On October 25 and 26, the Congregation of Holy Cross celebrated 150 years of its mission in the region of Northeast India, including 75 years in the state of Tripura where the Congregation’s Province of North East India is now headquartered (Agartala).
The first Holy Cross missionaries to the region were sent by the Congregation’s founder, Blessed Basile Moreau, in response to a request of Propaganda Fide, the Vatican Congregation for the Church’s missionary work. In 1851, Propaganda Fide gave Holy Cross responsibility for the Church’s mission in what was then known as East Bengal—a territory that encompassed modern-day Bangladesh and parts of Northeast India. The first Holy Cross priests, brothers, and sisters arrived to the region in 1853.
The celebrations of 150th anniversary of the Holy Cross’ arrival Northeast India began on Saturday, October 25, with a symposium highlighting the Congregation’s mission legacy. A number of veteran Holy Cross missionaries and lay collaborators shared their experiences. Fr. Roy Thalackan, C.S.C., the Second General Assistant of the Congregation, delivered the keynote address.
“The great sacrificial work of our missionaries, religious and lay collaborators has enabled us to arrive at this point of our history,” said Fr. Thalackan. While expressing his gratitude to the missionaries who have gone before, he added, “This jubilee invites us to a deeper commitment to spend ourselves and be spent for the needs of Northeast India, to be available and cheerful and to give witness while others hesitate.”
That same afternoon, a cultural evening was organized in the city of Agartala to mark the occasion. About 1500 invited guests attended the celebration along with many government dignitaries, Holy Cross religious, and other members of the clergy. The evening was highlighted by moving cultural dances performed by students from Holy Cross institutions in the region. The dances depicted the spirit of the foundation of Holy Cross in East Bengal and the rich cultural heritage of Northeast India.
In welcoming everyone to the gathering, Fr. Abraham K.J., C.S.C., the Superior of the Province of North East India, said, “Zealous missionaries and their collaborators lived a very humble life among the people in the remote villages. Their witness elicits in us a similar apostolic zeal and love for the people, their language, and their culture and challenges us to make a creative response to announce the Good News today.”
The Most Rev. Salvatore Pinnacchio, the Apostolic Nuncio to India, was the chief guest for the celebration. Congratulating the Congregation on its work, Archbishop Pinnacchio said, “It is time to tell the stories of early missionaries to the next generation. … We salute the known and unknown missionaries and their collaborators who walked the breadth and length of the then-Bengal Mission and made ultimate sacrifice of their lives. They beckon us today to fall in step with them.”
The Most Rev. Lumen Monteiro, C.S.C., Bishop of Agartala, added his gratitude to the Congregation as well: “It is only appropriate that we celebrate this Sesquicentennial Jubilee with the theme that best describes the legacy left by the daring members of the Congregation whose committed life has beautified this land of Northeast India.”
The following day, Sunday, October 26, Archbishop Pinnacchio presided at a Mass to culminate the anniversary celebrations. Over 2,500 people came to the Mass, including over 50 concelebrating priests and around 150 religious. Leaders from all the Congregation's jurisdictions in India and Bangladesh were there as well.
During the celebration key collaborators from Holy Cross parishes and institutions were honored for their mighty contribution for the work of the Church and the Congregation.
In a letter to mark the celebrations, Fr. Richard V. Warner, C.S.C., the Superior General of the Congregation, acknowledged with gratitude to God the many men and women who served in Northeast India with significant success as well as challenges. He wrote, "We will continue to serve this special area, God willing, for many more years to come.”