SIRAJULI, Assam (C.M. Paul) – On the eve of 90th year of the arrival of the Salesians in northeastIndia (22 January 2012), Salesian General Councilor for Missions Fr Klement Vaclav opened the first aspirantate exclusively for overseas missions, 22 November 2011.
Modeled after the first Salesian Missionary Institute of Ivrea (11 other missionary aspirantates in Italy, Spain, France and England), this institute is named after Hubert D’Rosario the first Indian archbishop of northeast India (Shillong-Guwahati). Over the years, the above European missionary institutes supplied a total of 11,000 missionaries for world missionary efforts.
Situated at Sirajuli in the diocese of Tezpur Assam, though still under construction, the aspirantate was already functioning since July 2011 with three priests and two practical trainees (one cleric and a lay brother) along with 13 pre-novices and 40 aspirants under the leadership of Fr. Paul Lyngot.
Besides the Guwahati province, the missionary institute will recruit aspirants from “north Indian” provinces of Dimapur, Calcutta, New Delhi and Bombay.
Blessing first such missionary institution in India, Bishop Michael Akasius Toppo of Tezpur said, “Sirajuli missionary aspirantate will become an epicenter of missionary animation from a forgotten village to the whole world.”
Br. Suresh Ekka, currently a missionary in Bulgaria and Br. Paulus Guria in Uganda, both hail from Sirajuli mission.
“Local boys who left for the overseas missions are a great inspiration for young people of the region to follow the courageous example of their companions,” noted Fr Klement.
Fr Klement added, “even though India leads as a country in the number of members in the congregation, the Indian contribution to overseas mission is dismal compared to the supply of confreres to the missions from a small country likeVietnamwith a far shorter history of Salesian presence.Vietnamsends 8 to 10 missionaries each year and to-date they have sent a total of 73 confreres to overseas missions.
Over these past 100 years of Salesin presence inIndia, some 460 foreign confreres have worked in India. In contrast, the Indian contribution to overseas missions is a little over 150.
Over 250 guests participated at the grand opening ceremony including 13 pre-novices, 40 aspirants, two bishops (emiratus Salesian Bishop Robert Kerketta, first bishop from Assam), South Asia Regional Councilor Fr Maria Arokiam Kanaga, Provincial of Guwahati province Fr Joe Almeida and his council, Vice-provincial of Dimapur province and the parish priest of Dhekiajuli mission Fr. Joseph Elavunkal under whose jurisdiction falls Sirajuli some 8 kms away.
Also present at the opening ceremony were, some 30 Salesians from northeastIndia, benefactors and parents of the aspirants.
The programme which started with the inauguration (Fr Klement) and blessing of the institute (Bishop Toppo) and was followed by solemn Eucharistic celebration with liturgical dances and songs in Adivasi, Boro and Khasi languages.