It was all so familiar --- no need to show me the dining room or inform me of meal times. As it was two years ago, Fr Roy, the Augustinian Delegation Superior took me under his care, and Fr Anson, who was fully engaged with exams, still managed to make time for me.
Our first stop was St Augustine's School, run by an Augustinian Order of sisters, a drive of about forty-five minutes from the monastery. Like the monastery, this is situated on the banks of a river, much larger than the river which flows by the monastery. We spent a couple of hours here, catching up with Sr Lynsey again, having lunch and discussing the formation of an Augustinian Lay group.
Next on our list was Thlapuzha in the District of Wayanadu. This is in the highlands of Karata, a journey of 350 kilometres. Our departure from Cochin coincided with a Muslim holiday, consequently the traffic, especially through countless towns and the winding road up the highlands, was chaotic and challenging.
Our journey of 350 kilometres took us close to eleven hours. Thlapuzha is just beautiful, mountain peaks all around us, tea plantations at every turn of the road and a shroud of mist descending on us every evening and morning. The gathering of parishioners gave me a very warm welcome, liked what they heard and immediately started making plans to form their lay group. With parish priest Fr Bosco's support, they will indeed do well. Our journey back to Cochin, after three days, was not so traumatic and testing. Fr Roy decided to travel at night so we left at 9.00 pm. The return journey only took us a little over six hours.
The following weekend, Fr Vibin drove me to Pollachi in the state of Tamil Nadu. This lay group is made up of families and in the two years, has nearly doubled in numbers. What a joy to spend the evening with members of such a wide ranging age group, a beautiful blending of children, parents and grandparents all seeking Augustinian Spirituality.
My last gathering was with the Aluva group in the Cochin monastery where I was based. Like the Pollachi group, it had indeed grown greatly in numbers, very active with strong lay leadership and its presence in the parish now very well established. For the first time, the planning and celebration of St Augustine's and St Monica's feast days were in the hands of a lay group. Not only did our lay group plan the occasion, they financed it as well. The parishioners are still talking about it.
As I was in Cochin in the month of October (Our Lady's month) I was able to participate in the local practice of bringing Our Lady’s statue from home to home. The statue remains in selected parishioner's home during which the rosary and other prayers are said. The following evening the statue is carried to the next home on the list. It is quite something to see the altar decorations. Sharing in all of this in India was for me personally, an unforgettable experience.
Overall, my presentations were focused on lay leadership, learning more about St Augustine’s spirituality, our recent congress and our newsletter AMICI. At every venue. I experienced the usual warm welcomes, culminating in very positive interactions. There were three occasions during which I was invited to delicious home cooked dinners in private homes. We were all energised and in receptive mode as we ended each evening. “On The Way With St Augustine" is very much alive in India.
Sylvia - OSAAP Representative. To read about Sylvia's first visit to India, click here.