An Indian Claretian missionary who works in Macao has begun an ambitious educational project in Nepal.
Father Jojo Peter Ancheril, with his mission partners in Macao, started to support Nepal in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake.
“We visited Nepal after the 2015 earthquake and helped rebuild Wasbang village, in the Chitwan district, in central Nepal. We ran into an orphan child and started taking care of him,” he said.
Today, the priest and his team are helping and educating over 400 students.
“Our goal is to help 900 students by 2025,” says Claretian Father Ancheril, one of the leaders of the initiative, launched by the Claretian missionaries of Macao.
By 2030, it must grow as an institution of 2000 or 2300 pupils, he said.
“I am confident about it. With the help of our friends and well-wishers, a school of international standard on this campus in Nepal would be a reality,” said the 49-year-old Indian priest.
This will benefit poor students and parents who cannot send their children to any schools.
Over 400 children, orphans, poor people, and those with physical disabilities reside in the Antyodaya (the welfare of the people at the bottom of the pyramid) children’s home in Parsa, Chitwan district.
The house was built on 13 May 2017. “We intend to reach the less fortunate children of remote villages by offering them education and personality development,” says Father Ancheril.
On April 12, 2015, a strong earthquake which registered a magnitude of 7.8 and several powerful aftershocks struck Nepal killing over nine thousand people and leaving 2.8 million people homeless, without the possibility of basic needs. The international mobilization was impressive, and the Antyodaya (rise of the last person) Children’s Home was part of this wave of solidarity.
Father Ancheril, after the first trip to Nepal, together with the support of the Fathers of the Little Flower Society of Narayangh, began to involve parishioners and benefactors to rebuild houses in the village of Wasbang.
Today, the Antyodaya Children’s Home offers students a new life to grow, work and hope for the future.
When the earthquake hit Nepal, friends of Father Ancheril decided to construct 100 houses.
In the beginning, 23 houses were completed. It was an area of strenuous terrain and difficult to reach.
During the relief and rehabilitation program, earthquake survivors brought children to the missionary’s center for shelter.
“Then people asked us to take more children to safer places. From one, it became ten, then thirty. Thus the number of children grew to 100, 300, and 350,” the priest said.
“The first time I learned about this project was through a bulletin board at my parish church in Macau,” said Catharina, a parishioner in Macao.
Father Ancheril was the pastor at St. Lawrence Church, where the woman saw a bulletin board talking about the Nepal projects and displaying pictures of poor children.
One day during lunch, Father Ancheril asked the parishioners who would want to visit Nepal.
“As a few of them raised their hands, I also raised my hand. I do not know why I did. It was maybe the Holy Spirit that inspired me,” she said. After a few months, Father Ancheril, Catharina, and five others visited Nepal.
“Actually, before coming to Nepal, I always want to do some charity work because it is easy to talk about charity or give some money as a donation. But, I wanted to do something more instead of just donating. I wanted to act on it and reach closer to the poor. So since then, coming to Nepal is my first step,” she said.
Catharina and others thank Father Ancheril and the missionary collaboration between Nepal and Macao.
Father Ancehril came to Macau in 2007 after serving three years as a priest in Meghalaya, North East India.
“When I went to Macao, everything was strange—food was the strangest thing which I could not eat,” he recalled.
Once he went to eat in a restaurant, where no one spoke a single English word. People around other tables were using chopsticks, he noticed.
“Somehow, I picked up one stick, ate a small piece of the food, and exited soon,” he recalled. “Since then, I have never gone to a Chinese restaurant. I lived on bread for three months.”
He spent two years in Hong Kong, learning Cantonese at the Chinese University of Hong Kong before moving back to Macau to serve in St. Lawrence Parish.
Father Ancheril was born at Kothamangalam in Kerala, India’s southern state, in 1973. He is the youngest of the seven children of Pathrose and Mariam. His sisters, who had joined the Sisters of Charity, inspired him to be in the service of God.
“There are many members of my family in the service of the church. Three of my sisters are nuns. My parents took me to the church every Sunday. And I loved the priests in the church,” he said.
After graduating from high school, he lost interest in that field and never wanted to join any church activities.
“Meanwhile, I got a letter from an unknown priest inviting me to attend a vocation camp. I went there and was selected to join the seminary,” he said.
He did his priestly formation in India and was ordained a priest in 2003.
“I learned magic while I was studying in seminary. I would purchase some magic kits and show some tricks to my friends. And gradually, I developed that talent and my senior priests encouraged me. I had plenty of opportunities to exhibit magic in small and larger gatherings,” he shared.
Father Ancheril belongs to the East Asia Delegation of Claretian congregation. Sharing his missionary work, he focuses his mission on people affected by leprosy in China.
“In Macau, we work among migrants. We help them to arrange get-togethers,” he said.
The Claretians in Hong Kong and Macao are involved in pastoral ministry and Biblical apostolate through publications and online media platforms.
The Claretians, formally the Congregation of Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, are a religious congregation of the Catholic Church founded in 1849 by Saint Anthony Mary Claret. - Jennibeth Sabay with inputs from "A Story of Candle Light"
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