From Cosmas Sangma
TURA: An overcast sky and a gloomy afternoon formed an austere backdrop as nature and men of Garo Hills bid a final adieu to Fr Battista Busolin, the Italian Salesian priest who embraced Garo Hills as his home for the last five decades.
The final curtains had come down on an era marked by compassion and charity on the morning of Christmas eve when Fr Busolin (94) breathed his last at the Holy Cross hospital here.
The stars had perhaps scripted the timing, for as Garo Hills was preparing to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, he prepared for his final journey. In his death, Fr Busolin had been as in his life, a man at peace with himself, an icon of grace and dignity.
The sea of people congregated at the Sacred Heart Shrine in Tura Chandmari on Monday to pay their last respects during the funeral service of Fr Busolin said it all. From Shallang in West Khasi Hills to Damra in Assam and Rongjeng in East Garo Hills, many of those who had been touched by his good deeds did not forget as they congregated for the last farewell to Fr Busolin.
Bishop of Tura Rt. Rev. Andrew R Marak gave the complete picture when he said, “Fr Busolin was a man of God who welcomed anyone and everyone. From the leper he helped to the young child he took under his wings to provide education, he was beyond caste creed or colour. For him preaching the word of God was his life and he never faltered despite coming face to face with many challenges in life.”
Bishop Andrew himself was once a Catechist under Fr Busolin. Another co-worker in the religious order was Bishop Emeritus George Mamalassary who worked for five long years (1960-65) with Fr Busolin in Tura.
“Today I have lost a very dear friend and member of the Church who touched the lives of many. I hope and pray the younger generation will emulate the life of Fr Busolin,” said the Bishop Emeritus.
Born on January 16, 1922, at Camposanpiero, Padua in Italy, Fr Busolin, on becoming a priest in 1949 willed his visit to India as a Missionary in 1950. Destiny, however, decreed that the then young Fr Busolin be sent to Damra in Garo Hills in1950, a remote corner in India, and ever since it has been the tale of selfless sacrifice and relentless toil among and for those whom he called ‘Garos-my beloved people’, sculpting a narrative of faith, hope and education that lasted for more than half a century.
A steadfast believer in his dreams and aspirations to work for humanity, with a legendary love for children, Fr Busolin had the extraordinary ability to enable the young to discover their dreams, and it is perhaps this that led him to educate thousands of students many of whom now hold responsible positions in society.
Today, they were there to repay their debt of gratitude with a humble ‘Thank you’. Famously known as the mentor of Garo Hills’ most accomplished politician, late P.A. Sangma, he brought the young Sangma from the border village of Chapahati to ensure he continued with his education.
Absence of a high school coupled with poverty and the sudden death of his father, the young Sangma was staying with his mother when Fr Busolin spotted him during one of his visits to the village. He convinced the family to let Sangma return with him to Tura so that he could pursue his studies. They walked for long days before arriving in Tura and the rest is history.
The younger son of P.A Sangma and Tura MP Conrad K Sangma, together with his brother James and the family, were there at Fr Busolin’s funeral service to bid adieu to the missionary who became a part of their family.
In the words of Conrad Sangma, “Fr Busolin was a father figure to my dad. Today we stand where we are because of our father and Fr Busolin.”
Many a person fought back tears listening to the host of dignitaries narrating their life’s experience and help rendered by the last Italian priest who made Garo Hills his permanent home. Fr Busolin had been an architect of both men and institutions.
He established the Rongjeng parish where he served for well over two decades. With an earnest desire to cater to both the physical and academic well-being of the people of his adopted home, Fr Busolin helped build numerous schools, youth centres, health centres and dispensaries.
Two of Tura’s landmark institutions, Don Bosco College and Don Bosco College of Teacher Education are monuments of his vision and commitment to the development of the Church and society in Garo Hills.
A man with a contagious sense of well-being and a childlike simplicity, Fr Busolin’s personality brings to mind Hillare Belloc’s words: “To get the heart of a child is surely the end of any religion”.
To Fr Busolin like Robert Browning’s Pippa, “God’s in his heaven/ All’s right with the world”. If things are not, then God would send a Fr Busolin again to redeem the world and the men who live there.