Passing Through Kerala

by Kamini Desai Sanghvi
photos by Christian Molidor, R.S.M.

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I began my sixth field trip to India – the fourth to Kerala – last November. I visited 11 dioceses in Kerala and the Diocese of Kalyan in central state of Maharashtra. As always it took three days to reach Kerala from New York. The weather, by Indian standards, was unusually pleasant (between 85 and 90 degrees and an occasional drizzle). The monsoon season was just ending, rather late. This also meant the so-called roads had not yet been repaired after six months of heavy rains. Travel was difficult – once while I was travelling in an open jeep it took 45 minutes to cover five miles of hilly and rocky terrain!

I spent most of the time visiting and discussing potential projects with project holders, diocesan personnel and bishops. I also called on a few needy child institutes, superiors general and provincials of religious congregations.

The church projects I visited fell into two categories: construction of churches and reconstruction or rehabilitation of existing structures.

The 75 Catholic families in Balasaram in the Diocese of Palghat must walk at least five miles through hilly terrain to reach any of the neighboring parishes that have a church.

The same is true for the parishioners of Pullissery in the same poor diocese. The faithful here have the added inconvenience of having to cross a narrow river to reach the church. In summer the water is low enough for them to wade through it. But during the monsoon season, which can last for over five months with continuous rain, the river overflows and parishioners, young and old, walk more than 10 miles to avoid crossing it.

In parishes in the more established Archdiocese of Ernakulam, the situation is different. Here the need is for the reconstruction of churches. Many of these houses of worship, now more than 40 years old and damaged by years of harsh weather, are neither safe nor large enough for congregations that have since doubled in size. The parishioners will contribute major portion of the cost over a two- to three year period. However they still need a sizable contribution to complete construction.

In rehabilitating needy children the efforts of the Diocese of Trichur are to be commended. Only a small percentage of the children in institutions supported by our Association are true orphans. Most are from broken families who have no means to feed, clothe and educate their children.

In the institutions our benefactors sponsor, the children are at least five years of age. They are fed, clothed, educated and provided opportunities to cultivate or improve their skills in the fields of music, dance, drama and sports. They are taught discipline, morality and ethics. Most children go home at least once a year for about a month and leave the institution permanently after they finish high school at the age of 16.

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Tags: Children Education Kerala Funding Sponsorship