One of the deficiencies I have found with unfailing regularity is the poor directions for road users to come into the city and leave it for any major destination. The story was not very different leaving Hyderabad for Vijayawada. The NH 9 which takes one from Hyderabad to Vijayawada is very poorly maintained and it does not have any of the standards one has come to expect of the NHs in India, save in Kerala; only 50 kms of NH 9 to Vijayawada is four laned and tolled. The saving grace is that the work to improve the entire stretch is being undertaken by Punj Lloyd.
I first met Sr. Ancy Thomas of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate in Rome when I was there with my wife in 1999. We had checked out of the Pension House that we had stayed in. As part of the tour completion we visited the ‘Our Lady of Snows’ Church – Bernini, who sculpted the great piece in the St Peter’s, is buried in that Church. While on a tour of the Church I came across Sr. Ancy, who was in Rome on a theological assignment. She volunteered to take us to the Church where the 5 relics associated with Jesus were on display. We had missed it as it did not figure in the guide book. Then Sr. Ancy took us to the Church where the original picture of ‘Our Lady of Perpetual Succor’ was displayed. I had been searching for a small picture of Our Lady for years, as what my mother had given me was in tatters. As soon as I laid my eyes on that wonderful picture of Our Lady and thanked Her for bringing me there tears welled in my eyes and I wept uncontrollably. I believe in Guardian Angels and I believed then that Sr. Ancy was one sent to us to guide us to visit the two Churches, which we would have otherwise missed.
After the meeting in Rome in 1999 I contacted Sr. Ancy only in March 2006, when my father was hospitalized. An inner voice told me that I should locate her and ask her to pray for my father’s health. Thanks to Joseph, my Secretary in DP World, Cochin I was able to contact Sr. Ancy in the Nirmala Convent in Vijayawada. I had to jog her memory vigorously to establish the connection. Since then I have been in touch with her off and on. Thus, when this opportunity came to visit her in Vijayawada I did not pass it by. I agreed to have lunch with her on arrival from Hyderabad. Little did I realize that she had made all arrangements for me to dine and stay in the Nirmala School premises. After lunch and a short rest she took me all around Vijayawada – the provincial house, the railway station, the modern bus stand, the Prakasam Barrage, the Kanaka Durga Mandir, the miraculous Matha Church and the St. Peter’s Church (it is the first Church established in Vijayawada in 1882). The care and attention that I got from Sr. Ancy is not something that I can describe in mere words. I can only pray for her and her congregation.
Two weeks of my journey is over; 15 remain. I have enjoyed the journey thoroughly the last two weeks and with the kind of wonderful people that I get to meet during the journey I am sure that the rest of the journey will be as enjoyable or even more.