Building Chapels in India

Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has come to the aid of islanders in the Bay of Bengal who could not afford to finish building chapels in rural areas with no priests.

Bishop Alex Dias explained how parishioners in his Diocese of Port Blair, which covers the Andaman and Nicobar islands, have been erecting small chapels, which double as schools and parish meeting places.

In response to an urgent request from the diocese, Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need, has provided $20,000 to provide roofs for 15 chapels.

Bishop Dias said, “When ACN came to our aid it was a great blessing.”

He added, “Having a decent chapel helps the people to come together. [The Diocese of Port Blair] is a rainy and wet place. If you don’t have a decent chapel, it is difficult for people to gather; having a chapel is definitely a blessing.”

The bishop described how typically these chapels have been small thatched huts made of bamboo, but nine months of torrential rain every year meant the huts needed regular, extensive repairs.

Not only has repairing rain damage taken a lot of time, but the Supreme Court of India’s ban on cutting naturally grown trees in rain forests, which cover roughly 86 percent of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has caused problems.

The bishop explained how even those who take bamboo or leaves for thatching roofs could be liable to arrest, “making it hard for our people to maintain the chapels.”

In response to the ban some of the faithful have erected semi-concrete churches. These are built in brick for the first 3-4 foot and the rest is finished in bamboo or wood.

These were erected at the congregations’ own expense, but they lacked funds to provide proper roofs, so the diocese made a commitment to supply roofing.

Bishop Dias said, “We are using aluminum sheets – as they are longer lasting.”

These chapels are essential as much of the Catholic community is spread out in rural and wooded areas and each of the diocese’s 14 parishes have 15-30 sub-stations, which in some places cater to more than 200 families.

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide. For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384. www.churchinneed.org
Filed under: