Mumbai: The diocesan fund helps the poor pay their healthcare costs

The solidarity of Catholic families is helping more than 2,000 people unable to pay for hospital care. The Corpus Fund was set up by Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Percival Fernandez who today celebrated the 20th anniversary of his episcopal ordination.

Apr 22, 2021

By Nirmala Carvalho
Poor families in Mumbai who might otherwise not be able to pay for healthcare costs are helped by the generosity of other Catholic families through the Corpus Fund of the Archdiocese of Bombay.

This financial plan is a beautiful gift the Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus, Mgr Percival Fernandez, left to the great metropolis. Today, the prelate celebrated the 20th anniversary of his episcopal ordination.

The Corpus Fund was set up on 1 March 2006 based on an idea Bishop Fernandez had when confronted with the urgent need of so many poor families unable to pay their hospitalisation and other medical bills.

“I got it [the fund] off the ground putting 10,000 rupees into it and inviting families in the archdiocese to contribute. Over the years, we raised 130 million rupees (.6 million),” said the bishop.

In 15 years of activity, the Corpus Fund has responded to 58,000 appeals from families in difficulty. Currently, some 2,016 are still supported thanks to donations.

The outreach initiative is entirely the work of volunteers, starting with parish priests who receive reports about needy cases and direct the people involved to the Fund with the related health documentation.

The Archdiocese’s finance office manages the Fund. Each family is entitled to maximum assistance of 750,000 rupees (US$ 10,000).

For his part, Bishop Fernandez, who is now 85, continues to personally follow the reports and relationships with donors, thanking them one by one.

“The Corpus Fund was my creation,” he explained, “and continues to be so. It needs motivation to work on more than 60,000 letters.”

Born in Mangalore in 1935, Bishop Fernandez was ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Bombay on 21 December 1960 at St Pius X College in Goregaon.

In 1978 Card Valerian Gracias sent him to Bangalore to join the administration of St John's Medical College, an institution of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI).

“Back then, it offered a BA and had a clinic with only 50 beds and no nursing school,” Bishop Fernandez noted. “When I left, 22 years later, it had become the St John's National Academy of Health Sciences, with a large 1,200-bed hospital.”

He returned to Mumbai on 21 April 2001 and was ordained auxiliary bishop by Cardinal Ivan Dias.

In 2002 he was also chosen as CBCI secretary general. About 10 years ago he retired from the post of auxiliary bishop because of age limits, but continues to personally follow the work of the Corpus Fund.

During the 1970s, Bishop Fernandez played a role in helping people affected by drought in Maharashtra, the crisis in Uganda and the refugee emergency in Bangladesh. The bishop is also a good painter.––Asia News

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