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Paul Vadakumpadan, Guwahati says,
A JUBILEE OF SORTS
By Paul Vadakumpadan
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Guwahati, Sep. 23. On 6 August, the new academic year at Sacred Heart College, Mawlai, Shillong, was inaugurated. The occasion had a special significance for me.

We were beginning the first semester of the new school year. I was beginning my fiftieth semester of teaching here. That is twenty-five years. When I said this to a good friend of mine, he said, ``What is there to crow about in that? You worked in the same place for twenty-five years and I worked in different places for twenty-five years.`` That is true. That is why I call it a jubilee of sorts. It is something. Something is better than nothing. It gives me great joy to think of the regular classes I was able to take during these twenty-five years, without interruption or cancellation.

Many are celebrating jubilees. Silver is minor compared to golden, diamond, platinum etc. All these are minor compared to a centenary. I know of only one confrere who has celebrated a centenary, Fr Victor in Garo Hills - centenary of malaria attacks! This was several years ago. He must now be reaching his `quasquicentennial` (125) or even `sesquicentennial` (150). I do not wish him that!

Let me get back to the silver jubilee. Many beautiful things have happened during these many years. To have a share, however little, in the formation of a large number of priests, is certainly beautiful. I can also claim a tiny share in the huge amount of good these men are doing. Let me think of a few individuals in particular.

In my very first semester of teaching, in February 1986, I remember seeing in class a young brother by the name, Victor. Twenty-five years later he is Bishop of Nongstoin. Recently he invited me to preach to his clergy. After that he gave me a lift to Shillong. Not just a lift! He himself was the driver. Imagine being chauffeured by a bishop!

Speaking about bishops, I had the pleasant surprise of having an elderly bishop in class once. He was the CNI bishop of Assam, Ernest Talibuddin. He was coming to the end of his Episcopal service and wanted to do an M.TH before retirement. While dealing with the 1961 New Delhi meeting of the World Council of Churches, I noted that one of the participants was the American Civil rights leader, Martin Luther King. ``Another participant,`` intervened Bishop Talibuddin, ``was myself.`` How delightful to hear such things!

The first M.TH thesis I guided was of a young priest named Joe. Some time later, another young priest, called Charlie, not his real name, asked me to guide his thesis. I am happy to see that both of them are now guiding our province, one as Provincial, and the other as Vice-Provincial.

Another distinguished student, Joy, impressed all of us by publishing a book of Philosophy, while still a student. He now continues his highly competent service as a professor at Kristu Jyoti College, Bangalore. Yet another, Sebastian, is now professor of Philosophy at the most famous academic institution in India, IIT - Mumbai. How wonderful to think that a Catholic priest is involved in training the brain power of India! He will be able to give them something more. There are a few hundred others too rendering service in the Lord`s vineyard, several of them unsung heroes.  God be praised for them all.

Anything less rosy? Yes, something very sad indeed. Some young men who were in class then are ex-priests now. An average of one per year! That`s frightening. Alarming!  The less said about it the better. St Paul warns us, ``We are earthen pots containing a great treasure.`` Take care lest the pot break and the treasure spill!    

Given an option, will I choose this ministry again? Well, I`m not quite sure. One of the things I have learnt during the past twenty-five years is not to be too sure of many things. Remember the two groups of people who visited baby Jesus: shepherds who knew little and the wise men who knew that there were things they did not know.  Besides, with so many apostolic possibilities before us, it does not make much sense to limit oneself to just one type of ministry. Or does it?

At least of one thing I am sure. What is important in life is to be on mission, wherever you are and whatever you do.  Bring people to Jesus, take Jesus to people. And finally, He will surely take you home.

Fr Paul Vadakumpadan SDB
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