A new church blessed!

Velankani Matha Church  in Pedakakani, India

Velankani Matha Church in Pedakakani, India

Today Fr. Tom Cassidy writes about the blessing of the SCJs’ new church in Pedakakani, India, which took place on April 21:

The invitation said 5:30 pm, we all expected it to start at 6:30 pm, and once we got to Velankani Matha Church we were told that the ceremony really wouldn’t start until 7:00 pm as the stage crew was still putting the stage together. The church was too small to handle the crowd so the blessing would be in an outdoor Mass in a large field next to the church. I am not sure if it is church property or if it was borrowed for the evening. In any case, it was a nice spot, almost like a theater-in-the-round or an amphitheater.

The outdoor altar

The outdoor altar

Both Fr. Jesu and I were in the sanctuary with the bishop. Along with us were members of the district council plus Fr. Thomas Vinod, scj, our district superior. Back in the States you’d find the pastor up there as well but Fr. Dharma Raju Akula, scj, was busy behind the scenes making sure all would go according to plan while his associate Fr. Ravindra Moparthi, scj, directed the choir and musicians. I’m sure for both of them it was a bittersweet evening as the two have been transferred. Dharma will come to the US to study mass media and Loyola University in Chicago and Ravindra will become as assistant priest at Divine Mercy Parish in Vasai (Mumbai).

This being Andhra Pradesh the language of the Mass was Telugu. I could not understand Bishop Goli Bali’s homily but I was told afterwards it was a good one.

The church was lighted for the celebration

The church was lighted for the celebration

While I had expected to start at 7:00 pm according to our revised plan we actually began the procession to the stage at about 6:40 pm. Our first stop was the church so Bishop Goli Bali could bless it and cut the ribbon. The church is certainly very Indian in its design, colors and homage to the saints (both inside and outside the church). And plenty of lights for the evening, as well as fireworks.

The Mass finished around 9:15 pm. I’m pleased to report that the weather gods blessed us all last evening. We had a cool, gentle and persistent breeze and with the sun down, it was actually like being in mid-summer Milwaukee waiting for the Independence Day fireworks. Significant Indian events always include lots of fireworks and firecrackers.

Also standard is the need to feed any and all who come to the celebration. The usual custom has the priests and sisters going off to be seated and served by male members of the parish. The bishop eats in a place right next to where the priests and sisters are seated. I was all set to eat with a couple of Indian priests (one whom served for a time in the Springfield, Illinois Diocese) but got drafted to dine with the bishop. It was a party of three, my Springfield priest and I dined with His Lordship (the proper title in India for a bishop).

The church in the daylight, just prior to its completion

The church in the daylight, just prior to its completion

Both Frs. Dharma and Ravindra were our servers. I don’t know if we had the same food as served to the others but I really enjoyed the mutton. The few times I’ve been out in a restaurant I always order it as we never get it at home. Now I should point out that when Indians say “mutton” they really mean “goat” as lamb/sheep is very expensive. In fact mutton is on the menu for the celebration of First Professions on May 1. To use a biblical expression: “Fr. McQueen is going to kill the fatted calf (goat)”.

My cameramen for the evening were two of the novices who will make their first profession on May 1st. Chitti Babu Nandipamu and Maria Pavan Kumar Bandra Nadham. Between the two of them they took 300 photos. I ran into Chitti heading toward our car for a ride back to the novitiate and since he was still eating (using his hands in the Indian style) I said don’t bother with my phone, you can give it to me when you get back.

In bed I chuckled to myself, realizing that Chitti still had the phone; he was going to be in for a surprise when the alarm goes off at 5 am. As it turned out it was Fr. McQueen Winston Savio Mascarewhas, scj, who came knocking at my door at 5:00 am with a chiming iPhone.

Remembering those who came before us

Mausoleum flowers

Fr. Stephen Huffstetter, SCJ, our general councilor in Rome, writes about a recent visit to the city’s main cemetery, Campo Verano. Approximately 20 SCJs are interred there, including two former general councilors. Fr. Steve writes:

Since my days of parish ministry in South Dakota I have developed great appreciation for visiting cemeteries. When our Vicar General, Carlos Enrique Caamano Martin, invited me to go along to Campo Verano, Rome’s main cemetery, I was delighted to accept, and wondered what I would find. When I asked at table if anyone famous was buried there, one of the Italians remarked that most of the famous people are buried in churches!

We traveled by the city’s light rail line, my first time aboard. The trip takes longer than the underground metro, but allows for a scenic tour of the city. We passed many diverse neighborhoods, monuments, museums and parks.

Our first stop was the Church of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura (outside the walls). The ancient church is much simpler than the gilded Baroque churches. There are of course beautiful pieces of art and mosaics. Here St. Lawrence was martyred by being roasted alive. A blood stained stone slab where his body was laid is preserved as a sign of his suffering and his faith. Near the altar was a picture depicting the grill he died upon. In addition to crucifixions, the authorities of the day were perversely cruel in their instruments of death.

Carlos E and mausoleum

Fr. Carlos Enrique in front of the SCJs’ mausoleum

Outside the church at the cemetery entrance were rows of flower stalls, where vendors offered visitors the opportunity to purchase a bouquet to honor their loved ones. Campo Verano is several miles across, a city in its own right. The size and scope of the artful statues, the chapels and mausoleums absolutely astounded me and exceeded every expectation. When I saw the monuments that were the size of small houses, the scripture passage that came to mind was of the man Jesus cured who was living among the tombs, because someone actually could in a place like this. Smaller spaces for graves ringed the outside wall, with ladders strategically placed so visitors could add flowers and decorations to the highest areas.

The first section we came upon had porticos and frescos as lovely as any I’ve seen. The cemetery goes back 200 years to the time of Napoleon. One large monument commemorated the Roman Jewish victims of the Nazi Deportation. While the cemetery does hold its share of people mentioned in history books, this is mainly about the everyday people of Rome, who built the city, made it work, lived and loved, dreamt and struggled and now lie in a state of eternal rest.

Carlos Enrique led the way to our mausoleum, which held a small altar in a glass enclosed room in front of a mosaic of the Good Shepherd. Two of our Superior Generals, Fr. Lellig and Fr. Govaart, are buried here, along with 17 others who have died at the Generalate.

We opened the glass doors in the front and climbed down a steep ladder, looking at the stone slabs marking the places of our beloved dead as we descended about 30 feet. While I was looking at the names and dates on the stones, Carlos Enrique snatched a broom from the corner and handed it to me. It then dawned on me that it was our responsibility to clean and tidy up, which I did with a joy and prayerful spirit. As St. Benedict was fond of saying, “Ora et Labora.”

When I was making my good-bye rounds in the US last July, I realized there would be some members of the province I might be seeing for the last time, and that has proved to be the case. One of the adjustments to life in Rome is missing the chance to be with community when we celebrate a funeral liturgy and celebrate and remember the life of those who have shared so much with us along the way. I pray for all who have gone before us and built the foundations for what we are now able to do.

A room blessed and new possibilities opened

New sewing machines ready for classes in India

New sewing machines ready for classes in India

Fr. Tom Cassidy wrote that on March 31st SCJs in India blessed a newly finished classroom next to the community house in Vemapdu. The house has been under construction for the past few months but is also close to completion.

The classroom came about, wrote Fr. Tom, when  “Fr. Jojappa Chinthapalli  decided that he had sufficient funds to construct a small structure (he calls it a shed) to provide instruction to local girls and women in sewing. In addition to the sewing machines there was enough space to install a couple of computers that will be used by Fr. Suresh Gottom to teach computer skills to the youth of the parish.

Fr. Tom cuts the ribbon while Fr. Thomas looks on.

Fr. Tom cuts the ribbon while Fr. Thomas looks on.

“The blessing was about 40 minutes behind schedule by the time it got underway. Many of the women, and it was mostly women and girls who showed up, had to come from work and would have been hard pressed to arrive at the stated time. We weren’t going anywhere so the delay was taken in good stride by all. Fr. Jojappa promised to take us out for pizza afterwards. The ‘we’ in this case were Fr. Thomas Vinod (district superior), Fr. Michael Benedict (district treasurer) and Fr. Anthony Sundar Raju Maallavarapu, who was kind enough to drive us to Vempadu from Eluru.

“Fr. Thomas did the bulk of the prayers. I did the reading and the ribbon-cutting. It was a simple ceremony very similar to a house blessing. The ladies all seemed happy and eager to get started. I was introduced to one of the two women who would be teaching the classes. As you might imagine, finding employment of any kind in rural India, or for that matter almost anywhere in the world, is not easy. Hopefully the skills learned in these sewing classes will be of some help, not just in employment, but in providing clothing for many families.”

Many local women took part in the blessing of the new classroom

Many local women took part in the blessing of the new classroom

Celebrating Triduum and Easter in India

Pilgrim 9

The “Pilgrim Nine”

The following are excerpts from Fr. Tom Cassidy’s daily journal covering the days of Triduum through Easter Vigil:

MARCH 24 – This evening we will join the Holy Family Brothers as we begin the great three days of the Easter Triduum starting with Holy Thursday’s Mass with its rite of the washing of the feet.

Mariano leads way of cAfter Mass and supper nine brothers will be walking 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) to the Gunadala Matha Shrine on the outskirts of Vijayawada._ They’ll leave after our evening meal, departing sometime after 8:30 pm. According to Br. Jesu Prasad Siddela, scj, it will take them between 12 and 15 hours. The brothers are all going barefoot. Pilgrims, both Hindus and Christians (and I’m going to guess Muslims as well) make pilgrimages in bare feet. This is done on a short journey or on even much longer ones than the 40 kilometers our brothers will be walking tonight.

Here at Christu Dehon Nivas we kicked off the Easter Triduum last evening with the outdoor Stations of the Cross. Several of the brothers constructed a large wooden cross that the brothers and Fr. Louis Mariano Fernandes, scj, (our rector) took turns carrying from station to station. As Fr. Mariano wanted to take his turn carrying the cross he asked me to lead the stations.

MARCH 25 – After supper last evening we wished our nine pilgrims well as they began their 40 kilometer hike to Gunadala Matha Shrine. It’s now going on 11:00 am on Good Friday and since we have not heard anything we can presume that no news is good news since Br. Jesu Prasad Siddela, scj, has my iPhone and can call if they need assistance.

Pray before crossThrough the kind services of our novice master, Fr. McQueen Winston Savio Mascarewhas, scj, a community of sisters near the shrine has agreed to put our pilgrims up for the day. They’ll return tomorrow by bus and as our Holy Saturday service does not begin until 10:00 pm they’ve got plenty of time to make their way home.

Our Pilgrim Nine were not the only ones walking today. This morning the Carmelite community of the Edith Stein Monastery organized a walking Way of the Cross. Many of the religious communities, both men and women religious, chose to participate. Our local bishop, Jaya Rao Polimera, also took part, giving a brief opening meditation and prayer and then doing the same at the conclusion of the stations in front of the Carmelite chapel.

The stations began with someone dressed (including long hair, beard and crown of thorns) carrying the cross and from there, various individuals, including our own Fr. Mariano, carried it from one station to the next. The distance from the Holy Family Brothers to the Carmelites is about two miles (3.21 kilometers). It took us just over two hours to complete the journey.

MARCH 27 – Fr. Mariano and I, plus four of the brothers, took part in the Easter Vigil Service with the Holy Family Brothers community. The rest of our brothers were dispersed, a few at their ministry sites with the majority participating in the service at Amalodbhavi Matha Cathedral in Eluru.

Procession SatAfter the blessing of the fire and Easter (Pascal) Candle we processed to the room used on Holy Thursday for the altar of repose. Here we would hear the Exsultet, The Great Easter Proclamation, sung before the Easter Candle. I look foreword each year to this beautiful song, and especially its lyrics.

Next in the liturgy are the Old Testament readings recording the history of salvation starting with creation. From there we again processed to the chapel but before entering we would hear, or better said “watch,” the Holy Family postulants for a second time act out the testing of Abraham (Gen. 22:1-18). For the young seminarians this is one of the highlights of the evening. After a fine reenactment (especially by lamb and donkey!) we all proceeded into the chapel where the rest of the liturgy took place, including the renewal of our baptismal vows.

Following the service we were all invited for cake and soft drinks. I was asked to give a toast and what followed must be a house tradition. Part of taking a sip included four phrases that you might call a little ditty. What made it impressive was it was done in all the languages used in the house. I counted nine, starting with the common (house) language of English and then Spanish, the language of the Holy Family Brothers coming out of Spain, and on to at least seven Indian languages.



Happy St. Joseph’s Day!

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes from India:

St Joseph India

A St. Joseph’s Day display in India

Just before we begin Holy Week the Church takes time out from the solemnity of Lent for a day of joy in celebrating the feast of St. Joseph. I was surprised to read this morning that devotion to St. Joseph really began in earnest only in the 16th century when the Church officially encouraged his cult, as St. Joseph began to figure as an ideal ‘provider and protector of the Holy Family. Pope Pius XII added a second feast that of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1st._

We have four members of our community named Joseph, but at least one of the brothers is named after an Indian Joseph who is venerated but I don’t think has been beatified, i.e., Br. Mahesh Gotikala, scj (1st year). Actually I would not have known he was a Joseph as the Indian District personnel directory does not list his Christian name.

Many of our brothers do not use, or certainly do not list on any official document, their Christian baptismal name (if they have one). It is harder to do work with the government if officials (especially those with strong Hindu basis) are aware you are a Christian. Names have also from time to time caused brothers grief in applying for a passport or driver’s license. It is very important that all your documents line up with the exact same name and any variance can cause difficulty.

I was made aware of some of the hoops Indians have to go through that I would never face. For example, when one applies for a passport and you give X as your home address the police will be sent to check that this is indeed your official residence. I know of at least one brother who was denied a passport because when the police came to his house he was not home and the neighbors (trying to be helpful I think) gave his nickname to the police officer and since it was different from what was on the officer’s sheet the passport was never issued.

Sticking with applying for a passport, Fr. Louis Mariano Fernandes, scj, had to go to Goa [where he is from] to apply for the renewal of his passport while all I have to do is fill out the form and mail it to the government passport center (if memory serves me it’s in Pittsburgh), or if I’m out of the country and it came time to renew I just go to the nearest US embassy or consulate.

Since the district council decided that third year theologians must get their passport and license the brothers all said “Let us do this at home as it will be much easier then trying to do it here in Eluru.” By the way, I will have to clarify for myself what is meant by license (motorbike or car). Not everyone in the district drives a car but almost every house has a need for at least one car. Certainly at a minimum a license means the ability to legally drive a motorbike.

Last stop: Chile

SCJs in Chile

SCJs in Chile

Fr. Stephan Huffstetter shares his final journal entry from his travels with Fr. Heiner Wilmer for the General Visitation. Fr. Steve’s last stop? Chile. He writes:

Since I was already in South America, I extended the trip by a week to spend time getting to know our confreres in Chile, one of the provinces that I will accompany as General Councilor . After five weeks traveling together, Fr. Heiner flew east to Africa, and I headed west. Normally I choose an aisle seat so I can stretch out and move around but since this was brand new territory for me, I booked a window seat and marveled looking out the window at the landscapes below. The flight first crossed vast Argentine farm and grasslands. The land abruptly rose as we approached the majestic rocky peaks of the Andes. Being summer, only the highest of summits remained snowcapped. Then we passed into the broad valley and sprawling Metropolis of Santiago, home to some seven million of Chile’s 17 million citizens.

While I was waiting to go through passport control, the flight left me dry and I approached one of the pop machines. The $ symbol Chileans use for their peso is the same that you see for US dollars. When I saw the posted price of $1,000, I felt sticker shock, and decided I really was not very thirsty! With the exchange rate, it would have actually cost me a more reasonable $1.46.

The SCJs in Chile number only 17, but make a good impact with their schools and parishes in the Santiago area. They also opened a new mission 10 hours to the south in the city of Valdivia, but I did not get to see that community on this visit. Dutch missionaries founded the province, and the elders in the community are from Holland and Luxembourg. Some came when they were newly ordained and have worked in Chile for over 50 years. During the Pinochet military coup during the 70s many were expelled from the country for a time because their work with the poor got them in trouble with the regime. The younger members are mostly Chileans, with international help from our provinces in Brazil and Poland.

My first full day included a trip to the Dehonian Retreat Center, which offers space and many programs for spiritual development. The Pastoral Leadership team from San Juan Evangelista School was gathered for orientation and planning for the new school year. My visit coincides with the end of summer vacation, and in another week, the students return to the classroom. I sat in on some of their sharing and strategic planning, joined them for mass and then enjoyed the cook out and social after their work was finished.

Chile 2The Cure de Ars is our parish in San Miguel, a commune located in an older, southern part of the city. Two priests serve 25,000 parishioners, though weekly attendance not nearly that high. They have a main church and four chapels spread throughout the neighborhood. I saw a large group of young families coming out of the church after the Saturday baptismal class. Fr. Herman took me for a drive and tour of the area. He explained how they focus on training adult catechists to facilitate small Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) in order to touch the lives of people where they live. Part of the parish is mid-level working class, and part is rather poor, with the attendant drug and social problems. One of the chapels had a kitchen attached where parishioners cook food to take to the streets for the homeless. Like many urban areas, change is coming rapidly as blocks of smaller homes are razed and 25 story high-rise apartments rapidly sprout up.

The other parish we serve is Nuestra Senora de Fatima, in San Bernardo. San Bernardo is 20 minutes south of Santiago. Thirty years ago when it became the see for a new diocese, it was a railroad town surrounded by lots of country. Today it has 300,000 people and continues to grow. The area houses and stores are multi-colored, with lots of street art or graffiti, depending on your point of view. I concelebrated Sunday mass with Fr. Johny, the provincial, whose altar servers were well-trained and attentive, and a group of guitar singers led lively music from the front pew. I dusted off my Spanish skills as I mingled with parishioners outside after the mass. With my work in administration, I often miss the small talk and interaction that goes along with being a parish priest.

A standard feature of most towns in a central city square – the Plaza de Arms – where historically the citizen militia could gather if the town was ever in danger of attack. Now the plazas provide a nice green space under ancient shady trees. The mild summer weather here has been great for enjoying a stroll, and for people watching, since the plazas are the center of so much social and commercial activity. This week most of the shoppers have back to school needs on their minds, and stores have tables set up outside selling notebooks and pens and every kind of school supply.

Dehonians sponsor two “Collegios” which serve students from Pre-K through the age of 18 when they are ready to begin university studies. Both Sagrado Corazon and San. Juan Evangelista have over 1000 students, and large sprawling campuses. When I visited, the teachers and staff were scurrying around campus getting everything ready for next week’s start to the school year.

Sagrado Corazon is in San Bernardo. The campus is spacious, spread over two city blocks, with many programs and facilities. We had mass with the faculty who are preparing for the first day of school next week. While part of the town is middle class, other poorer areas contain public housing projects. The school has been trying to find more scholarship monies for those in need. Many families sacrifice to provide their children with the kind of education that will lead them to professional careers, and the school strives to promote Christian values so graduates will be agents of positive change in society. Half a dozen SCJs form the local community. Two priests serve the pastoral needs in the school and help in parishes as needed. Two brothers work in the school administration and are passionate about instilling Dehonian values in the school. Two candidates from the local area study philosophy at the Catholic University and help part time in the school while being full time members of the local community.

San Juan Evangelista is located in the commune of Las Condes, a wealthier part of town. The staff were in the auditorium hearing the director, Brother Jorge, give the opening of the year updates and pep talk. When they broke into smaller working groups, I had a chance to tour the school. I worked in school administration for nine years, and one of my favorite activities is just to walk around campus, inquire how people are doing, and learn about what is going on. They have started intensive efforts to integrate English as a secondary language into the curriculum, which I learned about in English of course! With the rest of the departments I asked simple questions in Spanish and listened and learned about their approaches. The counselors spoke of the family and relational problems that affect all young people. Campus ministry has a strong presence and set out goals for spiritual development in the coming year. Those responsible of discipline also provide a much needed service in working with kids in trouble.

The community suggested that for me to understand Chile, I should do some touring. Since I thoroughly enjoy learning about history and culture, and had Brother Claudio and Herman, one of our candidates, willing to act as tour guides, I was happy to oblige. Sunday afternoon we drove an hour east to the town of Los Andes, home of Chile’s first saint. Theresa of Los Andes was a Carmelite sister who died at the young age of 20, yet modeled a life of prayer and union with God. A sanctuary draws many pilgrims, and I learned that 80,000 young people come for the annual fall youth festival. All the fresh flowers surrounding Theresa’s tomb, and all the people kneeling in prayer amazed me. The chapel was open for the sacrament of reconciliation, good any time of the year, but especially fitting during this season of Lent. After a good lunch with local foods, we drove further into town to the original convent, which is now a museum.

Before joining the SCJs as a candidate, Jorge studied tourism and hotel management. He was a superb guide to the central part of Santiago, and could tell me much about its history and highlights. The Santiago Cathedral has many prayerful spots and beautiful artwork, but what caught my eye was a marble pair of folded hands sculpted into the baptismal font. When you touched the hands the holy water flowed out. Like most national capitols, there are plenty of impressive government buildings. What stood out for me was a large complex that was once a military bunker has been transformed into a center for the arts, with a museum, theater and children’s workshop.

Chile 3A final excursion was to the port town of Valparaiso, on the Pacific Coast. Along the way we passed avocado and olive orchards, and miles of vineyards in wine country. We stopped in Casablanca to visit the Sanctuario Purisima Virgen de Lo Vasquez. Valparaiso is so alive with the bustling activity of shipping, naval, and cruise ships arriving into port. We took a hundred year old ancient wooden cable car/elevator up the steep slope leading down to the sea, and discovered an area of colorful arts and craft shops, and museums. The view from above was breath taking. I also enjoyed walking along the lovely white sandy beaches of neighboring Vina del Mar.

Since the purpose of this visit was not official business, but to get to know the province and congregation better, I was well satisfied. While the group may be small, they are filled with great hope, and I look forward to discovering ways I can support the good work they do.


Newly ordained celebrate Mass of Thanksgiving with student communities

March 2 A

Fr. Tom Cassidy writes from India:

Yesterday three of the four newly ordained priests came to Christu Dehon Nivas to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving with our community. Too bad our superior, Fr. Louis Mariano Fernandes, scj, had to be away in Goa as he taught these three men when they entered the minor seminary and began their long journey to becoming, first an SCJ, and then on February 6, 2016, ordained as priests. They will continue serving in the parishes where they have worked as deacons until May when they’ll be given their first assignments with the community.

For the last few weeks they have been traveling around the district celebrating in our various communities a Mass of Thanksgiving. Fr. Kishore has worked at our minor seminary in Gorantla and Fr. Ravi at our minor seminary in Kumbalangi and having them come home is always a big moment for the students. It likewise was an honor and a joy to have the three of them come to our community. They are not strangers to our brothers either as their paths have crossed numerous times during their years of formation.

March 2 BDepending on what community the newly ordained celebrate their Mass of Thanksgiving, various parts of the liturgy are divided up between them. For our celebration Fr. Ravi was the main celebrant, Fr. Kishore gave the introduction and Fr. Suresh the homily. Fr. Suresh worked as a deacon at our own Sacred Heart Parish in Vempadu and consequently had lots of interaction with our brothers as a number of them do their Sunday ministry at Sacred Heart or one of  its substations.

Normally we have Mass in the morning but today in joining with our newly ordained brothers it was moved to 6:45 pm with dinner set for 8:00 pm. It also gave John, our cook, and his wife, Rekha, the opportunity to attend the Mass. I’m sure it was a proud moment for the two of them as he and his wife are important formators in their own right through their service to the community by not only putting food on our table but by their steady witness to their own life of faith.

It was good that we planned the Mass to take an hour giving us a few minutes to spare before dinner at 8:00 pm. It also gave John time to do a few last minute details needed to get the food on our buffet line. As you might imagine for a special occasion like this fish was the order of the day. However before the fish, biryani rice, vegetable and soup could be served we had to honor custom.

As the senior priest in the house with Fr. Mariano still in Goa I had the duty to welcome our guests to our table and begin the HEARTY WELCOME that includes, as any long time reader by now knows: (1) a short speech, (2)  song, (3) cake cutting and feeding, (4) flowers, and (5) instead of a card we had gifts for each. Many of the brothers then either took part in the right of cake feeding or a “manly embrace” (or both).

Sometimes I feel we play guess what cake is coming to dinner? Fr. Joseph Gopu Reddy, scj, or Br. Meghanand Chakravarthy Bandanadham, scj, are responsible for buying the cakes we use for birthdays and other celebrations. I’m never sure what they’ll taste like as it depends on what bakery they use and what type of cake they decide to purchase. Once in a while it’s an ice cream cake. Today it was what I’d call an American wedding cake, i.e., the flavor often favored at US weddings.

A custom in the district at special occasions like this is to have the  guest or guests serve the ice cream for desert. Our three newly ordained did not disappoint and a heaping bowl of ice cream was provided for one and all. I believe the flavor was almond — quite good, I might add.