Category Archives: Fr. Tom Cassidy

SCJs come together in India

As we noted previously, Fr. Tom Cassidy, SCJ, is back in his second home: the District of India. Below are excerpts from his recent journal entries:

Dancing seminarianAUGUST 23, 2016 –– Last night the seminarians put on a short “cultural program” as it is called here. In our old seminary days we’d call it a convivium, while some would call it a talent show. The grand finale was led by Obed Nag from Assam who, along with his three Assam companions, managed to teach the rest of the group one of their Assam dances. Fr. Alex recruited this group last spring on a visit to Assam and recalled his experience of attending an all night dance at a local festival. Regular readers of my journals have often heard me say that Indian men like to dance and many of them are quite good at it. Most Indian movies must feature at least one grand dance routine reminiscent of the American films of the late 1930s and 40s.

The show took about 45 minutes as it would be an early start for those of us traveling to the Don Bosco Center that is about an hour by car from the Dehon Joythi community. Frs. Thomas Vinod, SCJ, and Michael Benedict, SCJ, said they’d pick us up at 6:00 am.

I set my alarm for 4:45 am as Fr. Alex said he’d have breakfast ready at 5:30 am. I should have guessed what he meant was he’d have some of the students make breakfast. Sure enough, by the time I had packed and opened my door two of them were busy in the kitchen and dining room putting things together for the three of us to eat.

I must confess I was a bit surprised when we drew near the center as it is one of the last places one would think would make a good location for a retreat center. We are quite near the ocean and very near the port so the area is surrounded by many factories with lots of trucks pulling containers either filled with goods for export or coming back with imports.

Upon our arrival we noted there were no assigned rooms so it was hunt for an available room. I found one, or rather someone found it for me, and as I was getting settled in Fr. McQueen Winston Savio Mascarenhas, SCJ, came to tell me they had a air-conditioned room for me. As it turned out Fr. Pradesh Kumar Richard, SCJ, was occupying it but the others threw him out and handed the keys over to me. Sometimes age does have privilege!

We’re now half way through the first day. This morning we heard a presentation on the state of the district by Fr. Thomas and this afternoon Fr. Michael will do the same for the fiscal health of the district. This evening I am with a three-man team to prepare the Mass. We agreed I’d be the celebrant, Dn. Pinto will do the introduction and gospel and Fr. Suresh Gottom, SCJ, will give the homily.

Don BoscoAUGUST 24, 2016 –– We are now into our second day at the Don Bosco Youth Center. I chose this photo as it clearly shows the Tamil Nadu alphabet spelling out the phrase “Youth Animation Center.” One of the complicating factors for Indians and non-Indians alike is that often each language has its own alphabet. This one clearly differs from Hindi for example, and certainly Telugu as well, the language that I am used to seeing spelled out in road signs and advertisements along the highways in Andhra Pradesh.

We are not the only ones using the center this week; along with us is a group of young men who are on retreat though we only see them in passing as our two schedules are very different

Last night was the first night we slept here and many in our group of 36 were complaining of how hard it was to get to sleep as their rooms were very warm. Some of them took to sleeping in the outdoor corridors. Remember this being a tropical climate there is less a need for indoor hallways and most of the foot traffic is handled much like we see at motels in the US, i.e., a covered outdoor walkway connecting rooms and wings of a building.

Our days are full and generally run from 6:30 am with morning prayer and Mass to supper at 8:00 pm with the chance for some recreation afterwards with most people heading to their rooms around 10:00 pm. We don’t have internet access nor TV reception so folks are left to their own devices. Last night card games were popular.

PresentationMost of our sessions have been presentations and as we look toward the end tomorrow we are now hearing from each of the communities concerning their activities of the past year as well as an accounting by the local treasurer. What is a bit different from a typical assembly in the US Province is that the account books for each house are open for inspection by any member and will be available until 9:00 pm this evening.

Tomorrow we’ll bring the assembly to a close as we should wrap up around 5:00 pm. I will be traveling back to the district house as we have a district council meeting on Friday to review the results of our assembly gathering and to try and put the final touches on the six year plan that we need to send to the general administration.

AUGUST 25, 2016 – Yesterday we heard from the community houses, i.e., formation programs, concerning the activities of the past year along with their hopes and dreams for the coming year. This morning it was the turn of the parish communities to do the same.

It is safe to say that all of our parishes are poor and in some cases are parishes we are building up from scratch. Many of the parishes have pastoral as well as social needs that the parish team would like to meet. Since the district has very limited resources and is dependent on support from the general administration it will take creative thinking to meet those needs.

Small groupAll in all it was a successful gathering. Given the distances that separate various communities it is important to gather at events like this to renew the bonds of brotherhood that are so much a part of belonging to a religious community. It also was an excellent opportunity to hear firsthand from those responsible as to what is going on in the district and the ministries operated in the name of the district. There are lots of challenges pulling at the district but as I once read: “Every challenge is in reality an opportunity.”

Back to India… finally!

Welcome India Aug 2016

The welcome crew at Dehon Jyothi

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.

India map

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.]

Even the pencils get blessed!

Cathedral

St. Augustine Cathedral in Cagayan de Oro

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes from the Philippines where he is assisting with English classes. Today he writes about celebrating Mass in a country where open-air churches invite not only human worshippers but birds and dogs as well.

This morning Francisco Chavez came to pick me up and drive me to the cathedral for the noon Mass. He’s a Filipino who actually lived for many years in Toronto and where much of his family are still located. I think he said they migrated to Canada about 40 years ago. He’ll be my driver for the next two days as I’ll have the noon Mass on Thursday and Friday as well as today. I was drafted in part because the noon Mass is an English-speaking Mass and perhaps more important, most of our community left either yesterday or this morning for the ordination of one of our young SCJs near Davao.

St. Augustine Cathedral is about a 15-minute car ride from our house and is in the center of town. It’s a big, very airy structure, as the climate would dictate. As a result, our large congregation (even though it was midweek the church was full) was joined by a much smaller collection of birds flying hither and yon. Didn’t see any dogs but they often appear in church as well. Last Sunday at Immaculate Conception, for example, there were at least three sleeping dogs (under pews) before Mass started.

After Mass, dozens of people come up to the the priest (or priests) asking for a blessing. Sometimes it is for a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary, or to deal with an illness or other infirmity. Other times it is just a request for a simple blessing. This happens in a Filipino church much more so than in the States. Today was no different; it probably took me 15 minutes to get back to the sacristy.

I was also asked to bless a large collection of religious articles. Perhaps the most unusual request came from a young man and woman who said they were taking an exam tomorrow and would I kindly bless them and a offer a special blessing for their pencils too?

On a different note, this morning we said farewell to our last two Filipino students, Edgar M. Abid and Marvin S. Dalapo, Jr. Tomorrow they take their final exam at Xavier University then they’ll head home for their vacation before returning for the fall semester. So as of tomorrow it will be the six Vietnamese and myself for the next 12 days of English classes before we wind it up and I head back to Manila.

In the Philippines

Vietnamese students

Vietnamese students relax before class

After several months in India, Fr. Tom Cassidy is in the Philippines where he is teaching English. He writes:

This morning I had my first class. There are six Vietnamese and five Filipinos. The Filipinos speak very good English and will only be in the class for a couple of days. Fr. Khoa said he wanted them to hear an American accent. They’ll be going on the Dehonian Youth Mission as are all those preparing to enter the postulancy program. The six Vietnamese have been here for almost a year and, I believe, have already passed their proficiency test for entrance into the university for their philosophy studies.

Cassidy in Philippines

The Dehonian Youth Mission is an annual event that involves our SCJ candidates as well as young men and women who give of their time in a week-long pastoral project. The also learn about our SCJ charism.

It is hot here but no where near as hot as Andhra Pradesh (India). For example, today’s high is predicted to be about 90 degrees, warm by US standards but certainly a lot more comfortable than what many Indians are currently dealing with. There is also a chance for thunderstorms later today. From what I’ve been told they could use the rain. I hope the rain comes before or after I take my walk.

On the way to the airport yesterday I asked Fr. Delio about the land our former superior general asked the region to buy in Manila for a future region/provincial house located more conveniently to the airport. He told me they have the land but no immediate plans to build as there are one or two other projects that are more pressing. One he mentioned is a retreat house. I mention this because several of the region’s programs are housed in the place that I am currently staying: (1) postulancy, (2) philosophy, and (3) the regional administration and fundraising offices. We also have Immaculate Conception parish nearby.

 

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.

A room blessed and new possibilities opened

New sewing machines ready for classes in India

New sewing machines ready for classes in India

Fr. Tom Cassidy wrote that on March 31st SCJs in India blessed a newly finished classroom next to the community house in Vemapdu. The house has been under construction for the past few months but is also close to completion.

The classroom came about, wrote Fr. Tom, when  “Fr. Jojappa Chinthapalli  decided that he had sufficient funds to construct a small structure (he calls it a shed) to provide instruction to local girls and women in sewing. In addition to the sewing machines there was enough space to install a couple of computers that will be used by Fr. Suresh Gottom to teach computer skills to the youth of the parish.

Fr. Tom cuts the ribbon while Fr. Thomas looks on.

Fr. Tom cuts the ribbon while Fr. Thomas looks on.

“The blessing was about 40 minutes behind schedule by the time it got underway. Many of the women, and it was mostly women and girls who showed up, had to come from work and would have been hard pressed to arrive at the stated time. We weren’t going anywhere so the delay was taken in good stride by all. Fr. Jojappa promised to take us out for pizza afterwards. The ‘we’ in this case were Fr. Thomas Vinod (district superior), Fr. Michael Benedict (district treasurer) and Fr. Anthony Sundar Raju Maallavarapu, who was kind enough to drive us to Vempadu from Eluru.

“Fr. Thomas did the bulk of the prayers. I did the reading and the ribbon-cutting. It was a simple ceremony very similar to a house blessing. The ladies all seemed happy and eager to get started. I was introduced to one of the two women who would be teaching the classes. As you might imagine, finding employment of any kind in rural India, or for that matter almost anywhere in the world, is not easy. Hopefully the skills learned in these sewing classes will be of some help, not just in employment, but in providing clothing for many families.”

Many local women took part in the blessing of the new classroom

Many local women took part in the blessing of the new classroom

Celebrating Triduum and Easter in India

Pilgrim 9

The “Pilgrim Nine”

The following are excerpts from Fr. Tom Cassidy’s daily journal covering the days of Triduum through Easter Vigil:

MARCH 24 – This evening we will join the Holy Family Brothers as we begin the great three days of the Easter Triduum starting with Holy Thursday’s Mass with its rite of the washing of the feet.

Mariano leads way of cAfter Mass and supper nine brothers will be walking 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) to the Gunadala Matha Shrine on the outskirts of Vijayawada._ They’ll leave after our evening meal, departing sometime after 8:30 pm. According to Br. Jesu Prasad Siddela, scj, it will take them between 12 and 15 hours. The brothers are all going barefoot. Pilgrims, both Hindus and Christians (and I’m going to guess Muslims as well) make pilgrimages in bare feet. This is done on a short journey or on even much longer ones than the 40 kilometers our brothers will be walking tonight.

Here at Christu Dehon Nivas we kicked off the Easter Triduum last evening with the outdoor Stations of the Cross. Several of the brothers constructed a large wooden cross that the brothers and Fr. Louis Mariano Fernandes, scj, (our rector) took turns carrying from station to station. As Fr. Mariano wanted to take his turn carrying the cross he asked me to lead the stations.

MARCH 25 – After supper last evening we wished our nine pilgrims well as they began their 40 kilometer hike to Gunadala Matha Shrine. It’s now going on 11:00 am on Good Friday and since we have not heard anything we can presume that no news is good news since Br. Jesu Prasad Siddela, scj, has my iPhone and can call if they need assistance.

Pray before crossThrough the kind services of our novice master, Fr. McQueen Winston Savio Mascarewhas, scj, a community of sisters near the shrine has agreed to put our pilgrims up for the day. They’ll return tomorrow by bus and as our Holy Saturday service does not begin until 10:00 pm they’ve got plenty of time to make their way home.

Our Pilgrim Nine were not the only ones walking today. This morning the Carmelite community of the Edith Stein Monastery organized a walking Way of the Cross. Many of the religious communities, both men and women religious, chose to participate. Our local bishop, Jaya Rao Polimera, also took part, giving a brief opening meditation and prayer and then doing the same at the conclusion of the stations in front of the Carmelite chapel.

The stations began with someone dressed (including long hair, beard and crown of thorns) carrying the cross and from there, various individuals, including our own Fr. Mariano, carried it from one station to the next. The distance from the Holy Family Brothers to the Carmelites is about two miles (3.21 kilometers). It took us just over two hours to complete the journey.

MARCH 27 – Fr. Mariano and I, plus four of the brothers, took part in the Easter Vigil Service with the Holy Family Brothers community. The rest of our brothers were dispersed, a few at their ministry sites with the majority participating in the service at Amalodbhavi Matha Cathedral in Eluru.

Procession SatAfter the blessing of the fire and Easter (Pascal) Candle we processed to the room used on Holy Thursday for the altar of repose. Here we would hear the Exsultet, The Great Easter Proclamation, sung before the Easter Candle. I look foreword each year to this beautiful song, and especially its lyrics.

Next in the liturgy are the Old Testament readings recording the history of salvation starting with creation. From there we again processed to the chapel but before entering we would hear, or better said “watch,” the Holy Family postulants for a second time act out the testing of Abraham (Gen. 22:1-18). For the young seminarians this is one of the highlights of the evening. After a fine reenactment (especially by lamb and donkey!) we all proceeded into the chapel where the rest of the liturgy took place, including the renewal of our baptismal vows.

Following the service we were all invited for cake and soft drinks. I was asked to give a toast and what followed must be a house tradition. Part of taking a sip included four phrases that you might call a little ditty. What made it impressive was it was done in all the languages used in the house. I counted nine, starting with the common (house) language of English and then Spanish, the language of the Holy Family Brothers coming out of Spain, and on to at least seven Indian languages.

 

 

Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes from India:

St Joseph India

A St. Joseph’s Day display in India

Just before we begin Holy Week the Church takes time out from the solemnity of Lent for a day of joy in celebrating the feast of St. Joseph. I was surprised to read this morning that devotion to St. Joseph really began in earnest only in the 16th century when the Church officially encouraged his cult, as St. Joseph began to figure as an ideal ‘provider and protector of the Holy Family. Pope Pius XII added a second feast that of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1st._

We have four members of our community named Joseph, but at least one of the brothers is named after an Indian Joseph who is venerated but I don’t think has been beatified, i.e., Br. Mahesh Gotikala, scj (1st year). Actually I would not have known he was a Joseph as the Indian District personnel directory does not list his Christian name.

Many of our brothers do not use, or certainly do not list on any official document, their Christian baptismal name (if they have one). It is harder to do work with the government if officials (especially those with strong Hindu basis) are aware you are a Christian. Names have also from time to time caused brothers grief in applying for a passport or driver’s license. It is very important that all your documents line up with the exact same name and any variance can cause difficulty.

I was made aware of some of the hoops Indians have to go through that I would never face. For example, when one applies for a passport and you give X as your home address the police will be sent to check that this is indeed your official residence. I know of at least one brother who was denied a passport because when the police came to his house he was not home and the neighbors (trying to be helpful I think) gave his nickname to the police officer and since it was different from what was on the officer’s sheet the passport was never issued.

Sticking with applying for a passport, Fr. Louis Mariano Fernandes, scj, had to go to Goa [where he is from] to apply for the renewal of his passport while all I have to do is fill out the form and mail it to the government passport center (if memory serves me it’s in Pittsburgh), or if I’m out of the country and it came time to renew I just go to the nearest US embassy or consulate.

Since the district council decided that third year theologians must get their passport and license the brothers all said “Let us do this at home as it will be much easier then trying to do it here in Eluru.” By the way, I will have to clarify for myself what is meant by license (motorbike or car). Not everyone in the district drives a car but almost every house has a need for at least one car. Certainly at a minimum a license means the ability to legally drive a motorbike.

Newly ordained celebrate Mass of Thanksgiving with student communities

March 2 A

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes from India:

Yesterday three of the four newly ordained priests came to Christu Dehon Nivas to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving with our community. Too bad our superior, Fr. Louis Mariano Fernandes, scj, had to be away in Goa as he taught these three men when they entered the minor seminary and began their long journey to becoming, first an SCJ, and then on February 6, 2016, ordained as priests. They will continue serving in the parishes where they have worked as deacons until May when they’ll be given their first assignments with the community.

For the last few weeks they have been traveling around the district celebrating in our various communities a Mass of Thanksgiving. Fr. Kishore has worked at our minor seminary in Gorantla and Fr. Ravi at our minor seminary in Kumbalangi and having them come home is always a big moment for the students. It likewise was an honor and a joy to have the three of them come to our community. They are not strangers to our brothers either as their paths have crossed numerous times during their years of formation.

March 2 BDepending on what community the newly ordained celebrate their Mass of Thanksgiving, various parts of the liturgy are divided up between them. For our celebration Fr. Ravi was the main celebrant, Fr. Kishore gave the introduction and Fr. Suresh the homily. Fr. Suresh worked as a deacon at our own Sacred Heart Parish in Vempadu and consequently had lots of interaction with our brothers as a number of them do their Sunday ministry at Sacred Heart or one of  its substations.

Normally we have Mass in the morning but today in joining with our newly ordained brothers it was moved to 6:45 pm with dinner set for 8:00 pm. It also gave John, our cook, and his wife, Rekha, the opportunity to attend the Mass. I’m sure it was a proud moment for the two of them as he and his wife are important formators in their own right through their service to the community by not only putting food on our table but by their steady witness to their own life of faith.

It was good that we planned the Mass to take an hour giving us a few minutes to spare before dinner at 8:00 pm. It also gave John time to do a few last minute details needed to get the food on our buffet line. As you might imagine for a special occasion like this fish was the order of the day. However before the fish, biryani rice, vegetable and soup could be served we had to honor custom.

As the senior priest in the house with Fr. Mariano still in Goa I had the duty to welcome our guests to our table and begin the HEARTY WELCOME that includes, as any long time reader by now knows: (1) a short speech, (2)  song, (3) cake cutting and feeding, (4) flowers, and (5) instead of a card we had gifts for each. Many of the brothers then either took part in the right of cake feeding or a “manly embrace” (or both).

Sometimes I feel we play guess what cake is coming to dinner? Fr. Joseph Gopu Reddy, scj, or Br. Meghanand Chakravarthy Bandanadham, scj, are responsible for buying the cakes we use for birthdays and other celebrations. I’m never sure what they’ll taste like as it depends on what bakery they use and what type of cake they decide to purchase. Once in a while it’s an ice cream cake. Today it was what I’d call an American wedding cake, i.e., the flavor often favored at US weddings.

A custom in the district at special occasions like this is to have the  guest or guests serve the ice cream for desert. Our three newly ordained did not disappoint and a heaping bowl of ice cream was provided for one and all. I believe the flavor was almond — quite good, I might add.

Ordinations in India

IMG_2286

Fr. Thomas, district superior of India; Fr. Heiner Wilmer, superior general; Bishop Gali Bali and Fr. Stephen Huffstetter, general councilor

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes from India:

Yesterday was ordination day for four of our deacons to the priesthood and two SCJs as deacons. Bishop Gali Bali of Guntur said this was the first time that he has ordained both orders together. It did add a bit of time to the ceremony but I don’t think it really would have alter the three hour ceremony by very much if at all.

Fr. Michael Benedict, scj, the district treasurer, made plans to feed 1,000 people and he told me near the end of the evening that the catering company had to prepare additional food. When we began the Mass at 5:30 pm, I was not sure we’d be feeding 500 people let alone 1,000 but slowly the place filled up so that by the time we reached the end of Mass sometime after 8:30 pm the chairs were full and some had already begun lining up to eat.

Many of our students from Eluru made the trip though they had to take the public bus. That can turn out to be a three-hour trip depending on what bus they are able to catch. It also meant they had a three-hour trip back at the end of the evening. With that in mind except for those brothers staying for Sunday’s Thanksgiving Mass for Frs. Kishore, scj, and Suresh, scj in their home village of Kanaparru the rest left soon after finishing their meal. I think it was around 9:30 pm, which would get them to Eluru around 12:30 am unless they caught an express bus.

It’s now 6:00 pm as I didn’t have time to finish this before we left for the Mass of Thanksgiving by Fr. T. J. Kishore Babu, scj and Fr. G. Surest Babu, scj who hail from Kanaparru about 90 minutes from here. Traffic and the number of small villages we had to go through is what makes for the time rather then any real long distance — more about their Sunday celebration tomorrow.

IMG_2361

Dinner with the bishop

As for the ordinations, they went well. I did notice four things that we would not see in an ordination done in the US. First, the procession in was led by a drum group from the village of Fr. Dumala Raju, scj, and it was loud and large! Second, the offertory procession included not only the bread and wine and cup to be used at the Mass but many people brought fruits, rice, vegetables, communion wafers, etc., as offertory gifts. Third a small group of sisters did a dance offering, light (a candle), incense and flowers at the end of the Eucharistic prayer and before the Our Father. Fourth, before the Mass ended there were many thanks to be given out and guests honored with flowers and a shawl. Finally another dance, this one coming out of the Hindu tradition was performed in front of the honored guests.

After the Mass the mass feeding began. I was asked to have supper with Bishop Gali Bali and Fr. General and Fr. Steve Huffstetter, scj, along with Fr. Thomas Vinod, scj, (district superior) and Fr. Jesús Manuel Baena, scj (rector) of Dehon Premanilayam, minor seminary (Gorantla).

Bishop Gali Bali is two years past retirement age and has been patiently waiting for a new bishop to be appointed. It’s not an easy process in India as so many factors have to be taken into account such as languages, cultural differences, even issues of castes, etc. Fr. General and Fr. Steve will be wrapping up their visit tomorrow. There will be a meeting with the district council in the afternoon and then in the evening they’ll take the overnight Chennai Express train to connect with their flight to Latin America.