PASSAGE TO INDIA
Father Gruner cuts ribbon,
In January 1999, Father Gruner traveled to India for the opening of our new orphanage building in Hyderabad diocese. This was Father’s sixth pilgrimage to the sub-continent and, as always, he was accompanied by the Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Father’s actual arrival in Hyderabad coincided with the feast of St. Paul the Hermit, who is the patron saint of the parish where the orphanage is located.
His Grace, Archbishop Saminini Arulappa officiated at the Mass that began the official opening ceremony for the new facility. He also used this opportunity to confirm some of our children from the orphanage. On the morning of the opening, the church was so packed with parishioners that the statue of Our Lady had to be set up outside the door under a canopy specially placed there for Her. After Mass, the people streamed out of the small church and gathered around the statue to pray and offer petitions. There were so many people that Father was actually concerned for the safety of the statue as the crowd anxiously pushed forward to welcome Our Lady to the parish.
The people were so enthusiastic that Father was soon surrounded and he asked that some Rosaries and medals be distributed. More than 100 Rosaries, two dozen Miraculous Medals and a large number of picture Prayer Cards were gone in a matter of a few minutes.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Arulappa, Father Gruner, and the many other attending priests left for the local Catholic school for the official ceremony to open two new classrooms. While that was taking place, Our Lady’s statue was brought to the new orphanage building to prepare for the opening ceremony there. As the guest of honor, Father Gruner cut the ribbon in the entrance way, after which Archbishop Arulappa proceeded around the central courtyard blessing the building and the individual rooms.
Lunch followed and was attended by His Grace Archbishop Arulappa, Father Gruner, and the building’s architect, as well as many other priests and local dignitaries. After lunch, the Archbishop and some of the visiting priests returned to their duties elsewhere and the new property was inspected by Father Gruner. After touring the newly-painted salmon-colored buildings, Father was extremely satisfied with the new facility’s up-to-date construction, safety and size. He was particularly excited that we would now have the capability of helping even more needy children.
The next morning, Father and Mrs. Clarke, an Apostolate employee, proceeded to St. Mary’s Church with the statue. People began lining up to see the statue as early as 7 a.m. and the crowds continued until past 6 p.m. Mass was celebrated with people standing three and four-deep bringing their intentions to Our Lady’s feet. More than 3,000 were invested in the Brown Scapular, each one having the Scapular placed over their head and blessed individually by Father Gruner. The people were so anxious to receive Father’s blessing that they literally surged to the altar. Many also brought garlands of flowers and draped them over the statue. A second night at St. Mary’s Church saw another 3,000 invested.
On Thursday, Father traveled to St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hyderabad, where children from the Rosary School received the Green Scapular. Once again, large and enthusiastic crowds of people thronged the Cathedral to visit and pray before Our Lady’s statue all day.
A statue visit to St. Bernard’s Church proved interesting for the newly ordained priest, Father Kennedy. Father Gruner had asked if he could bring the statue of Our Lady to the Church and Father Kennedy agreed, but was unsure of how to prepare for Her visit. At 7 a.m. Mass, he notified his parishioners and invited them to greet Our Lady. As Father Kennedy was praying the Rosary, a man suddenly arrived and asked if they needed his truck to carry the statue. Then another gentleman stopped by to see if Father Kennedy needed a portable lighting system to light the statue during the procession. Then, two ladies arrived and asked if they could decorate the church. What amazed Father Kennedy was that his prayers were answered so quickly. In fact, he later told Father Gruner: I guess if Our Lady wants to be there, She’ll arrange it and that’s what happened.
While Father Kennedy was saying Mass, a lady sat down beside Mrs. Clarke and said her mother and she had brought her sister to visit Our Lady a few days earlier. The sister had epilepsy and her medication had caused damage to the nervous system, making walking almost impossible. She experienced extreme difficulty getting out of her wheelchair to kiss the statue; later that night, however, the lady reported that her sister was walking across the dining room floor at home on her own without help for the first time in months!
For the Record
During the course of Father's 2 week pilgrimage to India, over 26,000 Brown Scapulars and leaflets and more than 11,000 Green Scapulars were distributed through the generosity and support of Society members!