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Karbi Catholics celebrate 100 years of Faith

By Bivan Mukhim
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Guwahati, Nov. 14. Diphu Diocese celebrated the centenary of the arrival of Faith among the Karbis from 7 - 10 November amidst great jubilation and gratitude to God and to the pioneering missionaries who were instrumental in sowing the seed of Faith on the Karbi soil. The joy and happiness was palpable as delegates from different parishes had started arriving by 7 November for the celebrations.  The Centenary celebrations were declared open by Rt Rev Paul Mattekatt, Bishop of Diphu, at the Cathedral ground, Diphu with the theme ''Thy Kingdom Come''.  
The inaugural programme was marked by significant moments like the prayer service, lighting of the lamps, key note address by the Vicar General of Diphu Fr John Timung, singing of the Centernary Anthem by the choir, fireworks display, etc.

The Centenary flag was hoisted by the Chancellor Fr Mathew Thomas, a veteran who has worked more than 25 years among the Karbis.

During the brief ceremony in the morning, the deceased Missionaries were commemorated with gratitude for their brave sacrifices.

100 balloons were released to mark the glorious occasion of 100 years of Catholic faith.

During the course of the day, a number of talks were delivered on different topics.  Fr Joseph Teron, SDB, the first Karbi Salesian priest spoke about ''The arrival and spread of Catholic faith among the Karbis''. Fr John Timung, Vicar General of the Diocese and first Karbi priest, talked on ''The need to strengthen and spread the faith further''.  Fr Nelson Teron, another young and dynamic Karbi priest, talked on ''The impact of the Catholic Church among the Karbis''.

The evening witnessed the inauguration of the Centenary Memorial Grotto at the Cathedral parish complex by Mrs Veronique Vogel from Kirche in Not, Germany.  It was followed by the Rosary Service where Fr Anthony Engti, another young Karbi priest, spoke about ''Mary: Star of evangelization''.   Fr Joseph Teron, coordinator of the Seminar, guided the delegates in a workshop on making an Action Plan which was then declared and an oath taken to follow it up.

The participants of the seminar came out with the following 5-point resolutions as a roadmap for the coming hundred years: 1) Every Catholic and Catholic family to be a praying Catholic and family. 2) Every Catholic and Catholic family to be an evangelizing Catholic and family. 3) Promote local vocations to priesthood and religious life.  4) Every Catholic to strive to attain a graduate/post-graduate degree.  5) Every Catholic to strive to improve the status of families in the Church and the society by helping each other.  Later in the evening, a documentary prepared by Fr Nelson and his team was released and screened for all.

Sunday, 9 November witnessed the climax of the celebrations.  Rt Rev James Thoppil, Bishop of Kohima presided over the Solemn Holy Eucharist with Bishop Paul Mattekatt and about 50 priests concelebrating. Soon after the Holy Mass all the faithful joined by preists and religious took out a colourful procession in Diphu town carrying the Blessed Sacrament in a beautifully decorated float accompanied by bands from Don Bosco Sojong and Little Flower Manja. The procession concluded with the benediction and solemn blessing imparted by Rt Rev James Thoppil.

A beautiful cultural programme was put up in the evening.  Mrs Veronique Vogel, the Chief Guest, gave away the different Centenary Awards.  The first to be felicitated during the awards ceremony were the direct descendants of the first Karbis to receive baptism on 25 January 1914, from Roman Marjong village. The pioneering catechists, Karbi priests who are 7 at present, and nuns, other priests who have served in Karbi Anglong  for more than 25 years , different congregations working in Karbi Anglong and Mr Paulus Rongphar, a promoter of Karbi literature, were given the Centenary  Awards along with citations as a sign of appreciation for their contribution towards the spreading of faith among the Karbis.  

Prizes were also awarded to the winners of the choir competition and the quiz competition.  The lively choir led the crowd in singing the Centenary Anthem which brought the curtains down on the Centenary Celebrations.  

A brief history of the Diocese:

The Diocese of Diphu was erected on 5 December 1983, with the district of Karbi Anglong from the diocese of Shillong-Guwahati and the district of North Cachar Hills (now Dima Hasao) from the diocese of Silchar with Rt Rev Mathai Kochuparampil SDB as its first bishop.  The diocese has an area of 15,000 square kilometers with a population of 10,01,390 (2001 census) with approximately 51,100 Catholics.  At present there are 24 parishes in the diocese.  The Salvatorians were the first to do the work of evangelization among the Karbis.  They were followed by the Jesuits in 1916.

The Salesians entered the scene in less than an year of their arrival in the Northeast.  Some of the early Salesian missionaries who carried out pastoral works in Karbi villages of Karbi Anglong were Fr Emmanuel Bars, Fr Constantine Vendrame, Fr Vargo, Fr Carmello, Fr Peter Tonello, Fr Orestes Marengo, who later became a bishop, Msgr Stephen Ferrando, Fr Mario Botto, Fr Vergil Albera, FR R. Dossi, Fr Vicor Mauri, Fr Julious Costa, Fr Francis Smith, Fr Michael Devalle, Fr George Vannie, Fr Sylvanus Sngi Lyngdoh, and Fr Michael Blavoine.

The Salesians contributed a big share in the growth of the Church in Karbi Anglong.  The Salesians are still deeply involved in the growth and expansion of the Church in the region especially in the western part of Karbi Anglong.  The Centenary celebration was indeed a moment to rejoice and thank God for his innumerable blessings and at the same time to rededicate to serve Him better and to make His Kingdom spread far and wide. THY KINGDOM COME!
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