(Bengaluru, India) On 24th March, the government announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown. The Redemptorists of Holy Redeemer Church and Sadupadesha Community together with the parishioners began an outreach program towards the needy in Bangalore. A positive side-effect of this lockdown is that the Redeemer seems to be directing our gaze to those aspects of our personal and ecclesial life that need most attending to. The Lord also seems to be leading us closer to the spiritual and material needs of the poor and the abandoned. As the Holy Week was nearing, Fr Rector, Louis Christopher invited us to have Adoration every evening during Holy Week. Discussion in our community meals often revolved around how we were going to respond to this situation. Around the same time, a parishioner approached Fr. Christopher Ponnuswamy, the parish priest of Holy Redeemer Church, with a generous offer of Rs. 100,000/- to supply provisions to poor families within the parish limits. In discussion with this parishioner, it was decided to feed at least 100 poor families with a supply of basic provisions like 5kg rice, 2kg pulses, 1 litre of oil, soaps, detergent powder, salt, potatoes, etc.
A Good Samaritan Team consisting of Parish Council members and other volunteers was formed to identify these families and distribute the provisions. Other generous benefactors from the parish soon came forward to support this project. Provisions were ordered via an online portal and soon the supplies arrived. Since no parishioners were allowed into our campus due to the lockdown, the entire Sadupadesha community was involved in packing the provisions neatly into large sacks for the distribution. That includes 16 seminarians at Sadupadesha who could not go out for their holidays before the lockdown. They played an important role in completing the packing in record time and in supplying it to the distribution desk at our gate. However, keeping in mind their safety, they were not involved in the actual distribution to the beneficiaries. The Parish clergy and the Good Samaritan team distributed the provisions to a hundred families on 7th April in the middle of Holy Week.
However, on that very first day, we noticed many more poor rushing to our gate unannounced, including migrant workers. Our hearts broke to see the desperation on the faces of these abandoned people, yet we could not serve all of them on the first day. Thus, a fresh appeal was issued to the parishioners and further supplies were sought. Over the remainder of the Holy Week, approximately 250 families have been served with provisions. And in the coming days, as the poor continue to approach us for help, the target is to reach aid to at least another 100 migrant families. Towards this end, the Archdiocese of Bangalore arranged for 100 bags of provisions to distribute to the migrants. This would make the tally of the poor served irrespective of caste, creed or language to a total of 350 families up to now. As more supplies and yet more poor and migrants seem to be approaching us, this number may increase to 500. It was a very extraordinary Holy Week and Easter for all of us!
We are immensely thankful to the Archdiocese, the generous parishioners, and the missionary groups of laity like the Missionary Families of Christ India (MFCI) for their timely contributions and dedicated labor. We are all very grateful, that in this very sad moment of the global pandemic and of the nationwide lockdown. It appears that God has opened up a way for us Redemptorists of Holy Redeemer Church and Sadupadesha Community in Bangalore to proclaim the Good News of God’s Love in a new way to the poor and abandoned. Could it just be a coincidence that this happened during the Bicentennial Death Anniversary of St. Clement Hofbauer, our saintly confrere? Not likely! Through his intercession, may we Redemptorists all over the world experience a missionary reawakening even in the midst of this crisis. May new opportunities to evangelize the poor and abandoned open up to us while keeping the safety of all in mind. May we all become increasingly aware of the ways in which, as St. Clement used to remind us, we can exercise our apostolic zeal with “courage” because “God is still in charge”!
Fr. Sandeep Menezes, C.Ss.R.