South Indian parish uses Christmas to help flood-affected poor

MUMBAI, India – A Catholic parish in southern India helps the poor and members of marginalized communities.

Our Lady Periyanayagi [Mary Major] The church in Konankuppam, Tamil Nadu, consists of around 350 families. The parish has two substations with a chapel and includes seven other villages.

“It worries most people to buy new Christmas clothes for their children. Most of the Catholics in the parish are Dalits and poor, ”said Father Devasagayaraj M. Zackarias, former national secretary of the Disadvantaged Castes Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of India.

Dalits are the term used to refer to the lowest members of the Hinduism caste system and were once known as the “Untouchables”.

Rathinam and Rosammal, a married couple who have a house built by Our Lady Periyanayagi parish in Konankuppam, Tamil Nadu, India. (Credit: Father Devasagayaraj M. Zackarias.)

“Only a handful of people earn a monthly salary. When some children go to Christmas mass with new clothes, the poor don’t want their children to be disappointed because they don’t have new clothes. So they do their best to earn a daily wage, earn money, and buy clothes for their children. Some of them get loans from their neighbors and buy new clothes, ”he said. Node.

The priest said that heavy flooding this year has resulted in the destruction of many houses, which are made of mud.

“It is a huge loss for people who have no place to sleep, who suffer like Mother Mary and Saint Joseph. An elderly couple lost their house because their house, which was a hut, completely collapsed, ”he said.

An appeal was made to members of the ward, who provided $ 2,000 to build a one-room house with cement blocks and a tin roof.

“It will be the parish Christmas present to the poor couple,” said the priest.

He added that the Société Saint-Vincent-de-Paul gave money to four other families who lost their homes in the floods.

“We also called on supporters and pilgrims to help 24 other families whose mud walls have collapsed. I am sure these people will experience the meaning of Christmas in our parish in addition to all the outdoor celebrations. So our Christmas will be a celebration of walking with the people who have suffered a lot because of the floods, ”he said.

Notre-Dame Periyanayagi Church is an 18e century sanctuary which has been a center of Marian devotion in South India for centuries.

Zackarias noted that in his parish, most of the decorations center on the parish church and other chapels, as opposed to people’s homes.

“Unlike cities, we can only find stars in one or two houses,” the priest said.

He also said that the young people decorated the parish manger in the native style of the Tamil people.

“They are preparing a hut with hay that looks like their own poor houses for the nursery. They show their creativity in the nursery. They carry out inculturation by growing rice, millet plants on the ground to make a bed of grass to show the shepherds’ field ”, explained the priest.

“In some parishes, a theme is chosen for the decoration of the crib. In 2020, under the direction of the deputy parish priest, Father Olil, the young people prepared the nursery in the form of a coronavirus, fixing a star above the virus illustrating that the birth of Jesus will break the jumble of the pandemic . This year they have chosen the theme of synodality, which will show all kinds of people walking together to see the baby Jesus, ”he said.

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