MUMBAI, India – At 75, Father Joseph Pereira might not be the typical runner at Mumbai’s annual marathon, but he says he will have help.
“One can feel the energy of Mother Teresa,” the priest told Crux.
Pereira is the founder of the Kripa Foundation, an NGO working with drug addicts and people with HIV/AIDS in India.
The priest will be leading a 40-strong team of runners from the foundation in the marathon, which takes place on January 21.
“In 1971, going through a spiritual crisis, I met Mother Teresa of Kolkata, who pushed me to work for addicts,” he told Crux ahead of the run.
“Mother Teresa called me to assist her with the many cases of people who had gone into abject poverty as a result of addiction. Mother Teresa epitomized compassion,” Pereira said.
For several years, the foundation has fielded a team of runners at the Marathon, both to draw attention to their work, and as a fundraising tool, with several people sponsoring individual Kripa runners.
“It is a great morning of celebrating the joy of serving people who are marginalized and handicapped,” Pereira said.
Established in 2004, the Mumbai marathon is the largest marathon in Asia, and is also India’s largest charity platform for fundraising.
Thousands of people take part, including corporate tycoons, Bollywood stars, and amateur athletes. In addition to the full marathon, runners can do a half-marathon, the 4-mile Dream Run [in which the Kripa Foundation participates], and two shorter distances for senior citizens and people with disabilities.
The Kripa foundation is not the only Catholic organization participating in the run – Monsignor Emmanuel Kadankavil, the vicar general of the Diocese of Kalyan will be participating on behalf of the diocese’s Karunya Trust.
The trust promotes development in the areas of education, health, social livelihood, governance and the environment.
The trust has sponsored a running team for the past six years.
“I wish to participate in the forthcoming Mumbai Marathon because I realized that the Karunya Trust is running for a good cause which is also dear to my heart,” Kadankavil told Crux.
Kadankavil said he was running for a number of reasons: To create an awareness on the need to preserve life at all costs; to promote dignity of life as has been willed by the Creator; to make people aware of the life-endangering social evils like war, terrorism, global warming, social immoralities, degradation of family values, and others, “which even might take the human species to the point of extinction.”
“I wish to participate in it because I realize that the Church as a whole and its leadership in particular must make use of every opportunity to promote greater values in the society,” he said.