Last week we heard from Fr. Stephen Huffstetter with his first impressions of the Indian District. He and Fr. Heiner Wilmer, superior general, are there for a general visitation. Today Fr. Tom Cassidy writes about Fr. General’s arrival to Christu Dehon Nivas:
Despite the two hour delay in their arrival at Vijayawada all went well with the official welcome by the Christu Dehon Nivas community for Fr Heiner Wilmer, our superior general, Fr. Stephen Huffstetter, the general councilor responsible for India, and Fr. Thomas Vinod, our district superior. It also turned out to be a very long day for them. It began at 2:30 am in Mumbai with a long layover in Hyderabad due to their connecting flight’s late arrival. Fr. Heiner said he ended up having; (1) an American breakfast in Mumbai; (2) followed by a French breakfast at the Mumbai airport and finally (3) an Indian breakfast compliments of SpiceJet Airways for the delayed passengers in Hyderabad.
Given the “rank” of our visitors the always enthusiastic “hearty welcome to India” took on an even more festive mood, drums included! The guests were met at the front gate by all the fathers and brothers where the traditional garland was given to each and then we all marched in to the front entrance where the rest of the ceremony took place. This included: (1) a welcome song; (2) incensing of the guest; (3) “Tilaka,” marking their foreheads; (4) an offering of coconut milk, and (5) a word of welcome by the rector (Fr. Mariano).
With the conclusion of these important rituals our guests were shown to their rooms and then all headed to the dinning room for the midday meal. Neither Fr. Heiner nor Fr. Steve had much time to rest as they would start meeting the students (each allowed 15 minutes) starting at 3:00 pm and going until 6:00 pm with a half hour break at 4:30 pm.
Fr. Heiner was asked to be the main celebrant at Mass. Normally Mass is done in the cool of the morning but it was moved to 6:45 pm so that we would have the opportunity to celebrate it with our guests and give Fr. Heiner a chance to share his thoughts on the Gospel of the day. The plan was then to have Fr. Steve be the main celebrant the next day (The Feast of the Presentation and the conclusion of the year long celebration of Consecrated Life).
Following dinner there was a program for the evening for our honored guests and community. In the States SCJs would call this a “convivium.” As you can see in the photos, Fr. Steve even joined in on the guitar.