled by men.
It was no ordinary cart but one built especially for a funeral. The body of the deceased was in a glass enclosed case, dressed in white with the face exposed. The top of the cart was covered with flowers as were the corners of the glass case. Just in front of the funeral cart the priest and servers walked behind men carrying banners representing various church organizations.
As a six-foot American I do stand out when strolling the street. I’ve been here since Saturday and have taken a daily stroll so that by now I think I’m less of an oddity — though I’m sure some wonder why in the world would someone want to take a walk for no other purpose other than to walk! Many people will greet me with a “hello” or more often a nod of the head that may well come from not knowing English. The children are the most expensive both in trying to speak English and in their broad smiles.
When I returned home I saw some of the students playing badminton. This and cricket are among the more popular games here.
On Monday the church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, which, I am told, is a big feast day in this part of Kerala. Fr. Emmanuel, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, was saying to me this morning how vibrant the church is in Kumbalanghi and, I presume all of Kerala. He attributed that in part to the fact the church is strong [large number of Catholics] here and has long and deep roots in this part of India.
Near by St. George’s parish is getting ready for the celebration. It is a tradition to line the street in gold and white streamers. I will not at all be surprised if there is a large procession as part of Monday’s celebration. The decorations reminded me of the 175th anniversary celebration right here at St. George’s that I participated in last January.