A long and anguished wait

For the Catholic community of Shillong and Meghalaya it is a long an agonizing wait for the mortal remains of Archbishop Dominic Jala to arrive. A pall of gloom descends over the city and daily mass is being read every evening at the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians here where the body of the late Archbishop will be placed from the time of its arrival here until the time of burial on Wednesday next.  Never before has one death affected people across all faiths ads this one has. Those who had the good fortune of being taught by Archbishop Jala call him a teacher par excellence who had patience with slow learners and those coming from villages and could not pick up the English language.  Others who were his colleagues at Christ King College extol his virtues of being a man of special qualities. If there is one quality that the late Archbishop has it was a keen listening ear. He never stole the conversation although he was a knowledgeable man. To his flock he gave his undivided attention and always gave a patient hearing to troubled souls. As a confessor he was also a counselor and every person who left the confessional did so much comforted by his kind words.

The priesthood is a calling and those who listen to the call do so after much thought. Of the many priests that join the different congregations few make it to the stature of Archbishop of the diocese. Those who have held this position have been men of great intellect, spirituality, a composed persona and transcended boundaries of race, community, class and caste because these are qualities that are critical for a shepherd leading an eclectic flock of worshippers. There are vacancies in several church parishes where bishops have not been appointed. Archbishop Jala had filled in these critical roles and been the rock that people relied on. With his demise the vacuum will be deeply felt not just by the Archdiocese but by those that he shepherded in the distant villages of Meghalaya.

The Catholic Church too has its hierarchy and Archbishop Jala would have been found amply competent to occupy those hallowed positions but fate willed otherwise. What will be hugely missed are his measured words of comfort and his incisive messages during every Christian festival and also his ability to rise to the occasion when society passes through periods of turmoil.  It’s also ironic that these sterling qualities of Archbishop Jala are only now being numbered out. For the faithful of Meghalaya, this is one long wait to bid farewell to their dearly loved shepherd.

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