THE ARCHDIOCESE OF GUWAHATI CELEBRATES ITS SILVER JUBILEE
The Archdiocese of Guwahati celebrated its Silver Jubilee on21 and 22 January at Jerome Institute, Sonaighuli.The two-day long celebrations began with a spiritual animation programme for the delegates of the forty-three parishes of the Archdiocese. It was conducted both in Garo and Assamese languages by Fr. CrosperSangma and Fr. Maria Soosai respectively at Don Bosco School, Sonaighuli. Nearly 400 delegatestook part in the sessions.
On the first day evening, a candle lit Eucharistic procession was held in Sonaighuli. His Eminence Baselios Cleemis Cardinal Thottunkalled the procession by taking the Eucharist in a decorated car and a large number of faithful took part in it devoutly, seeking blessings from the Eucharistic Lord.
In order to remind the faithful the eventful journey of the Archdiocese over the last twenty five years, a public meeting was organized. It included memoirs, felicitation speeches, various exciting cultural programmes, traditional and fusion dances and songs.
Fr. Varghese Kizhakevely, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese while extending the words of welcome reminded the gathering that “we are celebrating 25 years of God’s blessings, growth and achievements”. Affirming the relentless services of its shepherds he said that “we celebrate today, because God entrusted the Archdiocese to the prayerful hands of our Strong Shepherds - Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil and Archbishop John Moolachira”.
Reiterating the growth of the Archdiocese he said that,“the Archdiocese has grown from a mustard seed-Church to a fructifying and soaring church, solidly built on Jesus the rock”. He also briefed the active role the Archdiocese played in transforming the bio-cultural diversity of the people and urged the people to seek God’s blessings for the plentiful harvest in missionary endeavours.
Archbishop John Moolachira in his introductory speech explained about the present status of Archdiocese especially in the various pastoral, social and charitable fields. Gratefully recalling the past, he also spoke about theinitial journey of Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil and his team after the establishment of the Diocese and later as an Archdiocese.
Baselios Cleemis Cardinal Thottunkal, the president of CBCI who graced the occasion as the chief guest lauded praises over Archdiocese for her historic journey over the past twenty five years.
During the programme His eminence was invited to release the Silver Jubilee Souvenir, ‘Living the Beatitudes’ – a work that records the twenty-five eventful years of history of the Archdiocese and its remarkable contributions to the State of Assam.
He also handed over the key of the new house to Belington Sangma – a senior catechist from St. Francis Assisi’s Parish, Rangjuli. As a silver Jubilee memento, the Archdiocese had decided to financially assist the head catechist of the parishes who have served the Church over more than twenty years to build a house. Accordingly, 12 head catechist were given Rs. 200,000 each.
“We appreciate very much what the Church is doing for the people of Assam,” said Shri. Sarbananda Sonowal the Chief Minister of Assam as he addressed the gathering. “I myself have been a beneficiary of Christian assistance in the field of education. My educators have taught me values which I greatly cherish.” While he praised his own party leader Modi with enthusiasm, he also invited the Church to work with him to build the state.
Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil remembered how he began with just 13 diocesan priests with responsibility for 9 civil districts of Lower Assam. “It was a test of faith,” he said, “but help came on its own in various forms: volunteers, religious congregations, short-term assistance, and encouragement of all sorts. Institutions came up like miracles: not only schools and hospitals, but also houses for the differently enabled, retreat centres, research institutes, and even a university.”
“The Lord’s hand was there even amidst difficulties,” he said. He showed how from the experience of the ethnic conflict at Kokrajhar in 1996 there arose the Ecumenical Peace Team of Northeast India.
“There was a time,” he said, “when it was difficult to persuade a religious group to take up work in the ‘dangerous’ Northeast. Today there are any number eager to have a presence in the region.” The collective image of the region itself has changed. Not a few national events take place in the once ‘dreaded’ Northeast: CCBCI and CRI meetings, women’s programmes, youth events.
“I requested two things of all the members of my team,” recalled Archbishop Menamparampil, “to be close to our communities scattered in the villages, and consciously to cultivate good relationship with the civil society. We never feared persecution here.”
“For us everyone is important,” emphasised the prelate, “even those who occasionally are not happy with us. We also make it a point to keep close to the intellectuals in society. So we always hear a friendly voice even amidst our difficulties.”
“Building Communities..... Reaching out to Peripheries” – a documentary film depicting the marvellous ways of God in the life and mission of the Archdiocese of Guwahati and its relentless services to the people was staged.
22 morning marked the concluding day of the Jubilee Celebrations with a solemn Holy Eucharistic celebration presided over by His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Cardinal Thottunkal, President of the C.B.C.I. Most of the Bishops of the region, a number of priests, religious and a large number of faithful took part in the celebration.
Archbishop John Moolachira welcomed the guests and thanked all his co-workers for their wholehearted collaboration.
In his homily the chief celebrant reiterated that: “The Church in India has been greatly edified by the witness of the Catholic community in the Northeast in sharing the Gospel”.
“Guwahati is the gateway to the Northeast, and we need to thank God for what it has accomplished during the last quarter of a century,” said the Cardinal.
After the Holy Mass a short felicitation programme was staged to honour the dignitaries, to present the papal blessings to the head catechist of the parishes and to distribute the prizes of various competitions conducted during the jubilee year. His Grace Most Rev. Dominic Lumon, Archbishop of Imphal and Vice- President of the Northeast India Regional Catholic Bishops’ Council presented them to the respective individuals.
Finally, His Grace, Most Rev. John Moolachira formally concluded the silver jubilee celebrations of the Archdiocese by lowering the Jubilee flag.
The formal inauguration of the silver jubilee celebrations was held on Sunday, 7 August, 2016, at its Christ the Bearer of Good News Cathedral, Dispur by hoistingJubilee flag by His Grace Most Rev. John Moolachirain the presence of several priests, religious and faithful. Since then, the entire Archdiocese had been praying fervently for the spiritual renewal and it has undoubtedly made an impact in the life of the entire Archdiocese. It also had various spiritual, social, competitions and charitable activities organised at various intervals in different places.
Established on 16 August 1992 with its headquarters at Ambari, Guwhatithe Archdiocese is spread across nine civil districts of Assam. During the past twenty five years, not only has it given birth to the Diocese of Bongaigaon, which also has grown impressively, but has itself grown to such an extent as to give the image of an old and well established diocese, with seminaries, houses of formation and various types of institutions.
As the Archdiocese continues its journey of faith with its people of God, its gaze is fixed on the future where greater things awaitsits people.