|The Layman Who Grew a Parish of 1,200|
|Written by Sherry|
|Thursday, 18 October 2007 08:22|
What a wonderful story of an extraordinarily creative and faithful lay apostle from Indian Catholic:
When Lingareddy Johannes Reddy came here as a teenager 63 years ago, the nearest Catholics were kilometers away.
Now, Mariapuram and five other villages served by Hyderabad archdiocese's Uminthal parish have more than 1,200 Catholics.
Archbishop Marampudi Joji of Hyderabad credits the 77-year-old Catholic layman for sowing and nurturing the Catholic faith almost on his own in an area of about 500 square kilometers.
Reddy related to UCA News that he was just 14 when his family moved here in 1944 from Guntur district, 300 kilometers southeast of Uminthal. The Reddys and two other Catholic families jointly bought about 60 hectares of land for cultivation, and they named the place Mariapuram (Mary's village).
A priest from neighboring Nalgonda diocese could visit only twice a year to administer sacraments and tend to other pastoral needs, Reddy recalled, but the Catholics later brought the priest on a bullock cart once a month for Mass.
Reddy remembered having no Bible when he began teaching villagers the basics of Catholicism. He said he learned the basics as a child from his father, who would explain them in the evenings after farm work. Reddy said he wanted to share the "strong Catholic faith and firm belief" he had inherited.
The villagers recognized his commitment and chose Reddy to lead their faith community when he was 16, with a fourth-grade education. In 1952, he married Jetrudamma, and their two daughters and six sons include a Jesuit priest.
Reddy's youngest son Bal remembers as many as 200 people attending his father's evening catechetical classes, which sometimes went beyond 10 p.m. Jetrudamma also taught prayers.
The layman's efforts bore fruit in 1968, when 170 people of Gattupally village were baptized. Archbishop Samineni Arulappa of Hyderabad sent five priests to conduct that ceremony. Ten years later, the archbishop sent Father T. Greenway, a Mill Hill missioner, to begin a mission in the area.
Reddy acknowledges that on his own he brought about 600 people from three neighboring villages to the Church. One village later became the base of Pargi parish and the home of Yesu Sneha Nilayam (abode of Christ's love) Church.
Reddy did not limit his service to preaching, his wife pointed out to UCA News. During a drought in 1972, she said, he distributed food items from U.S. Church aid agencies, and personally paid the transportation expenses.
Some villagers told UCA News about how Reddy has helped them. R. Rayappa, 50, a day laborer living in Manachanapally, said the lay leader obtains food for the poor, and even helps settle family problems and land disputes.
Sandaiah Doma, 52, a Catholic farmer in Gattupally, said Reddy conducted prayers in his village, which today has 60 Catholic, 10 Muslim and four Hindu families. When they were jobless, Reddy invited them to work in Mariapuram.
Father K.D. Joseph, the Pargi parish priest, told UCA News that though Reddy belongs to a high-caste group, he has worked mainly among dalit, people who come from the lowest castes and were once called "untouchable."
According to Father Stanislaus Manickyam, another priest in Pargi, Reddy has inspired local Christians to lead a good Christian life. As a result, the priest said, Hindu traders prefer farm produce from Mariapuram for its reliable quality and quantity, and bankers never hesitate to grant loans to the villagers since they are sure of being repaid.