A new church blessed!

Velankani Matha Church  in Pedakakani, India

Velankani Matha Church in Pedakakani, India

Today Fr. Tom Cassidy writes about the blessing of the SCJs’ new church in Pedakakani, India, which took place on April 21:

The invitation said 5:30 pm, we all expected it to start at 6:30 pm, and once we got to Velankani Matha Church we were told that the ceremony really wouldn’t start until 7:00 pm as the stage crew was still putting the stage together. The church was too small to handle the crowd so the blessing would be in an outdoor Mass in a large field next to the church. I am not sure if it is church property or if it was borrowed for the evening. In any case, it was a nice spot, almost like a theater-in-the-round or an amphitheater.

The outdoor altar

The outdoor altar

Both Fr. Jesu and I were in the sanctuary with the bishop. Along with us were members of the district council plus Fr. Thomas Vinod, scj, our district superior. Back in the States you’d find the pastor up there as well but Fr. Dharma Raju Akula, scj, was busy behind the scenes making sure all would go according to plan while his associate Fr. Ravindra Moparthi, scj, directed the choir and musicians. I’m sure for both of them it was a bittersweet evening as the two have been transferred. Dharma will come to the US to study mass media and Loyola University in Chicago and Ravindra will become as assistant priest at Divine Mercy Parish in Vasai (Mumbai).

This being Andhra Pradesh the language of the Mass was Telugu. I could not understand Bishop Goli Bali’s homily but I was told afterwards it was a good one.

The church was lighted for the celebration

The church was lighted for the celebration

While I had expected to start at 7:00 pm according to our revised plan we actually began the procession to the stage at about 6:40 pm. Our first stop was the church so Bishop Goli Bali could bless it and cut the ribbon. The church is certainly very Indian in its design, colors and homage to the saints (both inside and outside the church). And plenty of lights for the evening, as well as fireworks.

The Mass finished around 9:15 pm. I’m pleased to report that the weather gods blessed us all last evening. We had a cool, gentle and persistent breeze and with the sun down, it was actually like being in mid-summer Milwaukee waiting for the Independence Day fireworks. Significant Indian events always include lots of fireworks and firecrackers.

Also standard is the need to feed any and all who come to the celebration. The usual custom has the priests and sisters going off to be seated and served by male members of the parish. The bishop eats in a place right next to where the priests and sisters are seated. I was all set to eat with a couple of Indian priests (one whom served for a time in the Springfield, Illinois Diocese) but got drafted to dine with the bishop. It was a party of three, my Springfield priest and I dined with His Lordship (the proper title in India for a bishop).

The church in the daylight, just prior to its completion

The church in the daylight, just prior to its completion

Both Frs. Dharma and Ravindra were our servers. I don’t know if we had the same food as served to the others but I really enjoyed the mutton. The few times I’ve been out in a restaurant I always order it as we never get it at home. Now I should point out that when Indians say “mutton” they really mean “goat” as lamb/sheep is very expensive. In fact mutton is on the menu for the celebration of First Professions on May 1. To use a biblical expression: “Fr. McQueen is going to kill the fatted calf (goat)”.

My cameramen for the evening were two of the novices who will make their first profession on May 1st. Chitti Babu Nandipamu and Maria Pavan Kumar Bandra Nadham. Between the two of them they took 300 photos. I ran into Chitti heading toward our car for a ride back to the novitiate and since he was still eating (using his hands in the Indian style) I said don’t bother with my phone, you can give it to me when you get back.

In bed I chuckled to myself, realizing that Chitti still had the phone; he was going to be in for a surprise when the alarm goes off at 5 am. As it turned out it was Fr. McQueen Winston Savio Mascarewhas, scj, who came knocking at my door at 5:00 am with a chiming iPhone.

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