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placeholder INTRODUCTION

Day 1: Visit to a Hindu temple; Concord parish reaches out

Day 2: Learning the rules of the road

Day 3: Family visits in ‘Catholic’ India

Day 4: Chennai (Madras) – Time with an apostle

Day 5: Close look at an Eastern Rite Church

Day 6: Ubiquitous respect for each others’ religious beliefs

Day 7: Southern India home to vast tea fields

Day 8: Worship on a houseboat

Day 9: St. Alphonsa, India's first canonized saint

Day 10: Home shrines a standard feature

Day 11: Portuguese influence very clear in Goa

Day 12: The Portuguese influence

Day 13: Time for a little tourism

Day 14: Seeing ‘the king’s land’

Day 15: Taj Mahal builder sought to unify religion

Day 16: India’s oldest mosque

Day 17: Discussing world issues

Concluding reflections

placeholder January 23, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA

Bishop Cordileone’s pilgrimage to India

Southern India home to vast tea fields

Day 7: Thursday, Jan. 5

After the cultural show and dinner at Father Santhosh’s school, I spent the night in a guest room in the school itself, and in the morning spent some time praying in the chapel. As the hour to begin the school day drew near, more and more of the school children entered the chapel, knelt down on the hard floor to pray for a few minutes, and then approached the altar to touch the crucifix on it before existing. That sense of devotion is instilled at an early age.

I joined the school community for their opening assembly. They began with prayer – all of them singing the school song together, in which they thank God for their parents, teachers and the new day.

They honored two of the teachers celebrating their birthdays that day, and the sense of school spirit and love between them was quite evident. They welcomed me, and asked me to address a few words to them. I was happy to oblige by speaking about the blessings and benefits of Catholic education.

As we were running late, I thought I could just grab a little bit of breakfast on the run. Wrong again (sometimes I can be a slow learner). Three of the teachers had gotten temporary substitutes for their classes in order to prepare breakfast for us. I don’t need to tell you the rest.

After breakfast we joined the group of pilgrims who had come from the diocese to celebrate the 25th anniversary of priesthood of Father Mathew Vellankal, pastor of Holy Spirit parish in Fremont, for a three-hour drive to visit the tea fields in the inland mountains. I didn’t know that tea needs a certain altitude in order to grow – 3,500 to 7,000 feet – as well as a hillside with a 30-45 degree slope. The mountains of Kerala are well-suited, and are a popular tourist destination not only for those who love or are curious about tea, but also for the climate and environment. The mountains provide relief from the heat, which can be uncomfortable even at this, the coolest time of the year; they also provide stunning scenery with a wide diversity of vegetation adorning mountain peaks and valleys, and affording a quiet, peaceful getaway with fresh air and a sense of closeness to nature.


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