WelCom July 2019:
My involvement with St Vincent de Paul, through our parish of The Holy Spirit Te Wairua Tapu, Lower Hutt, and my various charity works, prompted me to arrange a visit to two charities while holidaying [with husband Mike] in India during Lent this year. Our Lenten intention was ‘help in anyway asked’.
During our visit to St Anthony’s Charity Institute (SACI) in Mangalore and Snehalaya Charatible Trust (SCT) in Manjeshwar, we saw the genuine love, compassion and care shown by many Christian communities on a large scale in India.
SACI’s Frs Onil D’Souza, Thrishan D’Souza and Francis D’Souza administer an institution that cares for 400 former ‘destitute’ people as well as about 70 retired priests and nuns. The residents now have jobs such as candle and soap making, broom making and woodwork. They have a home, with a laundry, kitchen, tailoring groups, a garden and animals. They welcomed us with a ‘nod hello’, a smile and a handshake.
At mid-day we joined everyone in the chapel for the Rosary. We listened to SACI’s story from the three priests, we shared prayers and meals, and we helped in the tailoring block, sorting and bundling quality mens’ clothing from thousands of items donated for distribution.
Fr Thrishan took us on a tour to the Church of Our Lady of Miracles Milagres (est 1680) and St Aloysuis College where he studied theology and was ordained a year ago. The college had an art-decorated chapel depicting the life of Jesus, as well as an Olympic-size swimming pool and a museum.
The other charity we visited, SCI, was started by Br Joseph Crasta in 2009. It has 167 residents, many suffering psycho-mental challenges. Laila, Roshan and their teams help with administering and providing a home, daily care, medical needs, and tenderness to residents. Br Joseph, a friendly, warm and caring ‘shoeless’ individual – he never wears shoes – helps people from alleys and dark places. He clothes them and welcomes them to a home. They never want to leave, which is a testament of how loved, cared and looked after they feel. It was a privilege and joy to hear SCI’s story, to interact with the residents and their activities.
Both charities are virtually self-sufficient, growing vegetables, owning a cow for milk, as well as some pigs. On our visit at SCI, the women were gentle, and enjoying a quiet day. The men were entertaining themselves with music, dancing and singing. Other visitors arrived with gifts and staple products such as sacks of potatoes, rice, onions. The institutions rely on donations and fundraising.
We witnessed unconditional love at both of these places – Christian societies that go in search of, then care for the needy. Back home in New Zealand and sharing our experience among our community, our Lenten intention and talking about the work of SACI and SCT, is highly fulfilling.
Thank you St Anthony and Snehalaya Charitable Trusts for what you have taught us.
Marlene and Mike Richards are parishioners at Sacred Heart Church, Petone, and members of St Vincent de Paul Society. Marlene is also a volunteer for Meals on Wheels in Lower Hutt and has worked with special needs youngsters.