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Orphanage of the Immaculate Heart opens in India

by William Fante
Special to 
The Fatima Crusader

"I have invited Father Gruner and the Apostolate
to join with me in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad
to operate and support a new home for needy,
orphaned children. It is impossible to
over-emphasize how desperately
this orphanage is needed here."

Archbishop S. Arulappa

Charity permeates all of the Church's activity, but in its care of orphaned children special emphasis is placed on our obligation to preserve, nourish and enrich their faith even as we provide them with the material necessities of life.

From Biblical times, the fatherless, the stranger and the widow have shared the excess fruits of the harvest (Deut. 24:21). The people were told that God "is the father of orphans" (Ps. 67:6) and that His bounty is to be shared with them. In fact, the Scriptural mandate for the care of orphans is among the clearest of any in the Bible.

Since the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the full flowering of Christianity, the natural compassion toward the orphan has been elevated and refined through Catholic teaching to an even higher degree. The Church sees its role in the care of children as part-and-parcel of its concept of the child as the image of God, redeemed by Christ's blood and made to share in His life through the Sacrament of Baptism.

The Church mandates that it is the solemn obligation of each bishop to care for orphans through a variety of child-care services provided in his diocese and made possible largely through the dedication and hard work of the clergy and religious orders.

On this point, Saint Augustine tells us that it is "the bishop (who) protects the orphans that they may not be oppressed by strangers after the death of the parents." He goes on to say that "your piety knows what care the Church and the bishops should take for the protection of all men, butespecially of orphaned children."

"A Partnership to Save Lives"

One prelate who truly takes the words of Saint Augustine to heart is Archbishop Saminini Arulappa of Hyderabad, India.

India is among the poorest nations on earth and its orphans are truly the "poorest of the poor." Thousands of these parentless children starve to death horribly each year, tens of thousands more fall victim to diseases (like measles, polio, cholera, dysentery, diphtheria and whooping cough) that were long ago cured in the West. Few, if any of these children, receive any education or health care.

Several months ago, Archbishop Arulappa approached Our Lady's Fatima Apostolate to help him save the lives of destitute orphaned children in his diocese. His Excellency proposed that the Apostolate join him in a unique "partnership" to open a new orphanage dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and staffed by an order of Benedictine Sisters.

In a letter dated May 1, 1995, Archbishop Arulappa wrote: "I have invited Father Gruner and the Apostolate to join with me in the Archdiocese of Hyderabad to operate and support a new home for needy, orphaned children. It is impossible to over-emphasize how desperately this orphanage is needed here. There are many thousands of poor, orphaned children deprived of the very necessities of life, living without adequate shelter, food or clothing on the streets."

In response to His Excellency's urgent request, Father Gruner wrote to Our Lady's friends last July and asked for their prayers and financial assistance. In his letter, he noted that "this partnership offer from one of the leading bishops of India is a tremendous honor for Our Lady's Apostolate. But even more, it is also a tribute to the prayers and sacrifices of those who have supported our efforts for so many years."

Father's words and the plight of these poor children touched the hearts of many friends of The Fatima Crusader and Our Lady's Apostolate and, through their prayers and generosity, the Orphanage of the Immaculate Heart has now become a reality!

A 10-Year Presence

The fact that Our Lady's Apostolate has been asked to join Archbishop Arulappa in this important project in India should not come as a surprise.

The Apostolate has been working on the Indian subcontinent for over ten years to promote devotion to God's Mother and to spread Her Fatima Message to the more than 25,000,000 Catholics who live there. Four years ago, the Apostolate opened its first mission office and, since then, literally millions of rosaries, scapulars and Fatima booklets and leaflets have been distributed across the country. Processions, prayer rallies and all-night vigils have drawn hundreds of thousands of the Faithful. Father Gruner himself has visited India on four separate occasions to bring the Pilgrim Statue of Our Lady of Fatima to millions of Catholics.

In a recent letter, Father shared his memories of seeing more than 100,000 people turning out on a single day to show their devotion and love for Our Blessed Mother.

“When you see a child dying from hunger or a disease we can prevent or cure, it is something you can never forget.”

During the 1992 Bishops' Conference in Fatima, Father Paul Trinchard publicly commented on the spectacular consequences in India when a bishop, in union with Fatima Crusader workers, organized a procession of Our Lady's statue in the streets of one city. "Even Moslems converted as a result," he said, "and for forty years I couldn't convert one. But somehow by the statue going through the streets and people witnessing the outward display of reverence, converts were made. I cannot explain it. It is a puzzle, but it is a fact."

Many people visiting India for the first time have commented on the strong faith of Catholics living there. The Apostolate's mission office reports that — despite working both day and night — it can barely keep up with the demand for Catholic and Marian books, sacramentals and other religious information.

Yet it is precisely the efforts and success of the Apostolate's mission that has earned it the respectand admiration of so many important and influential Church leaders in India.

Archbishop Arulappa recently stated that "the missionary work of Our Lady's Apostolate is especially important in our struggle to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ (by word and deed) to the many millions who have never heard His words before."

The Destitute Children of India

There are literally hundreds of thousands of homeless, parentless children living on the streets and back alleys of India. Many are starving and sick. To make matters worse, Christian orphans are often the victims of terrible persecution and abuse from the heathen majority.

Commenting on this destitution, Father Gruner relates: "I could not possibly count the number of hungry and sick children I have seen and prayed for during my pilgrimages in India. It would certainly have to be in the many hundreds, if not thousands. When you see a child dying from hunger or a disease we can prevent or cure, it is something one can never forget."

In India, life expectancy remains near the world's bottom, averaging 59 years. Because of poor nutrition, lack of safe water, medication and basic medical facilities, diseases and wounds that are easily cured in North America or Europe are often fatal to undernourished bodies. An infection like cholera or measles can quickly sweep through an area leaving tens of thousands dead or infirm.

For children, this situation is many times worse. Vast numbers of Indian infants die before their fourth birthday. Many other children survive only at the cost of serious health problems and deficiencies ... malformation of the bones, twisted spines and other so-called "oddities" which make it virtually impossible for them to obtain work.

These youngsters often end up in major cities where, abandoned and alone, they are lured into lives of prostitution and slavery.

And yet thousands of other poor children are routinely targeted by criminal gangs who exploit their young bodies and souls in unspeakable ways. As a despised minority, Catholic children are at special risk.

The Evangels of Death

Tragically, homeless and destitute Catholic children are often the victims of pagan and evangelical cults who offer "assistance" in the form of a small bowl of rice followed by hours of anti-Catholic brainwashing. Many so-called "Christian" groups send volunteers to poor areas (including Hyderabad) to "evangelize."

While many native people have a long history of adherence to the Catholic Faith, their lack of education and experience make them easy marks for the "pie in the sky" promises of these unscrupulous groups. Frequently, these organizations (funded by MILLIONS of dollars raised in the U.S. and Canada) move into an area, give daily meager rations, indoctrinate the local people with their brand of religion and then, just as suddenly, leave again.

Mairead Clarke, one of Our Lady's workers who has spent considerable time in India, reports that "these groups do nothing to improve the standard of living for the people or, even worse, demand chemical ‘family planning' as the price of their further assistance. In some cases, they even advise abortion."

Countless instances have been documented of impoverished children and adolescents being sent into the cities to beg, borrow, steal or work to support those left at home. These youngsters often end up in major cities like Delhi, Calcutta, Hyderabad, Madras and Bombay where, abandoned and alone, they are lured into lives of prostitution and slavery.

When Archbishop Arulappa states that "it is impossible to over-emphasize how desperately this orphanage is needed," he is hardly exaggerating the gravity of the situation for hundreds of thousands of children.

"And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."

... Matthew 10:42

As anyone who has worked in the relief and development field will confirm, providing safe clean water is the most important single step towards improving the life and health of poor people the world over.

This is not only a physiological truism, but it is also Scripturally correct as well. God Himself taught us this as He created water on the first day of creation ... three days before the creation of living things and five days before He created man(Genesis 1).

“Over the years, thousands of lives will be saved and improved because of this single act of charity done in Our Lady's name.”

Since most people, especially most children, die from water-borne infections or the diseases of filth, one of the first accomplishments of providing safe water is a drastic reduction in the mortality rate (and most particularly the infant mortality rate).

As Our Lady's Apostolate moved to open the new orphanage in Hyderabad, Father Gruner directed that "our first priority must be to provide safe, clean and easily available water to the facility ... and plenty of it! The children must have both safe water to drink and in which to bathe."

While the area in which the orphanage is located does have plentiful underground sources of water, drilling a well has never been within the resources of the local community. They have been forced to depend on unreliable deliveries from the government "water trucks" which roam large areas of the countryside supplying drinking water to towns and villages that have none of their own.

In late July, under the supervision of Apostolate mission workers, a well was dug on the site of the new orphanage. Upon learning that the nearest town had no water supply of its own, Father Gruner instructed that a pipe be laid to provide the same safe, clean water to the town, which the children would be drinking. As he explains it, "our mission here is to help however we can and as many souls as we can. This is what we mean when we talk aboutliving our faith. Now, for the first time, the people of this village will have clean, safe water. Over the years, thousands of lives will be saved and improved because of this single act of charity done in Our Lady's Name."

Orphanage of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

It has been wisely said that an orphanage must provide plenty without wastefulness, clothe adequately without cheapness or painful uniformity, educate in letters and handicrafts without overwork, and provide amusement without laxity as well as discipline without repression. In addition, buildings must be safe and have adequate sanitation conducive to health and there must be a sensible affordable program of medical care and preventative care.

The Orphanage of the Immaculate Heart of Mary now occupies a former elementary school that was abandoned several years ago when Archbishop Arulappa built a new school to accommodate 300 children. As of today, the Orphanage comprises two single-story, mud-brick buildings with tile roofs. Prior to recent renovations, the tiles were mostly cracked or lost and the walls needed repair. The windows were without glass and no modern sanitary facilities existed.

At Archbishop Arulappa's urging and with Father Gruner's approval, work on upgrading the facility began even before funds had been raised from supporters in North America. Under the close supervision of Apostolate workers, new bathrooms, toilets, doors, windows, a new roof, insulation, electricity, kitchen and sleeping rooms were added in record time in preparation for the arrival of the Benedictine Sisters and the first 50 orphans.

As the Apostolate's Mairead Clarke explains, "We had hoped to have had more time to prepare and work on the facility, but the Archbishop already had the children ready and even more on his waiting list. All we could do was pray and hope that the work would be done in time. And, thanks be to God, our prayers were answered!"

While open only a short time, Mrs. Clarke reports that the Orphanage is already operating beyond its planned capacity. "Conditions were so bad for these children that we had no choice but to make room for as many as possible. Thankfully, the children are small enough to fit them all in."

The Apostolate is hoping to build another, larger facility on the adjoining six acres which the Archbishop has donated for this purpose. Father Gruner has planned that this building will be used to house older children attending the diocesan school as well as a chapel dedicated to the Immaculate Heart where the names of benefactors will be enshrined.

Father is also hopeful that funds will soon become available to establish a small medical clinic where the children and townspeople from a wide area can receive the legitimate benefits of Western medicine and preventative care (especially inoculations).

The Daughters of Saint Benedict

The Benedictine nuns who will be administering Our Lady's Orphanage are from a very poor order and relatively new to the area. There are five nuns in the convent, most of whom are under the age of 35 years.

The order was founded in Kerala state and this is one of the first groups to be accepted outside of that area. As a token of the importance of this new assignment, the Mother Superior of the entire order travelled across India to attend the official opening of the Orphanage.

Archbishop Arulappa has placed the religious education of the children in the capable hands of these dedicated sisters as well as the daily operations of the facility. The general education of the children will take place at the new diocesan school. Fatima Crusader readers can be assured that the children will receive a traditional Catholic education. His Excellency, who sits on the Orphanage's Board of Directors, is on record as firmly opposing sex-education and has forbidden its teaching anywhere in his diocese.

A Great Triumph!

The opening of this new orphanage cannot be seen as anything but a tremendous victory for Our Lady. In a recent letter to The Fatima Crusader, Archbishop Arulappa wrote of his gratitude to the Apostolate for joining him in this new partnership to save and improve the lives of children. In conclusion, he wrote, "I am sincerely grateful to the International Fatima Rosary Crusade for all their kindness and encouragement."

When asked to comment on the success of opening this new children's home in what can only be called record time, Father Gruner responded with characteristic modesty: "Our Lady has told us that Her Immaculate Heart will triumph. This orphanage is one small, but important victory on the road to that greater one. The victory, the credit, the glory is Hers."

Here are some of the children, The Fatima Crusader family has rescued and adopted in india. Without the help of people like you reading this Magazine - some of the children pictured here today might otherwise be dead. Thanks for your continued help.