01/02/2018, 17.02
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NGO celebrates Christmas in Vasai with children and drug addicts in the sign of Mother Teresa

by Nirmala Carvalho

More than700 poor, orphaned and HIV-positive children took part in Christmas celebrations. Founded in 1981 in Mumbai, the Kripa Foundation is present in 12 Indian States and 40 centres worldwide. Fr Joe Pereira goes over the highlights of the past year.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Mumbai-based Kripa Foundation celebrated Christmas on 27 December in Vasai (some 60 km north of Mumbai) with more than 700 poor children: orphans, AIDS patients and children of drug addicts.

The NGO has been involved in treating people living with HIV-AIDS and drug addicts for 37 years. Its founder, Fr Joe Pereira, told AsiaNews that, following tradition, “the Christmas party was held in Vasai”.

The event has been going on since 1994, “in particular for disadvantaged children from local facilities (Maharashtra), many of them street children, with HIV, or orphans.”

For the clergyman, “The Christmas party was the focal point of 2017, a blessed year in which I celebrated 75 years of age and 50 years of priesthood.” Nevertheless, “I still feel young and energetic to offer my life in the service of the marginalised with the blessing of Mother Teresa."

The Kripa (grace in Sanskrit) Foundation was established in 1981 in Bandra, a district in Mumbai. Today it has 69 facilities in 12 Indian States, and collaborates with other groups in Europe, Canada and the United States, where it operates 40 centres.

It is involved, among other things, in environmental regeneration projects, all inspired by a very precise beacon: the compassion of the saint of Calcutta.

"There were events that have enriched the sense of thanksgiving and the joy of 75 years of service in the Lord's vineyard,” said the priest as he went over the past year.

“On 15 August we launched the musical project 'The Witness'. My birthday, 6 September, coincided with the publication of my book Addiction - A Spiritual Paradox.” But the central moment of the whole year "was on 15 September, when I had the opportunity of celebrating Mass with Pope Francis in his private chapel".

Then, on 8 December, he had "the almost miraculous opportunity of visiting Fatima and lead Mass on the altar of the apparitions, and, together with the bishop, concelebrate on that occasion the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary."

To top off the double thanksgiving and “the gift of life and priesthood came Christmas with the children.”

“The celebrations also included Police Superintendent Raj Tilak Roshan, who was impressed by the spirit of the participants, and Mgr Felix Machado, archbishop of Vasai.”

“The children were divided into groups, each of which performed dances. I was moved by the sight of the children doing their best to express love and gratitude to me. Many of them call me ‘papa’, others 'dad', still others 'baba'. Some even call me 'Aee' (mother) and a former model calls me by the name of 'pop'."

"When I feel overwhelmed by their love and their expressions of gratitude I ask the Lord if I am worthy of so much love. And he always answers me in prayer 'You are my beloved . . . because you did it to me', which is Mother Teresa's motto for the poorest of the poor."

For this reason, one of the most cherished memories of the past year, concerns in particular an alcoholic man "brought to the Foundation against his will because of his aggressive attitude.”

“During the Christmas celebrations he told me with tears in his eyes: 'I have great love and respect for Mother Teresa. I am so happy to have been brought to this centre by force. After two days I felt the Mother's energy and her blessing on me."

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