CATHOLIC HERALD about the efforts of an Italian priest in Kerala, India, to make life a little bit more human for thousands of his parishioners, most of whom are from the untouchable caste.
Readers, touched by the story of his efforts which almost killed him, reacted with great generosity to the report. Contributions amounting to 1560 were received by us for forwarding to Fr. Caironi, who sends his thanks in the following letter.
We associate ourselves with the expression of gratitude to the many people who helped with their prayers, good wishes and money.— Editor.
Sir,—God must have inspired your readers so that before I die I may settle more of these poor people on their own land. To settle all of them will be impossible because new villages are embracing the faith, and the mass of untouchables is never-ending in these thousands of villages of Malabar.
After 40 years in India, I am fully convinced that merely baptising the untouchables and leaving them in their dirt, in their economic slavery, in their appalling misery — is a crone.
Even after a village is Christian for 100 years, the people are still despised, dirty, backward, more like monkeys than men. And their children will be the same because they will grow up in the same surroundings.
From the very beginning of my work here, I determined that the many villagers who called me to teach the Faith should he improved economically, cost what it may.
1 bought land (very costly then) and settled many converts. During the war, cut off from all help from Italy, I had to ask help from the United States, and slowly, steadily. I continued settling the converts on their own land.
Over the past 30 years I have seen the outcaste converts settled on their own land, at least on the same level of the prosperous low castes and often above them.
For 20 years I helped them build solid houses, worked like a workman. supervised the work they did, buying tiles and timber, hiring masons and carpenters. These houses, solid and clean amid the green coconuts the people are growing. are my delight and consolation.
'Hie children are clean and healthy, studying in the schools. The converts are coping with floods, epidemics, accidents, childbirth by themselves instead of relying on the missionary. 1 his is surely better than the condition of untouchable converts in most missions of South India, who are still dirty and in economic slavery of their landlords. even after 100 years of Christianity.
Don't think that I cared only for the material progress of the converts. Each Sunday for 25 years I offered 6 a.m. Mass at Cherukunnu then walked 10 or 12 miles to another centre to give a 10 o'clock Mass and then walked another seven or eight or 10 miles in the burning sun for a 4 p.m. Mass. I was strong and I could do it and I did it.
The converts came without fail to Sunday Mass because they saw the missionary killing himself with work during the week. They did not see my night work—writing for means, preparing documents. It was killing work, day and night. But it produced 100 per cent results.
The land was producing, the coconuts yielding, the converts working like devils on their land to make it produce the utmost, since for the first time in their lives it was their land, their coconuts. their rice.
Social uplift by the missions is a necessity to strengthen the converts in the faith. As long as they see the priest eating sufficiently while he doles out only a few pennies, as long as only the churches and presbyteries are of solid materials while the converts live in huts covered with dry leaves, the convert cannot be elevated even spiritually. He remains fatalistic, pagan at heart, attached to devil worship because he is always sickly and full of sores.
You helped me to crown the spiritual work begun at baptism and to make these adopted children of God live a Christian life.
Fr. P. Caironi, S.J. Cherukunnu P.O., Kerala State.