First Indian Salesian Missionary Marks 45 years in Overseas Mission

Fr George (Jorge) Puthenpura SDB

KOLKATA, (C.M. Paul) – The Central American country of Guatemalais drawing much interest in Kolkata province as another young priest is set to leave for the same destination to which the first Indian Salesian missionary set off 45 years ago.

Fr George (Jorge) Puthenpura born in Kerala made his first profession at Sunnyside Shillong in 1960, a year after Guwahati province was bifurcated from Kolkata province in 1959. After his philosophy studies at Salesian College Sonada (Darjeeling) and practical training in India, Fr Puthenpura did theological studies in Barcelona, Spain. He was ordained priest in March 1970, and became the first missionary ad gentes from India to Guatemala.

Seven years after his arrival inGuatemala, in 1977, he founded the “Congregation of the Sisters of the Resurrection,” which in 2004 became the 22nd group of the Salesian Family. Today the Congregation he founded has more than 50 professed sisters and some 30 novices, in 10 communities and 3 dioceses, and working in over 400 villages.

The characteristic of this Congregation is the missionary spirit, and the fact that all the Sisters are indigenous. The language of the congregation is Quekchí, a dialect of Mayan origin, the most widely spoken language in the Region of the Alta Verapaz, where his mission San Pedro Carchá is to be found.

Some members of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Resurrection founded by Fr Puthenpura

This year, four Indian provinces are sending seven missionaries to overseas missions in the upcoming 142nd Missionary commissioning from Valdocco, 25 September 2011. It will have 30 Salesians and five Caritas Sisters of Jesus from Korea, Japan and Brazil. Of this there are three Indian Salesian missionaries of the earlier groups who have not attended the missionary course. They are 27 year old scholastic Simon Nongrum of Guwahati now working in Belgium North and 25 year old scholastic Suresh Ekka of Guwahati now working inBulgaria, and 39 year old Fr. Jacinto Dias of Panjim province working in South Africa Province since 2007.

Leading among the Indian provinces in this year’s missionary course is Tiruchy province with four confreres (Arockiam Thomas John – 30 year old scholastic for Middle East, Raj Arockiam Mariasusai – 43 year old priest forNetherlands (BelgiumNorthProvince), Rajan Pushparaj – 43 year old priest for Austria and John Paul Swamy (Swaminathan) – 24 year old scholastic assigned to France. Remaining three confreres are one each from Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata provinces.

Chennai province Fr Alphonse Arulnadam – 41 year old priest is assigned toIreland while Bangalore province Mathew Valiyakattel (Nice) – 24 year old scholastic is assigned to the Middle East, and 33-year old Fr Shiju James Thottupurathu from Kolkata is assigned toGuatemala.

The Indian contribution to this year’s international missionary group is just seven confreres from four (out of 10) provinces.

That is a far cry from the challenge Rector Major put forward to Indian provinces during the centenary celebrations of the arrival of Salesians in India. In 2006, the Rector Major put a challenge to the ten Indian provinces saying, “I need three confreres from each province every year for mission ad gentes”– ie., 30 missionaries!

Kolkata province Mission delegate Fr Sebastian Thekkel has a scathing take on that. He says, “there is a general decline in our missionary spirit and enthusiasm…  I find that there are not enough priests who want to be ‘ministers of word and sacraments’. Faith in the sacraments and its value in the Salesian Educational System are decaying because some do not use it or some do not want to hear about it. Some of us have ‘left our homes and fishing nets’ to search for a ‘better catch.’ [Often] not as ‘fishers of people.’”

The General Councilor for Missions Fr Vaclav Klement is of the opinion that, the second Consulta’ of the Salesian Missions (2010, Sept) with additional in puts from General Councilor for Formation Fr Cereda, the first draft of the Missionary Formation of the SDB will help set in motion a new wave of missionary enthusiasm in the congregation.

Meanwhile, Guwahati Province, has scheduled the official opening of Sirajuli Missionary aspirantate, on 22 November, 2011. It is the “IVREA – Istituto Cardinal Cagliero” missionary aspirantate of India.

Fr Vaclav adds complimenting the timely effort, “thanks for the passionate contribution to start a new missionary formation tradition in India, the most dynamic region of the Congregation at present time.”

The “Assam Missions” marks 90 years in 2012.

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3 Comments

Filed under Congregation of the Sisters of the Resurrection, Indian Missionaries

3 responses to “First Indian Salesian Missionary Marks 45 years in Overseas Mission

  1. Missionary animation meetings scheduled in Kolkata, August 2011

    5 -6 Aug 2011: South Asia SDB missionary animation (with SDB Regional Superior) for some 15 SDB participants.

    7 -11 Aug 2011: South Asia SDB/FMA/Sal.Fam. missionary study days about “Initial Proclamation of Jesus” with some 40 Salesian Family members. The FMA General Councilor for Missions will participate.

    General Councilor for Missions Fr Vaclav Klement will not be present in Kolkata as he is part of the Western Europe Team Visit in Lyon during those days.

  2. Fr. Joseph Puthenpurakal SDB

    What Fr. Sebastian has written and which you have cited: “there is a general decline in our missionary spirit and enthusiasm… etc.” is certainly true to some extent. I feel the reason of it lies in our formation that does not take us closer to Jesus Christ. It provides us with degrees. Even theology is a rush to “cover syllabi”.

    People think that more the knowledge, the more educated we are. .. more prepared we are. I am of the opinion that while knowledge is pumped into one’s reasoning area, the WILL to do good, to make sacrifices, to go out of oneself is becoming less and less. The formation of the WILL cannot be equated to the formation of the MIND. It is the CHOICE we make that makes us more human, and not the KNOWLEDGE we acquire. So there should be a WILL training programme with special emphasis in our formation programmes at all levels. Otherwise, by the time one is ordained or professed one is so bloated up with KNOWLEDGE that the strength of the WILL is nowhere near.

    It is a pity that theology is losing its “missionary” teeth. By missionary I mean one who is SENT by JESUS Christ. One who has this awareness that he/she is SENT by JESUS for carrying out JESUS’ mission – whether he/she is in a village or in a town, in a school or in a college, in India or abroad – is a MISSIONARY. It does not matter where you are. What matters is WHO sent you.

    It is HIS mission not our mission. He will take care of us. The most important thing in a missionary is to be with JESUS. All the studies we undertake should be constructed on a platform of the awareness that HE is sending us and that we are only HIS instruments. I may be not too wrong if I affirm that all theology professors, and professors of all other sciences – if they are serving the Church – should first undergo a full course on MISSION THEOLOGY and some practical MISSIONARY EXPERIENCE [such as exposure to a multi cultural, multi religious context] (for not all “theology” is at the moment MISSION ORIENTED… and yet, the Church exists in order to evangelize and the Church by nature is MISSIONARY.

    Here I am not speaking of a missiology that teaches you what to do in a village… or how to administer the sacraments…but of a missiology [of the Second Vatican Council and post-conciliar documents] that is, a theology that is missiology pure and simple. For missiology is the Mother of Theology. Who cares about the Mother Today! As the Church went on MISSION, theology emerged. The Mother is forgotten, today “theology” runs the risk of being Motherless!
    Fr. P.V. Joseph SDB

  3. Gerard AVOA

    My name is Gerard Avoa. I am from Papua New Guinea. I want to contact and communicate with Fr. Sebastian. I understand Fr. Sebastian is gifted by God and I want to ask Fr. Sebastian to pray for me and my family as well as share your life experience so I could share with other people to strenghten their spiritual and physical well being.

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