KOLKATA, (C.M. Paul) – An overseas Salesian missionary returning to the province due to ailing health received a hero’s welcome at a Solemn Eucharistic celebration held at the Provincial House, Kolkata, Wednesday 29 February 2012. The missionary, Fr Joseph Punchakunnel (75) was Rector and principal of Salesian College Sonada Darjeeling and several years Novice Master at Siliguri before he left for South American missions – in the Bolivian mountains. His brother, Salesian Fr Thomas Punchakunnel, also from Kolkata province, is currently missionary in East Africa for over 30 years.
Some 25 priests and five brothers joined the celebrations marking also the anticipated 60th birthday of the provincial who is scheduled to leave for Kathmandu to inaugurate Don Bosco Technical Institute at Thecho, 1 March.
“We are glad that Fr Puncha is back in the province after 25 years of active missionary life,” said the provincial Fr Thomas Ellicherail.
Welcoming the missionary, Fr Provincial recalled the last farewell to a departing missionary for overseas missions on the last day of Don Bosco Relic Pilgrimage to Kolkata province on 19th July 2011.
On that occasion, Director of Don Bosco Vocational Training Institute Monsadah and Warden of St Albert’s Home Monsadah on the Indo-Bangladesh border Fr Shiju James Thottupurathu was given missionary send off as he left for Latin American missions in Guatemala.
Over the last 30 plus years, some 20 Kolkata province Salesians (priests, clerics and Lay Brothers) went as missionaries to Africa, Asia & South America.
Since 1906, some 460 overseas Salesian missionaries came to India from 25 countries, Italy leading the pack with 286 missionaries (62%).