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Tribute to a Great Salesian, Bro. Joseph Pakma

By Fr. George Maliekal SDB
The Funeral Mass of Bro. Joseph Pakma at Savio Juniorate Shillong
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Shillong, Feb. 2. After the Funeral Mass at Savio Juniorate, the mortal remains of Bro. Joseph Pakma who had died on 30 January, were laid to rest at the Salesian cemetery at Laitumkhrah, Shillong on the following day, 31 January 2015.  Here follows the Funeral Oration delivered by Fr. George Maliekal, Provincial Silchar Province.
''After 87 years 5 months and 2 weeks of his earthly sojourn, Bro Joseph Pakma has left us reechoing the words of St. Paul ''I have fought the good fight to the end. I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith'' (2 Tim 4:7). He left us ahead of the feast of Don Bosco to be with Jesus the Good Shepherd, to be with Don Bosco his Father and Model after having fulfilled the Salesian project of apostolate and holiness for the past 65 years.

Born on 15th August 1927, he did his novitiate at Kotagiri (Tamil Nadu) and made his first profession on 24 May 1950. He made his perpetual profession on 9th June 1956 at Shillong.

Bro Joseph lived his commitment as a Salesian in various places, having won the hearts of confreres and leaving behind a saga of life lived with great zeal and genuineness. He left a legacy of hard work in Don Bosco Shillong, having lived and worked there over 20 years at various times. His holy, exemplary life is remembered at Dibrugarh, Bhutan, Umran, Rangblang and Mawlai Parish. The presence of a big number of altar boys here at this Mass from Mawlai Parish is a living witness to the care that Br Joseph took of the boys. He loved them. He was indeed a mentor, a friend and an elder brother to boys, guiding them to Salesian life and priestly life.

Cleric Clarence, one of the young Salesians wrote: ''I am saddened with the news of the passing away of Bro. Joseph Pakma. Bro. Joseph was a person who had inspired and encouraged me to be a Salesian. He always accompanied me with his prayers and whenever he could he wrote to me encouraging me to treasure my vocation. I was one of his altar boys and he always spoke about and promoted vocations to the priesthood and to the congregation. I can say that he is a holy Salesian after the heart of Don Bosco... With his passing away I've lost a guide and a Father. I am sure now that he will be in the Garden of Don Bosco praying for us from above.''

Br Joseph was part of Savio Juniorate community for more than 15 years. The community is blessed indeed by the exemplary presence of Br Joseph. The community also most generously and lovingly accompanied and took care of Brother in the past months of his illness and pain. There are no words to describe the loving care that the confreres of Savio Juniorate took of Br Joseph. My sincerest appreciation and thanks to Fr. Jeevan, Rector, the confreres and the aspirants. Let me make a very special mention of Fr. John Kalapura and Br John Colombi. They took care of Br Joseph, with such tenderness and dedication which would make Br Joseph say often, ''How much I owe to the confreres. They take care of me so much. I don't deserve it''. Fr. Ioannis War Pakma with whom Br Joseph had his family tie and a strong emotional attachment gave great support and strength especially in the last few months of his sufferings. Thank you dear Fr. Ioannis and Fr. Kenny.

One of the frequent complaints of Br Joseph in the past months: 'Fr. Provincial, they don't give enough work for me these days'. In one of my last visits to Nazareth Hospital he told me, 'I hope when I go back from the hospital, they will give me enough work'. Br Joseph has brought laurels to sons of Don Bosco, he loved work, he worked much and we believe, he has won heaven meritoriously. 'Don Bosco will be waiting for him in heaven', conveyed Fr. Maria Arokiam, the Regional Superior of the Salesians. He wrote: 'I liked his simplicity. People were very fond of him. May his intercession bring more vocations to Salesian brotherhood in the province and in India'.

Bp Rajendran who lived with him at Savio Juniorate sent this message: ''I fondly remember working with Br Joseph in Savio Juniorate when I was practical trainee brother and later on as counsellor. He was genuine and hard working Salesian. He loved to be with the boys at the play ground, in the refectory, in the class rooms etc. He gave great attention to simple realities of Salesian life, especially Salesian assistance. We miss him''.

Fr. Nirmol Gomes, Salesian Provincial of Kolkata expressed ''In his passing away the congregation has lost an exceptionally good and exemplary Salesian Brother and a holy confrere''. Fr. Nestor Guria, Salesian Provincial of Dimapur wrote: ''He was a true son of Don Bosco who understood the Salesian Brother vocation to its truest sense. He loved the boys and was always present with them. He constantly accompanied them. He was a happy Salesian. He was always found cheerful''.

Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil expressed his condolences: ''Deeply grieved to learn of the death of Bro. Pakma. I have worked with him many years in Don Bosco Shillong and admired him a great deal. We are going to miss a great confrere. It was very brave on his part to stand the sufferings of the last few months''.

Fr. Jose Varickasseril who has lived with Br Pakma has few things to speak of him:
1) missionary zeal like in the earlier days when Br. Cid, Br. Ferraris and others longed to spend time with the christian communities;
2) his spirituality was the spirituality of the salesian presence; he loved the boys who were entrusted to his care;
3) poverty - very particular about the use of money; his accountability was proverbial;
4) he was a promoter of vocations to salesian priestly life;
5) he had great love for priests;
6) he was very supportive of others through his appreciation for the work that others were doing;
7) he was very particular about community practices - very disciplined and punctual;
8)he had great love for the Eucharist (visits to the bl. sacrament), and a great devotee of Our Lady;
9) obedience to the rules was a priority for him; and great love and regard for superiors;
10) he accompanied the young; he even wrote out jingkren for the young boys in the boarding to give talks during the jingiaseng;
11) never asked for anything and never refused anything; he was happy with little;
12) he was the founder of the altar boys in Mawlai parish;
13) he was a tireless worker;
14) he did catechesis with his booklets.

Dear Bro Joseph, you have gone ahead of us to that beautiful place where there is no more pain and suffering. May you be embraced by the loving arms of God the Father, welcomed by Jesus the Son and kept joy filled by the Holy Spirit. May you enjoy the motherly company of our Bl Mother to whom you were so devoted. May Don Bosco smile on you with the words said over you ''In Bro Joseph Pakma, Congregation has won a great triumph'. Adieu! Bro Joseph Pakma, till we meet at Jesus feet.''
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