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Italian Missionary's Statue Unveiled


By C.M. Paul
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Kolkata, Dec. 2. At the Silver Jubilee of Don Bosco Church Mirik, the only Catholic Church in the hill tourist town, a life-size statue to its pioneer Italian missionary Father Luigi Jellici was unveiled on November 27, 2021. Salesian Father Luigi Jellici started a mission in Sonada in 1963 reached Mirik in 1995. He set up a school and Don Bosco chapel, which has grown into a high school catering to Nepali children of local tea gardens up to class 12.
Known for famous tea plantations producing Darjeeling tea and orchards yielding high-quality oranges, Mirik is a small hill town much smaller than other hill towns of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong with a population of 11,363 people according to census 2011.

Mirik, also known for the cultivation of Cymbidium Orchids, commands high prices in both domestic and international flower markets. Some 52 km by road from Siliguri and situated at about 5,000 ft above sea level, Mirik has nothing to boast about, other than a lake with over 3 km road skirting it. From the lake, tourists can see towering above the cluster of buildings the Don Bosco Church steeple.

Visitors pray at the grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes and climb up the Church with indigenous and traditional architectural styles. The insides have elements of local and ethnic flavour, with both side walls decorated with religious motifs in iron and coloured glass. The ceiling, front and back sides are fully panelled in pinewood, creating an ambient of peace and prayerfulness.  

Father Mathew Pulingathil, one of the Indian pioneer priests with Father Jellici at the start of the mission, is the parish priest of Don Bosco Church Mirik.
 
The celebrations began with Bishop Stephen Lepcha of Darjeeling-Sikkim accompanied by as many as 33 priests, scores of Religious Sisters, Catechists and some 300 lay faithful, dedicating the life-size statue of Father Jellici placed in the presbytery lawn. Priests at the celebrations belonged to Darjeeling-Sikkim, Jalpaiguri, Bagdogra, Purnea, Krishnagar and Calcutta dioceses. Speaking at the occasion, Bishop Lepcha praised the development brought to Mirik with the arrival of the Church. He challenged the faithful to be job providers through start-ups and businesses and not just be job seekers. While encouraging the faithful to be 'walking Bibles' with their lives, Bishop invited those who strayed away from the community to return and reminded parishioners to be witnesses of a praying community.
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