My dear friend Marjorie Clough & I recently returned from ten days at the Bishop Sebastian’s House in Kerala, India. It was absolutely amazing from the moment we got there until we had our tearful goodbyes with Bishop & Father Dennis & the other Priests. They are such holy, Godly, Spirit filled men. Bishop is the most gracious host.
We went to two meetings of We Share families. At one of the meetings, the dear family we sponsor was sitting in the front row. I got to spend some time with our family. It was so special to see them, talk to them, & hug them. Precioussix year old Nayana stolemy heart. It was quite emotional & touched my heart. The Indian people are warm & loving. They are devout in their faith & trust in God for all things; they are an inspiration to me.
During the We Share meetings, recipients got up & told how We Share had helped them. Some had surgeries, some have a new house, some have house repairs, & there were a myriad of other ways people have gotten help. They were very grateful. We Share is well run. At each parish, the Parish Priest & a committee discern who is in the greatest need. They know these families, so they make very good decisions. They also teach them how to budget their money, which is very important. While there, we had the opportunity to visit two homes that were built through the We Share program. You should’ve seen the joy & thankfulness of these families. At one home, they had waited for us to come to have the house blessed. They were going to sleep in the house for the first time that evening. It was so meaningful & special to be with them.
We also had the opportunity to go to St. Anthony Day which is held every Tuesday. Twenty-five to thirty thousand people come every week. Six Masses, Confession, counseling, & being prayed over is offered. There are people there from 4:00 AM to 10:00 PM. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. You could just feel the power of the Holy Spirit.
We also had the rare opportunity of meeting the Carmelite Sisters after attending Mass at the church connected to the Convent. They all were so beautiful & joyful. Lots of smiles & laughter. Marjorie & I were touched by the light & love of God that they reflected.
We also went to The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Health in Vailankanni, India. It is called the Lourdes of the east. What a holy & serene place it is. What a gift to to go there with Bishop & eight priests!
I could go on & on about India. I have so many memories to cherish forever. I left part of my heart in India. I was truly blessed & changed.
Our visit to Kerala, India was such a time of grace. Bishop Sebastian & the priests have such deep faith & hearts for the poor. Each Mass they celebrated was like a glimpse into heaven. We had two occasions to meet with large groups of We Share families. Many sacrificed by coming great distances. One after another they would get up & share how they have been helped by We Share, they were so very grateful. Susan & I agreed we had never met such gentle, faith filled people. It was very humbling.
Bishop Sebastian, The VSSS, & Father Dennis are such good stewards of the money they receive. Each family is chosen by their parish priest & a few members of their parish. They know the situations of each family & which ones are in the most need. Their suggestions are then sent on to the VSSS. When a family is chosen to receive a new home they are asked to make a plan & to contribute part of the money for the home. Their parish also helps with some contributions. The VSSS is also starting a new program to help their families budget the money they receive or earn. They are starting with a few families in each parish & eventually have these families mentor other families.
We were able to visit some of the newly built homes & were impressed how nice they were. They were very solid and well designed. They usually have some family & friends that help them finish their home. The families were so proud to show us their new homes.
Susan & I were treated like royalty for the 10 days we were at the Bishop’s residence. Our whole stay there was an experience of a lifetime. The highlights were a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Vailankini ( Our Lady of Good Health)., the Mass at St. Anthony’s wheremore than 20,000 people come every Tuesday for Mass through out the day & to be prayed over., Mass and meeting the sisters at the Carmelite Convent, and meeting the beautiful We Share people. We could not have been more blessed to be able to take this trip.
Our visit to Kerala,
My son, Daniel and I went to Kottayam, Kerala at the end of March and we had a wonderful time….it all started when Fr. Jose Navez invited me last January to go and visit them as I was planning a trip to Kolkata…but because of my mother’s poor health in France I decided to postpone my trip to India and I went to Lourdes for 11 days…..God’s timing is important and at the end of March my son and I took off to go to Kerala!
We arrived in Kochi very early in the morning on March 29th and it was touching to see that Fr. Jose and Fr. Dennis were at the airport so early to pick us up….
When we arrived at the Bishop’ s house we were welcomed by Bishop Sebastian and he invited us to attend Mass in his chapel. He says Mass privately when not in public.That was a great blessing to start our stay…
The first Sunday we were there Fr. Dennis and Fr.. Jose took us to Fr. Jose’ s brother’ s house and we were able to see the village where Fr. Jose grew up…we were so touched and moved to see that his family had prepared a 13 course lunch for us! It was a delicious and very healthy meal….the welcome that they extended to us was unbelievable…
That same day we went to Puam to visit the family that we sponsor…the mother is a widow with a son and a daughter….it was also moving to meet them…we met the husband’s parents and the father is 95 years old: he greeted us with so much humility and gratitude that I felt that I was encountering Christ in Him….
It was very special to pray with the Bishop and the priests in the evenings and to share meals with them…it is very inspiring to witness the strong spirit of community and the care that the Bishop gives to the priests. We also visited the VSSS office and Fr. Dennis is the director….we talked to a few staff members and they explained to us the mission of VSSS.
Every Tuesday there is a devotion to St Anthony in Kottayam and there are six masses during the day….there are about 25 000 people who come to the celebration and the priests pray over many people, Hindus and Muslims also come….Fr. Sebastian prayed over me with a cross. It was a very powerful experience and there are also many graces given through the Eucharistic procession. I have also never seen so many people lining up to go to confession. That in itself is a miracle…I was very impressed with the zeal, the strong faith and the love of the priests: they consume themselves to serve the people and to bring Jesus to so many souls. I also learned that 95% of Catholics in Kerala practice their faith.
We also went to Munnar for three nights and that was like a foretaste of Heaven…it is a very beautiful place with many tea plantations, fruit trees and an abundance of spices. I attended mass at St Anne’s church in Pallivasal, near Munnar and I was very impressed by the love, respect and recollection with which Fr. Augustine celebrated mass…at the end of the mass a mother and her daughter invited me to their home for a cup of tea. They live in a line house that they do not even own…I was very touched by their warm hospitality and kindness. I also went to that same church for Stations of the Cross one Friday of Lent and I was very moved by the way people prayed and sang. They sang in Tamil and Malayalam and they sang from their heart which moved my spirit deeply even though I did not understand a word! We also went to Mt Carmel Church in Munnar where there are priests who are part of the Vijayapuram diocese. Fr. Sebastian invited us for lunch and again we were welcomed with love and joy. People were very friendly in Munnar and they talked to us even though they did not know us…
This whole stay in Kerala was a foretaste of Heaven! I am very grateful to Kathy Rennie for encouraging me to go there and for her faithful prayers….I really hope that I can go back there again…