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Kolkata Salesians get 15th Santhal Priest

By C.M. Paul
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Kolkata, Jan. 29. Purnea, 29 January 2020 -- Bishop Angelus Kujur of Purnea ordained deacon Manoj Mario Hansda as priest at St Peter's Cathedral Purnea-Bihar on 18 January 2020. Over 75 priests concelebrated alongwith Vicar General of Purnea Father Francis Tirkey, Kolkata Salesian Provincial Father Nirmol Gomes and ViceProvincial Father Joseph Pauria.
Of 272 Salesians in Kolkata province there are some 30 plus Salesians including 15 Santhal priests and an equal number of lay brothers and clerics.

Some 50 Salesians, including 13 novices from Darjeeling district as well as from Santhal missions of Hooghly, Nadia, Murshidabad, Dumka and Purnea districts participated.

The thankagiving Eucharist by Father Hansda was at All Saints Chapel-Jianganj near Purnea on 19 January 2020. Born at Kurwaghat near Jianganj, in Purnea Hansda studied in Don Bosco School and Boarding Purnea, Bihar. Fathe Hansda thanked his former Rector at Purnea, Salesian Father Tomy Mathew for planting the seed of priestly vocation and help nurture it.

Hansda's priestly ordination programme started at 10:00 hrs with traditional Santhal welcome rituals at the festive arch set up on the main road in front of the cathedral. Hansda was flanked by his parents (Dhaneswar and Cecilia) along with Provincial Father Nirmol Gomes, and was carried on the shoulders of six men on a decorated sedan chair, to the tunes of a 20 piece marching band by the girls of Vimala High School, Purnea. The road was flanked by Don Bosco Purnea boarding boys dressed in black suits, offering floral tributes to the illustrious alumnus of their hostel.

On reaching the Cathedral entrance door, the candidate was escorted into the church by his parents followed by concelebrants and ordaining bishop with entrance dance by 20 ladies in their traditional attire carrying decorated pots overflowing with freshly cut paddy stalks.

While the ordination ceremony was held in Hindi language, the commentary and hymns were rendered both Hindi and Santali languages.

Two high points of the ordination ceremony were when some 80 priests stood around the sanctuary and each one laid hands of Deacon Hansda to pray, and later welcomed him to priestly fraternity with a hug.

In his homily in Hindi, Bishop Kujur explained 'what it means to be a priest in todays troubled times.' He lamented the fact that ''this is only the 5th priestly ordination in the [32 year old] Purnea diocese.'' The prelate called on the faithful for fervent prayers so that ''more young people may be inspired and heed to God's call to serve the people of God.''

All through the 4 hour ceremony the cathedral was packed with young people, both boys and girls, from four church managed schools in Purnea.

The Salesian Purnea mission was started in 1981 by pioneer Spanish missionary of happy memory Father Jesus Gimenez popularly known as ''Father Jim''. In June 27, 1998, Purnea mission became a diocese and was bifurcated from Dumka diocese.

The Santhal missions in Kolkata province which started in 1955, initially was limited to Murshidabad and Birbhum districts of West Bengal. The opening of the boarding school at Don Bosco Welfare Centre Azimganj in July 1966  was followed in 1967 with the erection of the first parish. With the efforts and resources of  Father J. Gimenez the mission progressed by leaps and bounds.

Eventually other parishes or mission centres of Polsondamore, Monigram, Joypur, Barapahari, Purnea, Dumka, Sirsia (Nepal) and Hooghly came into the map of Kolkata Salesian Santhal mission.  

Some of these missions were later handed over to the Diocese of Krishnagar.



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