Letters from Kolkata

Thomas Aquinas College grad travels to India to work with Missionaries of Charity
City view of Kolkata

City view of Kolkata

Dear ones,

Well, it’s Thursday, which means we have the day off. I served mass this morning, and when I arrived I started making small chat with the priest before mass began. I had rushed out without my glasses on, so I wasn’t exactly operating on all cylinders. Anyway, he was American and he asked me where I was from? “California,” I replied. “What part?” “Ventura county.” “Oh, interesting! I have a brother who lives in Ojai? Tom S—–?” He turned out to be Fr Greg S_____, who I’ve never met before. [Ed: Two of Fr. S______’s sisters are married to two of Jack’s uncles] It was such a funny, small world thing. We seem to run into the S_______s everywhere.

After mass I went to breakfast with a group of volunteers because it was one girl’s last day. Afterwards I went with some of them to this incredibly fancy mall. It’s so strange. You have beggars sleeping in the street, and then you have a mall full of Burberry, and Swarovski, and TAGheuer. It’s kind of scary, the separation of the rich and the poor, and yet they’re so geographically close to each other. I’ll admit, it was very nice to be in a big, very westernized place for a couple of hours.

In general, life here has been very prayerful and beautiful. I still love doing the work with the patients. A number of them have died in the last couple weeks, so that has been more emotionally challenging, especially as I get closer to the men in general. However, every day I’m moved by their gratitude for the service you give, and honestly privileged to be with them. I end up watching out especially for an older man who’s been bedridden for quite some time. It’s not clear to me whether he is dying or not, because he continues to eat, but he is very sick. I cut his fingernails the other day, and I feed him several times a week. There isn’t exactly a schedule of any kind for what has to be done by the volunteers so I just sort of do my thing.

I helped participate in the baptism of a young man who was dying the other day. We baptized him Joseph Daniel. He was 19 I think, and he died about 3 hours later during the hour of mercy. I also took another man’s remains to the crematorium and had a very interesting opportunity to witness the Hindu process of preparation for cremation. While I was there one of the workers asked me to bring him a rosary next time I came in. It was a surprising request– I had been quietly praying a rosary, but I hadn’t realized anyone saw me. It was moving to be there, especially because I had helped care for the man who had died only the day before. Death is such an interesting, natural part of our lives here. It’s helping me to realize how it is just part of the nature of things, tragic though it may feel.

I’ve met a brother here from Norcia, and am considering going to stay there for a few weeks on my way home, just to take some time to meditate on the whole experience. Miss you all a lot. I’m holding you all in my heart this Lent.

With love,

Jack

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  1. The Hindu people use beads for their prayers, also, as do some Muslims. If the Mysteries of the Rosary are explained to them, it should be most helpful in introducing them to Christianity. Often the Hindu people think of Our Lord and Our Lady as just an additional god or goddess until monotheism and the Holy Trinity are explained to them.

    St. Thomas the Apostle took the Faith to India right after our Lord went up to heaven, so there are already Christians there in certain areas.

    • Thomas the Apostle most likely didn’t go to India.

      • Anne T. says:

        Sawyer, please tell that to the Syro-Malabar Christians here from India. They are Catholics of a rite other than the Latin one. There is strong evidence that St. Thomas went to India. Recently there was a sunami near the place where he started a church. The Indians say he planted a cross there, and told them to go above it anytime there was a sunami, and it would not reach them. The church is above that area and going to it during the last sunami saved many lives. (to be continued)

    • Anne T. says:

      (Continued). There is a lovely little novena book called “The Doubter”s Novena, Nine Steps to Trust with the Apostle Thomas:. It is put out by the Sunday Visitor and written by Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey and has a foreword by Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church. The story is included in this small book. One should be able to get it on line. The original cross most likely has beenreplaced by newer ones.

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