As India Fights for Breath Amid COVID Surge, a Call for Catholics to Pray

‘Prayer is very powerful; and when you feel like, well, I can’t do anything except pray ... you know what, that’s really a lot. ... Lest we forget the power of God, prayer is doing something.’ — Chris Stefanick, Real Life Catholic

Catholics gather for prayer during Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral on the eve of Good Friday in Allahabad on April 1.
Catholics gather for prayer during Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral on the eve of Good Friday in Allahabad on April 1. (photo: Sanjay Kanojia / AFP/Getty)

As thousands in India are struggling to breathe due to an extreme shortage of oxygen wrought on by a surging COVID crisis, thousands of Catholics are uniting daily to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for those suffering. 

Recent coronavirus reports for the country put the death toll around 4,000, with fresh infections continuing to be above 300,000. The country has had to resort to mass cremations to bury the dead. Fear and anxiety pervade the minds of many in the country who are mourning a loved one or nursing someone gravely ill. The need for oxygen, more medical fields, masks and staff is exponential. 

Given the gravity of the situation, Anand Bheemarasetti has mobilized his organization, Project Finding Calcutta, asking the faithful worldwide to place our trust and faith in God to pray for a country that is in dire need. Inspired by the beautiful work and heart of Mother Teresa, the saint’s words motivate their work:

I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things. 

Bheemarasetti carries the life and legacy of St. Teresa of Calcutta in his heart and mind as he works to fight the ongoing pandemic ravaging his home country. 

“Mother Teresa said if you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one. I’m overwhelmed by how many people are dying, but I know we can save a handful. We are trying to help ‘Tier-2’ victims: daily wage workers, tribal people and residents in the slums [who] are starving due to the lockdown. We have identified over a dozen locations and are helping them with medicine, food and prayers by partnering with local parishes.”

And the work doesn’t stop there. Although media reports give a very grim look at this devastating situation in India, Bheemarasetti lamented that conditions are even worse, with no space to bury the dead and an overwhelming loss of hope that has crippled much of the country. 

“Burial grounds are full, and the cremation centers have long lines. People are starting to throw dead bodies in the rivers or bury them in random places. In addition to the shortage of hospital beds and oxygen cylinders, there is a scarcity of medicine, food, health care, and, above all, there is a lost sense of hope.”

With a mission “to quench the thirst of Jesus Christ by mobilizing volunteers into charitable works locally,” Bheemarasetti told the Register the idea to invite Catholics to pray for India came from a place close to his heart. 

“Even though I lived more than half my life here in the United States, I still stay in touch with many people from India. ... When I started getting messages about someone I know dying literally everyday, I realized 1.35 billion Indians are going through the same thing: mourning terrible loss. So I asked a few friends to join me in doing the most effective thing: Pray. ... Some days we have dozens of people and some days just a handful. We just started less than two weeks ago, so as more people find out, there will be more prayer support for India.”

The cause has garnered attention from many Catholic thought leaders and authors, including Chris Stefanick of Real Life Catholic, who led the chaplet this past Friday. Stefanick said, for many, the idea of prayer is just a sweet sentiment, but he recalled how powerful Pope Francis’ prayer for Italy was at the start of the pandemic, telling the Register: 

“My heart turns to the moment a year ago, when Pope Francis led the world in prayer in St. Peter’s Square, which was one of the most moving moments for me personally, and I never loved Pope Francis more than in that moment ... when he went out by himself in the rain and just prayed for the world. And if you look at the COVID stats and deaths and what happened in Italy, from that day, the COVID deaths dropped. ... Coincidence?... I don’t really think so.”

Stefanick reminds emphasized the power of prayer, telling the Register:

"Prayer is incredibly powerful. Prayer can change the course of history. Prayer can end pandemics, and, above all, prayer can bring people together in their hour of need to the presence of God, which is our ultimate health and hope and healing.”

Many other voices are also lending a hand, including the president of Fellowship of Catholic University Students, Craig Miller; Catholic singer Anna Nuzzo; and many others. Bheemarasetti has been touched by the outpouring of support; and given the terrible conditions in his native land, he is asking every Catholic to find time to pray for India.

“We could use all the prayers and intercessions. May the Holy Family protect our brothers and sisters in India. We have decided to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet everyday for this cause because only God’s grace is going to get us through this trying situation.”

Bheemarasetti revealed that there is a deeper meaning with the choice of the Divine Mercy Chaplet:

“Another reason for the chaplet is that most Indians that are dying right now do not know Christ. Many of them are dying alone. They need endless mercy and treasury of compassion from God right now.”

Although there are material things that can be given to aid those suffering during this crisis, Bheemarasetti spoke about the repercussions that these dark days will have for decades to come on his native land. 

“For the months and years to come, there will be PTSD, abandoned children, forgotten elderly, shutdown businesses, lost crops, which usually leads to suicide and extreme homelessness. While some of the richest people in the world live in India, [the] number of people that live below the poverty line are way too many. It is not an exaggeration to say tens of millions of people are starving right now. While many relief organizations are focusing on oxygen and hospital beds, there is a huge need for basic necessities and volunteers.”

As Bheemarasetti works to bring aid and relief to the people of India, he invites us all to unite in prayer for those suffering by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3pm Central. And as we embrace this crucial call, may we all remember his plea during this Marian month of May within this Year of St. Joseph. 

"May the Holy Family protect our brothers and sisters in India."

To join in prayer during this month of May, please call (609) 663-5420 or visit here