Several years ago, ONE took readers to a hospice in India offering care to AIDS patients.
That was when many readers first got to know a priest who worked with CNEWA for several years to support many of the unfortunate poor in India: the Rev. Varghese Palathingal.
He is known for his selfless and dedicated service to humanity, especially the marginalized.
His 25 years of service for the less fortunate, the abandoned, H.I.V.-positive patients and the homeless poor are remarkable and truly heroic.
To begin with, Father Palathingal founded the first community care and support center for the H.I.V./AIDS patients in South India, the Mar Kundukulam Memorial Research and Rehabilitation Complex.
He was able to help nearly 2,000 H.I.V.-positive patients, including children. The effort and risks taken by him had a significant impact. He gave peace and shelter to the patients who were about to die or had attempted suicide.
He not only cared for these persons but also provided rehabilitation for those who were regaining their health after treatment.
Father Palathingal educated the innocent children of the H.I.V./AIDS patients, those who were rejected from the regular school academies. He cared for these children in different ways.
First, he introduced prayer as therapy. He found this therapy is very useful for the patients to share their feelings and emotions; it brought them peace.
He also gave tremendous care to those who are mentally handicapped.Since 1987 he has been the Director and Principal of Pope Paul Mercy Home, a residential training center for those living with mental handicaps.
Every year nearly 500 mentally handicapped students get training from this special school without any discrimination. Father Palathingal introduced the practice of teaching these student in a natural, home-like setting. Through such specialized training, the students were given a chance to improve themselves and be independent.At present, more than 6,000 persons have received training.
He also began new self employment opportunities for these disabled children. More than 500 boys and girls are employed in such fields as horticulture, masonry, gardening, cooking and printing, among others.
Father Palathingal is also a father figure for the destitute who cannot afford even one meal a day and who have no place to stay. Through a Noon Meal Program under a charitable society called Abhayam, started in 1996, he has been able to provide meals for almost 200 needy people every day in and around Thrissur. Now he chairs the organization. Through Abhayam, Father Varghese has been able to feed close to 480,000 hungry children so far.
Through the center for persons living with H.I.V./AIDS, Father Varghese Palathingal has worked to reduce the number of suicides among the patients, prolonging their lifespan. Usually these patients are rejected from the hospitals after first aid treatment.
But thanks to Father Palathingal, more patients are finding healing and hope. As he noted a few years ago:
“Most of them have attempted suicide. But after reaching the hospice, we find all of them yearn for life. They live happily though death awaits them. Our aim and motto is to give them a respectful and peaceful death.”
Read more about his work in Hoping Against Hope from the July-August 2004 edition of ONE.