Northeast’s legendary missionary passes away

Dimapur: The first Indian to join the Salesians as a missionary for the country’s northeastern region will be laid to rest on December 26 in Dimapur, Nagaland

Salesian Fr. Joseph Edakkudan died on December 22 at Bosco College of Teacher Education in Dimapur. He was 84. He will be buried at the Salesian College cemetery

Born at Kadamakkudy in Kerala on August 20, 1931, Fr Edakkudan joined the Salesian congregation in 1953 as one of the first Indian missionaries to the northeast.

Ordained priest on December 8, 1963 Fr. Edakkudan worked in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland under different capacities as a missionary, pastor and educator. He worked as headmaster, rector and parish priest in Imphal, Golaghat, Dibrugarh, Tura, Mao, Tseminyu, Maram, Kohima and Dimapur.

Unlike any other missionary in the region, Fr Edakkudan has left behind his missionary legacy in a 360-page autobiography entitled On Memory Trail: the memoirs of a missionary in northeast India which he brought out in 2009.

Divided into 33 chapters, the book provides rich information not only on his own life and activities but also on the people, places and events of northeastern India, especially the history of both the Church and Salesian congregation in northeast India.

Fr Edadkkudan had a special love for the Church and was very much interested in her growth and would go to any extent to defend her against the enemies without calculating the trouble involved. But at the same time he did not hesitate to reveal the “dark sides” of certain outstanding people in the Church and their private agendas.

An exceptionally intelligent person, he was able to make quick assessment of things in any given situation. “Being fearless and far sighted by nature, Fr. Edakkudan had the unique reputation of thriving in situations of opposition with great originality in thinking,” writes his former provincial Fr Varghese Palathingal in the foreword to his memories.

Fr Edakkudan had the tenacity of will to go to the root of the problem he handled and continually press his point till he got things done according to his wish.

Fr Palathingal recalls Fr Edakkudan as an “outspoken and witty person, who took delight in silencing his opponents through his cogent arguments.”

His book, a firsthand information about the social life and cultural ethos of the people, narrates many forgotten events and unsaid stories and brings to the limelight many unsung heroes of the Catholic mission in northeastern India.

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