09/28/2018, 13.40
INDIA
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The Gospel in the peripheries: Sr. Daniela Kuzhiadyil, 50 years among the lepers of Andhra Pradesh

by Benigna Menezes*

The religious belongs to the Missionaries of the Immaculate. She spent 25 years at the Damien Leprosy Center in Vegavaram and another 25 at the Frascogna Memorial Rehabilitation Center in Srungavraksham.

Vijayawada (AsiaNews) - Bringing the message of the Gospel to the peripheries, among the people most in need of help: This is what sr. Daniela Kuzhiadyil has been doing among the lepers of Andhra Pradesh for 50 years.

The religious is a member of the Missionaries of the Immaculate Conception, a female congregation linked to the PIME (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions). Her life, spent at the service of leprosy patients, is the living testimony of how God uses the missionaries to bring comfort and consolation to the ends of the earth.

Today in the Indian state there are several health institutions that treat Hansen's disease: St. Mary's Leprosy Center in Bhimavaram; theFather Frascogna Memorial Leprosy Rehabilitation Center in Srungavraksham; the Paolo Manna Home in Vegavaram; St. Mary's School in Bhimavaram; hostels located in Mogalturu, Fatimapuram and Jangareddygudem and other services for patients suffering from leprosy, HIV, tuberculosis and marginalized people in general.

All these initiatives have a common origin: in 1962, Mother Clara Bellotti, superior of the Missionaries of the Immaculate, responded to the request of Msgr. Ambrogio De Battista, then bishop of Vijayawada, opening the first hospital for leprosy patients in Vegavaram. At that time the streets of West Godavari and East Godavari were full of sick people begging for help at every corner.

With that first hospital the congregation launched itself into the most difficult but praiseworthy adventure in the district of Godavari: evangelizing the peripheries. Sr. Daniela is a tireless servant. Originally from Trivandrum, in Kerala, in 1949, a teacher asked her the question that would change her life: "What do you want to do in the future?". Daniela's thoughts immediately ran in various directions: teacher, doctor or nurse. While reflecting, an unexpected image came to mind. It was that of a leper with skin covered with sores.

At the time sr. Daniela did not even know what leprosy was and had never seen a patient. Only by reading the Gospel did she discover the existence of people sick with ulcers and mutilated limbs. She understands that it is the Holy Spirit who has chosen the direction of her life and decided to welcome him.

In 1962, Sr. Daniela found the address of the Missionaries in a magazine and decided to send a letter, asking to be admitted into the congregation. It was a blessed coincidence, because at that time mother Clara Bellotti was founding the hospital for lepers and was looking for some prepared people. In 1963, Sr. Daniela entered the congregation, in 1965 she was sent to Italy to attend a specific course, in 1968 she returned to India and began working at the Damien Leprosy Center in Vegavaram. Here it will remain for 25 years at the service of the sick.

Meanwhile Fr. Nicola Frascogna, PIME, opened another center in Veeravasaram for the disabled lepers who crowded along the railroad tracks. He had been tormented by the sight of those human wrecks abandoned by everyone, who survived alms. That's why he decided to buy a piece of land and create a shelter to accommodate them. However, it met with the opposition of the local inhabitants who do not like the presence of lepers in the village. Eventually the priest was forced to buy more land in Sungavraksham and Gunupudi and transfer the sick there.

Sr. Daniela arrived at the Frascogna Memorial Rehabilitation Center in 1993 and is still working here at the age of 87. Despite her venerable age, she is still lively and smiles, thanking the Lord for her constant love. On 12 October the center will dedicate a special ceremony to it, involving all 185 hospitalized patients.

 

* Missionary of the Immaculate

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