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Chronicle of Mission Impossible 

C.M. Paul

Chronicling 40 years in the life of a religious institute province may sound frivolous to centenarian religious congregations and their provinces. However, the story of a small band of six youthful missionaries from south India who ventured into extreme northeast India frontier missions with no prior knowledge of language and customs of the numerous tribal populations is a story that waits telling.

The Fransalian (MSFS) mission, which started in 1848 in Vishakapatanam in southeast India, and stagnated over the decades got a new lease of life when six Kerala born newly ordained priests were assigned to northeast India. Their journey of faith, hope and love began on 15 September 1975 and 40 years on all six missionaries are still marching on along with hundreds more.

The band of those pioneer missionaries started their phenomenal mission expansion in three states of northeast India namely Assam (1976), Nagaland (1978), and Meghalaya (1979). A decade later, the daring missionaries forged ahead with hope to Manipur (1987), Arunachal Pradesh (1997), Bengal (2000), Sikkim (2001), Tripura (2006), Mizoram (2010) and Jharkhand (2014).

The Fransalian northeast province mission further extended beyond the Indian shores including Europe and Africa: Germany-Austria (1993), Namibia (1998), Nepal (1998), South Africa (1999), Poland (2003), and Swaziland (2016). Today those who joined the intrepid missionaries work in 19 dioceses in India along with 19 women’s religious congregations.

The editor of the concise history of the province does not hesitate to call the Fransalian missionaries a band of men committed to both direct and indirect evangelization. He qualifies them as “men willing to work in the peripheries, ‘shepherds living with the smell of their sheep’, men who have pioneered the ministry of preaching and Charismatic movement along with a network of innovative ministries suited to the region like development ministry (FAsCE India), [youth ministry], prison m inistry, and mass media communication (pp.404-405).”

The chapter on Arunachal missions (pp: 232-300) gives a taste of adventurous and thrilling mission experiences.

A Concise History of the MSFS of North East India Province is a historical narrative of the activities and experiences of the MSFS missionaries in North East India between 1975 and 2016. The book tells of the life and activities, struggles and pains, anxieties and achievements over a period of 40 years.

The events and incidents narrated are mostly accounted and narrated by the actors themselves making it an exciting and unputdownable ‘auto biographical history’ mostly of legends living in the frontier missions.

In compiling and editing ‘A Concise History of the MSFS of North East India Province’, founder and past director of Sociology Department at Assam Don Bosco University Dr Jose Karipadathu has adopted ‘auto biographical history approach’.

The book throws light upon the life and activities of hundreds of MSFS missionaries who have dedicated their life for social well being and religious upbringing of generations of people in the North East India spread across tribes, culture and states.

This must read book which scripts a unique journey of God’s grace and providence laced with raw courage and undying faith, is bound to re-charge the sagging spirits of forlorn missionaries.

Founded in 1845, MSFS – Missionaries of St Francis de Sales began scripting the history of Indian Church when they were entrusted with the Vicariate of Visakhapatnam on May 2, 1848 by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

The compiler and editor Dr Karipadathu, an MSFS Priest, has been part of this history for 23 years and writes with his characteristic straight forward, simple to read writing style, has been strictly loyal to the first hand narratives of the different contributors who recount their personal versions in their own personal way.

Karipadathu, Jose: A Concise History of the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales of North East India Province (1975-2016). Bangalore: ATC Publication, 2017 (pp. 1-438+xx), USD 35, INR 350.00

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