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.