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TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES
By Rev. Edward J. Cronin, Board of Directors FCN
I have been supporting the work of Foundation for Children in Need for the past eleven years. Presently I am serving as one of the Board of Directors of FCN. It is overwhelming to see the great work done by Dr. Geetha and Tom Chitta and FCN family in the rural villages of India.
School after school, Church after church, Temple after temple, Shrine after shrine, there were thousands of shoes/sandals outside the doors. Wow! Why? Many of the children ran around in the remote rural villages without shoes perhaps because they didn’t have footwear but because the ground was sacred. Where the animals sojourned is sacred ground. Where the people plowed the fields for beautiful sun flowers was sacred. Where the mother milked the water buffalo for sustenance was sacred. Where the children were born and lived in humble two room houses was sacred. Where the blood of martyrs fertilized the land like Gandhi and Thomas the Apostle became sacred ground.
And so I was prepared when I finally entered the sacred shrine of St. Thomas the Apostle tomb, the “shoe caretaker” stopped me at the entrance and pointed to my shoes. I immediately knew to remove them for I am AGAIN on sacred ground. Thus, I descended into the tomb chapel of St. Thomas Apostle in my bare feet, vested for holy mass and for the first time presided at mass in my bare feet over the tomb of St. Thomas. Wow! I will never again be afraid to take off my shoes when I find holy ground. The Indian people have clearly taught this as normal practice for the Christian and any believer.
Interestingly and miraculously I left for India worried about my feet. I’ve had several problems with neuropathy and needing regular therapy. My feet hurt walking onto the plane when we left for India. Since arriving in India I NEVER experienced any problems with my feet. I walked miles, climbed hundreds of steps in ancient forts and temples. I suspect that I didn’t need so much therapy as holy ground where I could remove my shoes. Wow! It works to remove your shoes and honor the holy ground of the Lord your God. India offered that holy ground with holy people that regularly removed their shoes.
The more I took off my shoes I felt one with the poor. I felt one with the famous Gandhi often seen sitting meditative without shoes. I felt one with the church and the priesthood that often celebrated mass without shoes. I felt one with the Saints as I removed my shoes on a sleeper train car when I was in the presence of St. Alphonsa’s family (the first native born India saint). Who would have thought that I would be assigned to a small compartment on a train with hundreds of people that were the family of St. Alphonsa. They were at Mass that day in the Basilica at Velankkani ( Our Lady of Good Health ) where I concelebrated? I knew it was a small world on the south side of Chicago but in southeast India? Wow!
Then it really hit me when we visited one of our large schools and blessed the new classrooms and kitchen. All the children gathered in the hall to greet our group and they all removed their shoes outside the hall. I thought, this is not a shrine, a temple, a church. It’s a hall. Why remove their shoes except to keep the floor clean? And then we were presented as holy visitors from God. I never felt so honored and loved by these simple children of God. They placed flowers over us and danced before us.
India taught me so much. I often remove my shoes as I’m doing holy things. Surely I will remember the day I’m called home to the throne of God to remove my shoes for I am on eternal sacred ground.
VISIT TO INDIA-By Father Bob Hasenkamp
After a very long flight from Chicago to Delhi, our little group of five (all FCN sponsors) arrived in time to catch another flight to the city of Hyderabad in southern India where we met our hosts, Tom Chitta and Dr. Geetha. After some time there at their new FCN Center we would travel on to their home in Porumamilla.
Although this was not my first trip to India, I was once again taken back by the beautiful diversity of people, language and modes of transportation. The sights and sounds from the streets are like nowhere else in the world. The crowds of people moving along side or through cars, buses, scooters and bicycles are like a symphony orchestra where everyone knows their part and when to blend in with the rest of the players. Somehow it all works but for someone who is used to driving in straight lines on streets where you seldom see a pedestrian, it is an exciting adventure!
My primary purpose for making the trip was to join Tom and Dr. Geetha in celebrating the 10th anniversary of Foundation for Children in Need. The thousands of people who attended as well as all those who helped to plan and coordinate these two celebrations was a beautiful tribute to Dr. Geetha and Tom Chitta and their ministry to the poor and needy. Large numbers of children who are sponsored by FCN were present to enjoy the festivities or perform on stage to the delight of everyone. Everyone seemed to be filled with enthusiasm, joy and gratitude for the work of FCN over the past 10 years. For me, to witness such a gathering re-affirmed my belief that the work of FCN is truly the work of God.
My secondary purpose for going to India was to visit the students that I am sponsoring through FCN. That, in some way, was the highlight of my trip. I presently sponsor a little girl and a young man in college, both of whom I got to meet for the first time. We had some precious time together that will continue to hold memories for many years to come. However, even more exciting and emotional for me was to meet again a couple of young women that I began to sponsor many years ago. I was able to sponsor them all the way through college and they are now both happily married. They are so grateful for the help that I was able to provide that lifted them out of poverty and gave them a new life. I was so happy to see them again and to learn that they are using their education now to assist other children who, like themselves, need a helping hand to go to school. Praise God! It’s amazing how God can multiply our efforts!
I am privileged to support FCN for the past ten years. I know that the Archdiocese of Kansas has been helping the wonderful work of FCN. To know more about the mission work of FCN visit: www.fcn-usa.org.
In addition to these wonderful personal encounters we enjoyed seeing some of the national treasures of India including St Thomas Basilica and the Tomb of St. Thomas in Mylapore, Chennai and Basilica of Velankkani south of Chennai ( Our Lady of Good Health ). Anyway, my visit to the beautiful country of India was, once again, a memorable experience, thanks to our wonderful hosts, Dr. Geetha and Tom Chitta.
Faith and Friendship Flourish in India: By Mary Wisniewski, Mission Director, San Antonio, TX
During the last two weeks of January, 2013, an incredibly dedicated and faith-filled couple from the Andhra Pradesh, India, Dr. Geetha and Tom Chitta of Foundation for Children in Need, extended the blessed opportunity for me to visit the dioceses of Hyderabad, Kadapa, Chennai and Delhi, India and personally witness the work of FCN and the vibrant life of India-in all its forms. As Director of Mission Awareness for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, TX since 1991, this was, by far, the most amazing chance to grow in my own mission awareness, gather photos, stories, and new friends, and strengthen my faith convictions during this Year of Faith. Due to the Chitta family’s thoughtful planning and life-long networking, I traveled with a great team of four other Americans to schools, hostels, homes for the elderly, centers for disabled, a rural out-door health clinic, and a home for AIDS orphans. At each site, we were welcomed like dignitaries, with garlands of fragrant flowers, songs, traditional dances and applause from hundreds of beautiful, well-behaved children and gracious, grateful adults. Tom and Geetha enabled us to meet countless priests, sisters, school directors, students, along with spiritual gurus, heads of the rural health commission of India, the leadership team of the National Association of Single Women of India, and members of the San Antonio-Chennai Sister City Partnership for Education, Business, and Health Care Committee (visiting India concurrently). Our food was carefully monitored and prepared and train and plane tickets were purchased in advance so that, in addition to all of the educational encounters, we could also celebrate Mass at the tomb of St. Thomas (in Chennai) and the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Health- (in Velankanni), pray at the monument to the 6,000 Indian victims of the Tsunami, meditate with the hundreds of Tibetan monks and the inter-faith leaders that had gathered for the anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi at his memorial in Delhi, and stroll in amazement through the incredible Galgonda Fort of Hyderabad and the magnificent beauty and symmetry of the famous monument to married love- the Taj Majal. We were interviewed for the Indian newspapers and television in conjunction with the dual celebrations (in Hyderabad (urban) and Porumamilla (rural) recognizing the 10th anniversary of the work of Dr. Geetha and Tom Chitta for education and health care. Dr. D. L. Ravindar Reddy, Andhra Pradesh State Minister for Health and Family Welfare, delivered this message in letter form, “On this special occasion, I thank Most Reverend Gustavo Garcia-Siller, the Archbishop of San Antonio, Texas, you, and all those who have supported the efforts of Dr. Geetha and Tom Chitta for your kindness and generosity….They are dedicated individuals who are doing wonderful work to help the neediest in our State. They have shared with me your support to them
At the Immaculate Conception Home for the Physically Challenged at Mydukur, the children danced for us, even the young boy with one arm. The students in the wheel chairs clapped along and smiled. When we rose from our chairs to join them in the dance, the children laughed with joy. My co-travelers joined with me in leading the interactive songs and motions of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”.
The most touching experience was the visit to the hostel for the 28 AIDS orphans. Two boys had died last summer, due to the vulnerability of their immune systems. As the boys, ages, 6-9 rose to dance to a “Bollywood” hit for us, I could not hold back the tears. They covered us with garlands and their smiles, and all I could do is thank God for life, faith, and the dedication of people like the Chittas and Rani, the young widow director of the home, (her 43 year old husband died of a heart attack last year), and all the generous donors whose donations help children and build bridges of caring and love around the world.
Marilyn Romanenghi, Palatine, IL
About four years ago, Tom Chitta and his wife Dr. Geetha, introduced their organization, Foundation for Children in Need (FCN), to my parish in a suburb of Chicago. As did other members of my parish, I signed up to sponsor a child who needed financial support in order to complete her education. I recently returned from India and took part in celebrating the Foundation’s 10 year anniversary. After exchanging letters with the student that I have been sponsoring through the FCN, I was very excited to meet her while in India.
After spending over two weeks in India with the Foundation, we visited a number of their village schools, one that is run through FCN and others where the Foundation is sponsoring children who are in attendance. In addition, we visited other FCN sponsored homes and schools for the orphaned children, children who have lost one or both of their parents due to Aids, children who are physical impaired and a home for the elderly. In addition, Dr. Geetha, visits the small, remote villages and offers medical assistance to the children and their parent(s).
All of these facilities have received financial support through FCN. I want to personally validate the Foundation and give assurance that the financial support the Foundation receives goes directly to the wonderful work of the Foundation for Children in Need. It is a small, low budget, and very much, hands on organization that is Catholic based, and actively working in the very needy villages of South India.
Seu Neu, Arlington Heights, IL
My name is Seu Neu and I am a St. James Parishioner, Arlington Heights, IL. On 1/17/2013 I left Chicago for India – a huge leap out of my comfort zone. I came to learn that I hadn’t needed to be anxious as Dr. Geetha and Tom took excellent care of me and my fellow travelers.
We were in India during the 10th Anniversary celebrations for the Foundation for Children in Need. We were introduced to all of the tremendous accomplishments achieved by the foundation – building a school with boarding facilities, building a home for the elderly, sponsoring students at a variety of schools, sponsoring young orphan boys who are HIV positive or who have AIDS who live in a group home, sponsoring a home for physically challenged children, sponsoring college students, teaching young women to be seamstresses, providing medical care to residents of tribal agricultural villages. All of these accomplishments flow from Dr. Geetha and Tom’s desire to minister to the poorest of the poor.
My husband asked me, “What was your favorite part of the trip?” I answered, “Every experience!”
One experience does stand out: At the celebration on 1/23/2013, in Porumamilla. I met Anitha, the college student that I sponsored. Last October, she successfully completed her education to become a Registered Nurse. Meeting her face to face was indescribable – She made a two plus hour trip by bus and taxi to attend the celebration and meet me. She repeatedly thanked me for sponsoring her. But, it was I who needed to thank her for the opportunity of being her sponsor. I am a recently retired RN; as my nursing career had drawn to a close, another woman, Anitha, began her nursing career.
My mother is also a FCN sponsor. I met Sr. Jyothishna Devi, whom my mother had sponsored. Sister recently professed her final vows.
I met my mother’s currently sponsored student 12 year old Rangaswami Raju Kappa. He attends the Chitta Showry Reddy Memorial School.
And I met my currently sponsored college student, Chandana Yannam, who is studying engineering.
Thank you Dr. Geetha, Tom, and FCN staff for the once in a life time opportunity of visiting India and seeing all that FCN accomplishes through sponsorship.
For more information on the wonderful work of FCN please visit other sections of this website.