The eyes of India


Last updated 3/19/2024 at 11:01am

Photo provided

A service trip to India is a life changing experience.

We are all going to miss him dearly. How does one go about describing Sibi? Many of you are blessed to have come to know Fr. Sibi over these last five years as he pastored the flock at St. Edward the Martyr Catholic Church. Whether as a Young Lifer, pickle-baller, hiker, mountain biker, or just hanging out with the guys at the Space Age. His kind and gentle and humorous nature made him so easy to be around, to be drawn to. His detachment from the world and abiding joy were/are attractive.

Though his family had envisioned young Sibi to pursue a career in medicine or engineering, inspired by stories his middle school years, he felt called to become a missionary priest.

While here in Sisters, Fr. Sibi completed a PhD in Psychology, focusing on the impact of faith in the successful treatment of Substance Use Disorder (SUD). He will now join over 220 religious sisters and 70 priests in Bijnor, a province in Northern India.

Starting this month, Fr. Sibi will be overseeing the construction and then the operations of a substance abuse treatment center, where Christianity and mission work in general, is oppressed by the Hindu government.

India: a country one-third the land mass of our 50 states and yet hosting four times more people. That's really crowded.

Kudos to many in our community for taking your children to experience and be with the truly poor. What a blessing it is to have one's perspectives change for the better. One cannot return the same person. I know I speak for many of you, that an experience like this is hard to describe; not quite sure how to sum it all up - I just can't seem to find the words to convey what I really feel. I'll try.

I joined three buddies from our St. Edward's Mens group to join Fr. Sibi as he returned home in early February for good, or should I say, goodness sake. He led us (as his friends and family fed us) for the next three weeks traveling from the missionary outposts in the North, to Saint Theresa's Motherhouse in Kolkata, then to Fr. Sibi's hometown of Cochin in Southern India.

Jump into the mini-minivan with us as we travel from orphanage, to school, to hospital, to another school, and round out the day spending some time with 224 "differently-abled" residents. Often, local parents will simply drop off a disabled child, unable to provide care. These missionaries will adopt the child for life. We were privileged to meet a number of these residents, and they are thriving. The compassionate care offered often brought us to tears - two baths a day, much of the food grown on site, laughter ,and foot rubs.

Driving along, being thrown about by roads in which there were literally more potholes than road, the sights, sounds, and smells of abject poverty, pollution, and civic chaos was startling and sobering, often making you feel helpless and hopeless.

Turning off a road, and in a moment, utter chaos would give way to great joy and hope as we would enter a care center, school, or church. We were fortunate to meet many of Fr. Sibi's fellow missionary priests, sisters, and volunteers. A number of descriptors come to mind: called, answering, selfless, deep, compassionate, satisfied, purposeful, fun, peaceful, and joyful.

Sounds strange, but these folks just had different smiles, knowing smiles. Without words, these dear ones spoke volumes through their work. You can never ever go wrong by loving a person, loving them right where they are with whatever you have. Revelations as such, rocked my thinking. Me having so much, often unsatisfied and unsettled. Him or her, having so little, yet wanting so little and at peace.

Paul, who not only celebrated his 75th birthday, but 43nd anniversary in India (thank you Mary Lou!) had this to say: "Eyes of India...I just keep thinking of all their eyes, how they communicate hope, peace, and unguarded love, especially the children. They really got to me, still do. Matter of fact, I don't want to lose this, ever. Words sometimes mess up some of the best of what we want to communicate, my agenda often surfaces to mess things up, get in the way. I really want to use my eyes to communicate more, purely".

Dave Duehren, who also celebrated his birthday abroad, had this to say: "Trip of a lifetime, but good to be back home and now wanting to raise awareness of this work. Such a diverse experience as Fr. Sibi did not take us to tour India, but to greet India by walking her streets, feeling her poverty, viewing her grandeur, tasting her home-cooked food, and meeting her lovely people".

Photo provided

The people of India made a strong impression.

Jim Younts offered, "Only by the grace of God to be born in the USA and live here in Sisters Country. The Church has really stepped in to provide where the Indian government cannot, will not, and has worked tirelessly to dissolve the caste system. Our dollars can provide so much more in India and I fully trust Fr. Sibi and his co-missionaries. I want to support them as a thank you for being missionaries here, and for what they are doing in a very difficult region of the world. Fr. Sibi is right where he needs to be with challenging work looming before him. He could have done anything in the professional world, yet he chose this. I want to help them in any way I am able."

I am on the board of a non-profit 501(c)(3) called "Friends of Bijnor" which aims to bring awareness, and support these missionaries. If you would like to learn more about this work, please contact me ([email protected]) or pull up the FOB website Thank you and God bless you!


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