Nirmala Custody (Assam – Meghalaya)
Our missionary presence and service in North-East India began with the request of His Grace Thomas Menamparambil, Archbishop of Guwahati, who wrote to Br. Provincial in 1992 asking for the services of the Capuchins in his Archdiocese. This request was discussed in the meeting of the CCMSI and it was decided that this mission be part of Krist Jyoti Region, that was under St. Joseph Province. On 30 June 1994 Brs. Gerson Karackal and Bastin Karackkatt were sent to Guwahati as the first missionaries. When Br. Gerson was forced to return to Kerala due to ill health, Br. Joseph Zacharias was sent to Guwahati to replace Br. Gerson. However Br. Anil Sequiera, the definitor general, made an intervention in the CCMSI meeting of 1994 that only a province can take up a mission outside its own territory. Hence the Provincial Definitory, in consultation with Krist Jyoti Mission, decided to take up the North Eastern mission directly under the jurisdiction of the Province. On February 5, 1995 the parish Mariampur was officially entrusted to us and along with it the first Friary of North-Eastern Mission was established here. In the year 1996 we began sending young friars for their theological formation in Sacred Heart Seminary, Shillong, so that they could get accustomed to the local culture and pastoral and missionary situation of the area, as well as learn the local language.
On 4 April, 1997 Br. Peter Celestine was appointed the Provincial Delegate of Assam – Meghalaya Mission. Under his able leadership we could procure a plot of land with a small building on the Juripar Path Road, in the city of Guwahati, which eventually became the head quarters of the mission. Having made some minor alterations to the existing house, the friary was blessed by his Grace Thomas Menamparambil, Archbishop of Guwahati, on 22 Dec 1997. As Br. Peter Celestine was appointed bishop of Jammu-Srinagar on May 8,
1998, Br. Jose Vettickat was assigned to be the Provincial Delegate and he assumed charge in August 1998. He started the construction of the new house that would serve as the head quarters of the mission and as a centre for ongoing formation. The new building was blessed by His Grace Thomas Menamparambil, Archbishop of Guwahati, in the presence of Br. Mathew Paikada, the Provincial Minister, on 11 Feb. 2002. Already in 1997 we started admitting aspirants for Capuchin formation. As there was no Seminary, the candidates were staying in a rented house. After the basic formation the students were taken to Kerala for pre-novitiate and novitiate etc. Gradually after six months when Br. Jose Vettickatt was forced to go back to Kerala due to his ill health and Br. Kuriakose was appointed in his place as provincial delegate. On November 11,2003 Assam Meghalaya Mission was raised to the status of a Custody under the patronage of Blessed Virgin Mary (Nirmala Matha) by the decree Prot. No. 000704/03 and Br. Kuriakose Kattuppara was appointed the first Superior Regular of the Nirmala Custody. The geographical area of the Nirmala Custody comprises of all the dioceses of the States of Assam and Meghalaya. In the chapter held from 12-16 November 2006 Br. Bastin Karackatt was elected the Superior Regular and he was re-elected on 05.11. 2009 for a second term of office. Responding to the request of the provincial definitory dated June 4,2011, the Minister General (Prot. No. 00687/11, dated June 24,2011) decided to raise the Nirmala Custody to the status of a Vice Province of St. Joseph Province.
There are almost 200 tribes and sub tribes and there are also similar number of dialects and languages spoken in the area. Among these tribes we extend our service only to a few, namely, Garos, khasis, Bodos, Rabhas, Rajabunshis, Adivasis and Sandals. We have 107 villages to be looked after and Seven tribal groups in the various parishes. Ten religious groups of sisters collaborate with us in caring for school children, looking after the sick in dispensaries, looking after the girl children in the boarding, teaching catechism and doing direct evangelization work in the villages. The structure of each parish is with a parish church, a priest house, a convent, separate boarding houses for boys and girls, a school, and a dispensary. At present our friars extend service in 12 centers.
We opened houses on request from the respective bishops in various dioceses: in Mariampur (Guwahati Archdiocese) in 1995 in Byrnihat (Shillong Archdiocese) in 1999, in Mronggre (Tura diocese) and in Kothakuthi (Guwahati Archdiocese) in 2002, inTunkubari (Bongaigaon diocese) in 2006, in Mawlangdep (Nongstoin Diocese) in 2007 and in Mejerburi (Guwahati Archdiocese) in 2008, Sahsniang (Jowai Diocese) in 2016. The new Minor Seminary was opened in Umktieh (Shillong Archdiocese) in 2004, a theological study house was opened in Shillong in 2016 and Lamabari (Tezpur Diocese) in 2018.
Capuchin House, Juripar Path
Six Mile, Guwahati
Assam – 781 022
Tel. 0361 – 2331569, Fax. 0361 – 2334012