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Fr.Nathaniel Topno SDB laid to Rest

By Fr. Tarcisius Toppo
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Dimapur, Jul. 31. The mortal remains of Fr. Nathaniel Topno was laid to rest at Salesian College, cemetery, on 29 July. The requiem mass was presided over by Rt. Rev. Bishop Akasius Toppo, Bishop of Tezpur, assisted by Bishop Emeritus Robert Kerketta, of Tezpur, and joined by Fr. James Poonthuruthil, Provincial of Dimapur, Fr. Etherbert Minj, Vice-Provincial of Guwahati and 65 priests along with many Brothers, Sisters, faithful, family members and relatives of the departed soul.  
Fr. Provincial, in his homily, said that Fr. Nathaniel was true his patron saint, ''a man without guile''. He was a very simple person, who loved simple life and lived a simple life. And he lived a very holy life carrying out his mission faithfully and zealously. Even when confreres and friends made him the butt of their jokes, he just rubbed his mouth and quietly smiled.

During the condolence messages, Fr. N.J. Cyriac, a companion of Fr. Nathaniel, described him as a very good hockey player. No one could and should come in between his ball and the stick. He is fondly remembered by the families in and around Kristu Jyoti College, Bangalore, because he had endeared himself to them by constant visit and his simplicity. Fr. Noas Lakra, a priest from the diocese of Dibrugarh and a relation of Fr. Nathaniel, read out the condolence message of Rt. Rev. Joseph Aind, Bishop of Dibrugarh, and a companion, who could not attend the funeral due to his ill health. Fr. Ethelbert Minj, Vice Provincial of Guwahati, also conveyed the condolence message of the Province.

''Natha'' so was he lovingly called by the confreres. Fr. Jonas Kerketta, Rector of Don Bosco, Dibrugarh community, spoke of him as a person who did his duties faithfully. As a confessor he was always ready and available and sought after by many communities. When he first came to Dibrugarh a small cabin was made at the end of the chapel, which the apostolic boys thought it would be a PCO. But Fr. Natha christened it as Public Confessions Office. And he added that he would be the Manager and he would not charge money for it usage. And that it would be open 24x7. One of his outstanding qualities was his pastoral orientation. Family visits, especially to the poor was his prior focus.

Fr. Nathaniel Toppo, went to Samukjuli village on 24 July for the burial of his sister, who had died on 23 and the burial was on 25 July. On the evening 27 July, he went to the Parish at Biswanath Charali and after the supper went to bed normally. At around midnight he had a severe chest pain. As he was sleeping on the ground floor he dragged himself up to the first floor where he informed the assistant priest Fr. Moses. On seeing the condition of Fr. Nathaniel, they gave him a massage and rushed him to the Catholic hospital, Borgaon, with his nephew Suman, who was helping him. When they reached the hospital the doctors examined and declared that he was already dead. He had a strong cardiac arrest which took his life at around 2 am on 28 July. He was around 68 years old.

Fr. Nathaniel Topno was born on 03 December 1943, at Samukjuli Village in Assam's Sonitpur District.. His parents were Boniface and Serophina Topno  His eldest sister was Karuna Topno, younger sister is Silvina Topno and younger brother was William Topno.

Fr. Nathaniel made his first Religious Profession in the Salesian Society on 24 May 1968. He was ordained Priest on 27 March 1977 at Borpukhri Parish (now Biswanath Chariali Parish) in Assam's Sonitpur District. As zealous missionary Fr. Nathaniel has worked in Nagaland's Tseminyu Parish. But most of his priestly ministry was carried out in the Assam's Dibrugarh Diocese especially in the parishes of Golaghat, Tongna, Doom Dooma and Tinsukia. He was a zealous missionary, fully devoted to the pastoral care of the faithful. This active missionary life continued for many years till he suffered a massive stroke some years back. Fr. Nathaniel's last apostolic assignment was as Confessor at Don Bosco School, Dibrugarh, where he reached on 26 May 2007. This assignment he carried out most happily and faithfully, both among the boys of the Don Bosco Apostolic School, and in the neighbouring communities of Dibrugarh.

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