Sunday, September 26, 2010


What is the mission in the North-east really like? That is a question I have been longing to seek an answer to. When one looks at the institutional development in a city it is hard to fathom what the reality was before the missionaries came. Well, yesterday I had a chance to see first-hand what it must have been like as I took a trip to one of the oldest mission stations of Meghalaya – Mawkyndeng. The journey began early (5:30 am) and luck was on our side as the traffic was light on an otherwise busy road. We were in Jowai by 7:30 and at our destination by 8:15 – The regulars were shocked at how little time it had taken us to reach. They are used to more like 5 hours on the road.

The 'mission' compound is almost a self-contained unit, centred on education with a plethora of schools both formal and non-formal. The parish church is at the very centre of things (literally and metaphorically). There are two large boardings (one for girls run by the FMAs and the other for boys under the care of the SDBs). The school buildings give one the impression of solidity and seriousness. Even though it was a school holiday, one could see many children around the place. There is also a little pond and other structures that ensure safety and security to the compound. The greenery all around bears witness to a native ecological sensitivity that pre-dates our own feeble efforts on the issue today.Being at the mission to animate a recollection, I did not have much time to go around but I was impressed by the pioneering vision of those who chose this rather isolated and difficult terrain as the locus of a new 'kingdom'. They brought well-being and peace, they brought education and development. They strove hard in the face of unimaginable difficulties but never gave up. God bless them for their courage and God bless those to who continue the 'mission' there (and in other territory) that would daunt the faint-hearted.

Returning back after sunset on the journey home, I was lost in thought and my mind was filled with gratitude for the work done. So many sons and daughters of the soil now labor to bring the same message of peace and development, of well-being and education in other parts of the state of Meghalaya, in other parts of India and some even in other areas of the world. The fire that has been lit in 1882 now burns on - not just in the physical structures, but more especially in the hearts and minds of those who have been 'lit' and now carry the light onward.

Monday, September 13, 2010


This certainly seems to be a strange title to a blog entry but I could not help thinking that the two have come to be linked inextricably. And this Sunday it was played out before my eyes, when we had about 700 young people on our campus to celebrate the Annual Youth Fest that is hosted by our students of theology. These young people ranging in age from 15 to 25, are part of the 21 parish youth groups animated by our brothers every sunday. They are in college or working or somewhere in between these two phases. Many were here for the first time and it was evident that they had a good time.

At the inaugural session the Bible was enthroned and they were exhorted to "Live the Word – Liberate the World" both by the Word itself and then by our own local MLA and Minister of Urban Affairs – Mr. Founder Cajee. The latter, though not a Catholic, spoke in glowing terms of what he had learned from the Catholic Church, exhorting the youth to courageously live the values they are being taught. Then followed an interesting audio-visual presentation on some youth problems viz. drug addiction, sexual permissiveness and media indoctrination. Each young person present was challenged to bring light to the world rather than to curse the darkness. By mid-morning we were ready to enter into the Eucharistic celebration that was presided over by Fr. Sylvanus Nongkindrih. He used some real life situations to bring home the need that all Christians have to encounter the Word of God especially by reading and studying the Bible. After much food for thought – it was time to give some food to the bodies and so the youth gathered in different parts of the campus to enjoy a tasty meal prepared by some of the brothers along with the help of some volunteers.

During lunch many also had an opportunity to look at some of the interesting charts prepared on the theme: "Live the Word – Liberate the World". Some had also participated in an essay competition and submitted their entries which were evaluated and honoured with prizes. With a hectic morning over it was time to move to the more evidently fun part – the cultural program. It was now the turn of the youth to share with their peers their 'take' on the theme. And so they used song and dance to present the relevance of the theme to their lives and to simultaneously showcase their abundant talent. This was duly noted and complimented by our two important guests - Mr. Bindo Lanong (Deputy Chief Minister of Meghalaya) and Mr. A Hek (MLA) - both of whom encouraged the young to build their own future with hard work and social commitment.

While a great deal happened on the stage, it was evident that there was also another very enthusiastic group keeping the young people rocking as they swayed to the rhythm of the music between the various items. It was fun time and dance time…and it made the 4 hour-cultural pageant pass by in a breeze.

Before we knew it was time to close shop and to part ways. But not before we had time to share a few words to tell each other how much we had learned during the day and to promise our presence next year for the next youth fest. The brothers had a tiring day – on their feet coordinating the various parts of the program and looking after all the logistics that come with keeping a crowd of 700 alive, active and enthusiastic. That their efforts were well-rewarded was borne out by the happy and grateful faces of the young people who had enjoyed some fun moments and been motivated to 'live the Word and liberate the world' around them.