Visiting Indian bishop seeks ‘hope for the hopeless’

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The numbers say it all:

  • 40 percent of the people of rural India live in poverty.
  • 48 percent are illiterate.
  • The majority lack safe drinking water, proper sanitation and access to adequate health care.

Bishop Prasad Gallela of the Diocese of Cuddapah, India, visited the United States recently and made a stop in Kansas City, Kan., hoping to spread word of the tremendous need a world away. Six of the bishop’s priests are currently serving in the United States, including two —Fathers Arul Carasala and Mathew Francis — in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

“We hope to find new hope for the hopeless,” Bishop Gallela said. “Ours are neglected communities and still very entrenched in the caste system. If they are born into poverty, there is little chance for them to ever escape it.”

There are about 80,000 Catholics among the 5.8 million people who live in the Diocese of Cuddapah, the bishop said. Its 56 parishes are served by two priests who celebrate Mass in the “main station” and visit villages as time allows to administer the sacraments. The effects of the grinding poverty are felt everywhere.

“Much of our charity goes toward medical care for the poor,” the bishop said. “Due to the hot climate, poor living conditions and malnutrition, many people fall victim to tuberculosis and other illnesses. We run child and mother care programs, nutrition and general health programs.”

Another focus of the local church’s ministry is the empowerment of women.

Because most girls in rural India do not attend school beyond age 15, the diocese offers an 11-month training program that culminates in each girl receiving a $100 sewing machine, enabling her to earn a living.

Funding teachers’ salaries and the building of simple chapels in the villages are other ongoing projects.

“We are simply sharing our faith, our brotherhood and what financial assistance we can offer with the lowest of the classes, the outcast people,” Bishop Gallela said. “Their needs are great.”

Bishop Gallela’s visit also afforded him an opportunity to visit in person with his two priests serving in the archdiocese.

“It’s always very joyful to visit with our native bishop,” Father Carasala said. “It’s a pastoral visit — a chance for him to see how we are doing. But it’s also an important part of our ongoing friendship.”

Those interested in supporting the bishop’s work in the Diocese of Cuddapah may send an e-mail to Bishop Gallela at: pgallela@hotmail.com.

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