Some 30 years ago, a young priest named Father Yeruva L. Marreddy in the Diocese of Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, in southeast India, received a bowl of onions from a young parishioner, thus planting a “mustard seed” for what is now an operational home for children orphaned by the HIV/AIDS virus. You can read about the entire story on “The House of Onions” website: www.houseofonions.org. But allow me to tell the tale from my first involvement in this project....
Several years later, about 2010, that same young priest arrived in Concho on a missionary assignment and was instantly recognized by the parishioners as someone quite special. And while he only stayed a year, he left a big impression on many.
Fast forward to January 2014 and a request from Father Marreddy for a 10-day sponsorship to revisit old acquaintances was happily accepted by yours truly. Shortly thereafter, following many miles and visits, on return to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, I was asked for some assistance with a project in India that had been germinating over these past many years. And so, a project of unknown time and money began!
On December 24, 2014, after assembling a Board of Directors, obtaining necessary legal consultations and the creation of a 501©(3) foundation, the “House of Onions” was first introduced to friends and families via phone calls, emails and even our own website. All that remained was to raise enough funds to construct a home for roughly 30 orphans, hire enough staff to feed, cloth and shelter these children and provide proper medical care and education for all. I am proud to say that all of this has been accomplished!
On August 22, one of our board members, David Knox and I attended the grand opening for the House of Onions along with some 600-plus attendees for a beautiful three-hour Mass and speeches from The Most Reverend Ch. Bhagyaiah, Bishop of Guntur, Mayor Ambati Rambabu, member of the legislative assembly (MLA) of Sattenapalli town constituency, and an inspirational speech by our own Father YL Marreddy. Additionally, there were 55 priests and some 60 nuns among the many local community members also in attendance. As this happens to be in the monsoon season, necessary preparations included large circus-type tents that were set up to shelter guests from anticipated downpours, however, the rains arrived about an hour after all the celebrants had safely started home. Talk about faith!
Of all the excitement of the week spent visiting with dignitaries, school superintendents, Diocesan priests and the newly formed Board of Directors in India, nothing came close to the rush of emotional feelings that both David and I experienced the first moment we arrived at the home and saw a group of young boys playing soccer and in great spirits. You see, it had been just over a month since their arrival at the House of Onions. Each came from extreme poverty, living with a grandparent, a distant relative or perhaps a neighbor of their late parents. And here they were, in this short time, enjoying new “brothers,” having a beautiful home to live in, three wholesome meals every day, bathrooms and so much more than ever before!
It was perhaps at that moment, I truly understood that the DREAM of that young priest had, in fact, come true, and I had been given the opportunity to play a small role in a magnificent play! For this, I believe each of our board members and every donor who played even a small part will be forever thankful for the opportunity.