Everyone who has seen the pictures or had an encounter with the people of North East would surely long to be there. The land of the Rainbows, as North East is usually referred to as, with its cultural vitality and scenic beauty has also proved to be a fertile land for missionaries. This is the reason why I opted to be here just after my ordination. I am at Don Bosco, Harmutty, a place bordering Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The place is of paramount importance in the history of the Salesians in this part because it is from here that “Evangelization Arunachal” took roots around 30 yrs ago when missionaries were barred from entering Arunachal.
“The Mission,” as the place is popularly called, consists of a School with a total strength of 1400 children, a boarding of which majority of the children are from Arunachal, and a Parish. The Parish comprises of 18 villages spread over 45km with about 700 families most of whom are Adivasi Christians.
The community is manned by Fr. John Pudussery (Rector and Principal) and, Fr. Albert Tirkey (Parish Priest), and Fr. Mathew Narimattam (Administrator). I have been helping out in the School as well as the Parish. The Parish ceremonies are usually in Hindi. I manage to celebrate Holy Mass in Hindi and on a few occasions I have preached as well.
The Lenten season was very much pastorally rewarding with hearing confessions in the villages, celebrating Holy Mass and over 100 baptisms. Now I am involved in Easter House Blessings wherein one can have a direct contact with the situation of the Catholic homes. They have privations of many kinds, but are mighty rich in hospitality, friendliness and generosity – one of the reasons why all who come here as visiting missionaries are unwilling to go back.
“The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few” is literally true to this area. The North East needs priests and religious, but at the same time quality priests and religious too, because the one who goes to the mission will determine to a great extent the standard of their Christian life as he will probably be the only person whom they get to see, hear and imitate.
I also had an opportunity to visit Don Bosco, Palin which had faced lot of trouble in connection with the fire tragedy which occurred in a nearby hostel and had claimed the lives of 10 children. I spent around a week there. Though the confreres are back in the house, the situation is quite precarious as they receive constant threats from some miscreants even now.
Fr Cyriac (Shiju) Malayil SDB