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Fr Jeff’s Journal – India Week Two

Balamma Satrum Home for the Needy

Fr Jeff’s Journal – Week Two

29th September – 7th October 2012

As Mary Skaag and I have travelled around the surrounding area within a fifty mile radius of the village, we have realised that the poverty of the area is becoming greater due to the lack of rain. This is my fifth visit here and I have not experienced anything like this before. Everything is so extreme, there are fewer crops growing in the fields due to the lack of water and the bone dry soil is compact and hard. With these conditions in mind, every Holy Mass I celebrate I always include a prayer for rain and a more positive outlook for these people.
Saturday 29th September. Today some of the sponsored children were brought home to the village to meet us. These are our youngest children who came to write letters for their sponsors back in the North East of England and in the Coventry area. They were delighted to be with us and expressed their gratitude to us through their enthusiastic smiles and hugs. After this, we went to Kadapa to visit St Joseph’s Girl’s College where three of our girls are studying. We had to wait until the classes were over and then we were over-run by four hundred girls running to meet us.

Our girls took us to the laboratory where they were dissecting snakes and then the teacher gave me a quick lesson on the lifecycle of the mosquito that causes malaria. We then visited the Bishop of the diocese. He made us feel very welcome and spoke openly about the great difficulties in the diocese due to the on-going poverty of the people and their fight against the political system that makes no proper provision for electricity in the rural areas. The Bishop spoke very highly of Fr Sarves complementing him on his great mission and zeal in his work with the poor. He also spoke about his own involvement with the new Telegu translation of the Altar Missal and also his
programmes that he has suggested for his priests and people in the coming ‘Year of Faith.’ Catholicism in the diocese is very devotional and reminded me what it must have been like in England some forty to fifty years ago when we had many processions, novenas and parish retreats.

Sunday 30th. This morning was spent quietly supporting an old man in the village who was so ill we thought he was dying. He was moved into a more open area so that he would have a little more fresh air. At midday we had Sunday Mass which was followed by the usual lunch of rice and curry. After a short rest we then went to one of the other schools to visit more of our children. This particular school is run by an order of Sisters who also have a small field hospital on the campus. Here we met an Indian doctor who had studied in America and who was now doing a one year placement in rural India. On each of her visits to India, Mary has suffered from a foot infection due to mosquito bites that has proved difficult to treat. This particular doctor was asked by Rev Mother to look at Mary’s foot and instantly he prescribed intravenous medication through a cannula in her hand. This treatment is very painful but over the next three days her foot became better and was healed.

Monday 1st October. Today we celebrated the feast of St Theresa of the Child Jesus. Before the Mass, Fr Sarves explained the life of St Theresa and her concern for the poor. The Mass is always a joint celebration in both English and Telegu. Although the people do not speak English they still enjoy and participate fully whether it is Fr Sarves speaking or myself. It really is a celebration of the Body of Christ – Fr Sarves an Indian priest, me an English white priest and a joint congregation of Catholics, Hindus and Muslins. After Mass we were off again to visit more schools where our children are placed. In the town of Badvel where the school is situated, we called on the parish priest who had recently returned from studies at the Gregorium College in Rome. He had gained a
Licence in Mass Communications (radio and television). Mary picked up on this and asked him if he would help to produce a documentary about the project work we are doing in one of the poorest 3 parts of India. On our return to the village we though it might rain heavy but only a few drops eventually fell. This then gave rise to a hot wind with a great humidity. This type of weather quickly saps the energy out of everyone especially the elderly and the sick.

Tuesday 2nd. Once again we had morning Mass at 7.30am and then travelled to Kadapa where Mary had to fill out her Indian visa registration papers with the Superintendent of Police. I was surprised by the inefficiency of the police procedures. However, we were treated well. In India, Christianity is a minority religion and therefore treated somewhat with suspicion by the Police and so we have always to be careful that we do not give the impression of actively promoting the Catholic Faith. This visit to the Police Station took most of the day and after a meal at Bishop’s House we travelled back to the village. As usual I went to bed under my mosquito net, thinking and praying for all the people back at home who help to make the work of this home for the needy

Wednesday 3rd. At morning Mass Fr Sarves prayed particularly for rain and for the survival of the area without water. After breakfast, Sr Justina came to give Mary her intravenous medication. These nursing Sisters are very much part of our work at the village and minister to the sick every day. All medical care is done out in the open with a big effort being made to try and make sure the treatment area is mosquito free! The old man whom I spoke about is still alive although becoming weaker, but the Sisters and the village helpers give him the dignity of preparing for death. Lunch was served at the local Convent and then we met the young girls who are on the Healthcare Course which our charity supports through financial aid. This course is designed to help the young
girls prepare themselves to look after a family and home in the future. They also learn tailoring skills that will hopefully help them to make a living.

Thursday 4th. Today we returned to the town of Kadapa to collect Mary’s registration documents from the Police Station. After this we then called into the Don Bosco Technical College for needy boys. This Salesian College promotes vocational training for the boys in many aspects of joinery, welding and basic engineering. At the college, Fr Sarves received an update on an order placed for stainless steel beds to be used for our most incontinent patients. Over the next few days we will be continuing to care for the elderly people here, complete our school visits and also spend time in prayer asking God to guide us and to place the whole project
in His hands. I often recite the prayer of ‘St Michael the Archangel’ each day for our protection and
to guide us all to be more open to God’s loving providential care – may the Lord be our help and

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