After several days of travel, delayed just about every step along the way, Fr. Tom Cassidy, SCJ, is back in India, where he assists with formation and administration several months of the year. Periodically Fr. Tom shares his journal on the province blog. From the Dehon Jyothi community he writes:
I was fully expecting the traditional Indian greeting, or at least the typical SCJ Indian greeting, and I was not disappointed. What was a surprise, and unfortunately I could not whip out my iPhone fast enough to get a photo of it, were the four cattle laying down on the road in front of our house. I said to Fr. Vimala (Vimal) Thiyagarajan Soosainathan, SCJ: “I’ve had many an Indian welcome but this is the first time that it started with a herd of cows!”
With Fr. Vimal as the cattle driver we soon had them out of our way so the taxi could pull up in front of our gate to let me and Fr. Antony Alex Josapath, SCJ, out of the car.
My Indian greeting here by the community was as joyful as ever with song and flowers. One of the students plays the guitar so they had accompaniment to the traditional welcoming song. You might notice an older bald headed man in the second row who is their English teacher. This is his second year. Last December when Chennai had its floods he came everyday even though he often had to wade through nearly waist-high water. At the request of Fr. Vimal I brought along some ESL material for him to use with the students.
After the welcome song the 10 students introduced themselves, saying who they are and where they come from along with tidbits of information such as how large a family they came from and what foods they like or what hobbies they might have. Fr. Alex, who is a good cook in his own right, comes from a Kerala fishing family background and of course loves fish.
Here’s the list of states the students hail from: Andhra Pradesh, Orrisa (Odisha), Assam, and the country of Sri Lanka. Note how far north Assam is in relation to Kerala where the SCJs began in 1994 and Andhra Pradesh where I spend the bulk of my time.
While each one of the students (they range in age from 18 to 24) introduced themselves I took a picture of them and later today will try to match names with photos. I have found that is the fastest way for me to learn their names. I won’t spend much time in this community but I try to visit it when I can as they are kind of off the beaten path with only the district house nearby. They are eight hours by train from Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh) and about 20 from Aluva (Kerala).
Fr. Vimal told me they did take the group down to Kerala for our Founder’s Day Celebration on August 12. A number of contests were held and one of the Dehon Jyothi students won a prize in the drawing contest while another in the poetry contest. This jaunt also gave them a chance to see two of our communities as well as touch base with the postulants, including two former Dehon Jyothi graduates from last year.
I’ve brought with me some DVDs that I thought our brothers and novices might enjoy. Tonight the Dehon Jyothi students will see Spitfire Grill, a film produced by our Sacred Heart Southern Missions in 1996. Before we show the film I will try to explain to the students the story behind its making. [The film was developed by the Sacred Heart League, now Sacred Heart Southern Missions, as a means to raise money for SHSM ministries.]