Time to return Father Abu’s kindness
By Susanto Kumar Beero
I hail from a poor Catholic family in Ambagam, a remote village in Odisha state in eastern India. I am the second among eight children.
In 1996, my father took my younger brother and me to a boarding at Aliganda managed by the Catholic Church under Berhampur diocese to start our elementary school education. Father Emmanuel Sabhasundar was the parish priest and Father Abraham Karukaparambil (popularly knowns as Fr. Abu) his assistant.
Unfortunately, my father did not have the required amount of boarding fees. We were refused admission at the outset. However, Father Abu understood our desperate situation and interest in studies. And he said he would find a source to pay our fees. I heard the saying, “God provides” in my heart. Thus began our life in the boarding.
Father Abu stayed in Aliganda as the assistant only for a year and moved to Shanti Bhavan Minor Seminary, Rayagada, as its assistant rector. During his stay in Aliganda, he offered shawls to all boarding children (both boys and girls) during winter and shirts to all boys. We realized that this was one of his acts of generosity toward rural poor children.
At the time of his farewell from Aliganda he said, “If any student has an ambition for a professional course or higher studies such as Odisha Public Service Commission, Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery or MBBS, engineering), please contact me.”
That invitation touched me since I had no financial resource to complete my high school, let alone professional courses.
After some time, I wrote to Fr Abu requesting funds for help for my study. He understood my inquisitiveness in studies and extended his helping hand. Thereafter, he continued to help my studies from grade six onward to the present.
After completing seventh grade in Aliganda Mission School I moved to Technical Mission High School, Surada of Gajapati district.
I completed my higher secondary school there and then Bachelor of Arts with Economics (major) at Khallikote College, Berhampur and Master of Arts in Economics at Ravenshaw University, Cuttack. After M.A. in economics, I moved to Delhi for UPSC preparation but could not succeed despite my perseverance to crack it.
Meanwhile, I volunteered as the national coordinator of Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, New Delhi with the National Youth Director, Father Alwyn D’Souza (now in Africa). I opted to study M. Phil. in economics and then took admission for Ph.D. in Economics at Alagappa University, Tamil Nadu.
Now I am happy that by the grace of God and continuous support of Father Abu, I have completed my doctorate in Economics. I am grateful to Fr Abu, who is now in the US. He supported me financially to get good and quality education that will enable me to build my future and fulfill my dreams and aspirations. He provided me continuous prayers, moral supports and words of encouragement. He also taught me to be patience and develop positive attitudes, devotion to God and lead a prayerful life.
I am only one of the 60 students who have benefitted from Father Abu’s generosity. One has completed Civil Service exam, another medicine, and a few engineering and nurse training from various universities and institutes in India. Like me, two have completed doctorates in different streams. All this happened because a priest went out of his way to help the poor and marginalized.
Father Abu often says his aim is to educate the rural poor, bring higher education to the studious but poor, help girl children break free of oppression and become self-reliant.
Now it is our turn to pay back. We have to follow his example and support our brothers and sisters of Berhampur diocese.
(Susanto Kumar Beero is assistant professor at Institute of Economic Growth, New Delhi)