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First Salesian from Sikkim ordained priest
By C.M. Paul
Kolkata, Feb. 11.  Pakyong, Sikkim -- The first Salesian priest from northeastern Indian Himalayan state of Sikkim concluded the season of priestly ordinations of the Salesians of Don Bosco in south Asia becoming 61st deacon to be ordained.

Bishop Stephen Lepcha of Darjeeling-Sikkim ordained priest Deacon Stephen Biswakarma at a solemn ceremony at Christ the King Church Pakyong, East Sikkim district, 11 February 2017.
Over 40 priests including 22 Salesians from Kolkata, Siliguri, Mirik, Kalimpong, Darjeeling, Sikkim and Nepal joined two bishops and some 500 plus faithful of the parish and diocese for the ordination of the first priest from the first parish established in Sikkim in 1952.

''Father Biswakarma is the first alumnus of 65 year old St Xavier's School, the first Catholic school established in the state of Sikkim, to be ordained priest,'' said Principal Father Francis Banerjee.

Father Banerjee did not hesitate to add that ''over the years several boys from the school had joined various seminaries, but no one persevered and got ordained as Fr Biswakarma did.''

The ordaining Bishop Lepcha reminded the faithful and the newly ordained priest that ''there is no priesthood without Holy Eucharist.''

Bishop Lepcha told faithful that ''lay people may do mighty proclamation of the Word of God, can do far greater social works, and could be far more holy than a priest, but priest is needed for the Holy Eucharist.''

Bishop Lepcha explaining further the power of the Holy Eucharist said, ''Satan cannot stand the Eucharist and he constantly tempts priests not to offer Eucharist.''

''Hence, the faithful need to pray for priests continually,'' said Bishop Lepcha reminding the congregation the words of St John Bosco who said, ''A priest is the greatest gift God can give to a family.''

He also encouraged 33 year old Father Biswakarma and participating priests ''to feed the faithful with the Word of God, just as parents feed children with food.''

Father Biswakarma who lost his father, mother, eldest brother, sister-in-law and sister during the period of his training to priest hood and religious life since he joined the Salesian aspirantate in 1998, had several emotionally charged moments during the ordination ceremony.

The first instance occurred when Deacon Biswakarma read the Gospel text where Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist. Biswakarma choked and took time to complete reading the text.

When asked Biswakarma said, ''I get emotional whenever I read this text which is also my ordination motto: ''When Broken becomes whole,'' ''This is my Body given for you.''

The second emotionally charged moment was after the ordination ceremony when Biswakarma embraced his brother Alphonsus who was also the conductor of the 100 member strong choir.

The third moment which brought tears to the eyes of the new priest was at the end of the Holy Eucharist when he took names and thanked various people who journeyed with him during the long journey to priesthood.

Among the many people present at the event were his former principal at Pakyong school and current Apostolic Administrator of Kathmandu Bishop Paul Simick, former salesian provincial Father John Berger and Vice-Provincial of Kolkata, Dr Joseph Pauria.

According to the official statistics reported for this formation cycle 2016-2017 in the Rome-based Salesian News Agency, a total of 61 priestly ordinations were celebrated in 10 of 11 Indian Provinces and the Vice-Province of Sri Lanka. Only in northeast India's Dimapur province had no new priests.

The tally of priestly ordinations remains as follows: Mumbai (5); Calcutta (6); Guwahati (3); Hyderabad (4); Bangalore (9); Chennai (9); New Delhi (6); Panjim (2); Shillong (5); Trichy (9); and Colombo (3).

Sikkim, one of the smallest states of India in area and population borders China in its north and east, Bhutan in its east, Nepal in its west and the Indian state of West Bengal in its south. The population of Sikkim in 2016 stood at 6.44,660 as compared to 6.37,446 in 2015.

According to Sikkim Religion Census of 2011 there were Hindus (57.76%), Buddhist (27.39%), Christian (9.91%), Muslim (1.62%) and remaining followers of other religions formed some 3%.

On 30th June 1937, Paris Foreign Mission (MEP) Fathers handed the Sikkim Prefecture Apostolic over to the Canons Regular (CRs) of the Swiss Congregation of St. Maurice of d'Agaune, and Msgr. Aurelio Gionara was appointed its new Prefect Apostolic. Twenty-five years later, in 1962, he handed the territory over to Bishop Eric Benjamin, the first Bishop of newly erected Diocese of Darjeeling.

Darjeeling-Sikkim diocese has some 160 parishes and mission centres where Holy Eucharist is celebrated.
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