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Father Sylvanus Sngi Laid to Rest

By Joseph Pulinthanath sdb
Last rites of Father Sylvanus Sngi Lyngdoh SDB
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Shillong, Jun. 3. The state of Meghalaya bade farewell to one of its most illustrious sons - Father Sylvanus Sngi Lyngdoh SDB on 30th May 2016. An estimated forty thousand people from all parts of the state and region, cutting across churches, religions and political leanings attended the funeral of Fr. Sngi who passed away on 28 May at Nazareth Hospital in Shillong, Among those present at the funeral were Meghalaya Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma, Honourable Member of Parliament Shri Vincent H. Pala, former Chief Minister Dr. DD Lapang, Archibishop Dominic Jala of Shillong, Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati, Bishop Victor Lyngdoh of Nongstoin, Bishop Andrew Marak of Tura, Bishop Joseph Aind of Dibrugarh, Bishop Goerge Rajendran of Thucklay.
From Sacred Heart Theological College Mawlai, where Father Sngi spent many decades of his life, his body was brought to the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians at Laitumkhrah and kept in state there. Thousands that had known Father Sngi and benefitted from his ministry walked past his mortal remains, praying to God for his soul as well as praying the departed to continue interceding for them to God.

As a mark of respect to Father Sngi, the Catholic schools in the city declared the day of his funeral a holiday. The Government of Meghalaya followed suit and gave half-day holiday to enable thousands to take part in the last rights of the departed leader. As a result, it was a sea of humanity that accompanied Father Sngi on the last leg of his journey of life - from the Cathedral to the cemetery, located barely two kilometers away.

Speaking at the funeral service, Meghalaya Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma recalled his contribution for the uplift of Khasi community. According to Dr Sangma, Father Sngi was a multi-faceted personality and had contributed a lot to the state. Former chief minister DD Lapang while condoling the death of Fr Sngi said, ''The demise of Father Sngi is like the disintegration of one big tree whereby thousands of birds have lost their habitat.'' He also said that Fr Sngi is a great example who inspired people to be brave and work hard and to be determined. Lok Sabha MP Vincent H Pala also spoke in the event.

Father George Maliekal, the Provincial of Silchar Province of which Father Sngi was a dedicated member, called him 'one of the noblest souls that the first generation of Salesian India has given to the world'. At the oration given at the funeral, Father Maliekal said Fr. Sngi was ''indeed an exceptional prototype, an original in every sense, a unique blend of wisdom and compassion, a great Religious and priest, who could inspire and challenge us in a thousand ways. Besides a brilliant mind, he had a heart bigger than his turban. He was a man in constant touch with both Heaven and the soil in which he was born. A man of culture, original in his intuitions and audacious in his practices! A man who constantly exuded optimism and made light of his sufferings!''

Father Maliekal paid tribute to the exceptional traits one found in Father Sngi. ''A versatile personality, a lifelong teacher and writer, a most zealous missionary, and a loving and lovable priest, a healer of the sick, a shepherd who felt the smell of the sheep, a great lover of the Church, a worthy son of Don Bosco. Father Sngi will continue to live in the memory of generations to come. Thanks to the gigantic missionary work of Father Sngi, the Church has been planted in several parts of the dioceses of Northeast India.''

Father Sngi died after a brief illness on May 28 at Nazareth Hospital, Shillong. He will also be remembered for his involvement in the installation of the first ever coalition government in the State, engineered by political leaders from Meghalaya in March 1978.

Father Sylvanus was born on January 3, 1921 as the eldest of 15 children in a Khasi family at Nongbah Thaiang, a remote village in the Ri Bhoi district of Meghalaya. He authored more than 40 books and among his outstanding literary contributions are his Khasi-Hebrew, Khasi- Greek, and Khasi- Aramaic dictionaries. He co-translated and edited along with late Fr Henry Fantin, the Khasi Catholic Bible, a landmark literary volume in the Khasi language.

God rest his soul.
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