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Short film ''Missionary of the Balasun Valley'' to be launched

By Father C.M. Paul SDB
Father Luigi Jellici SDB
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Mumbai, Oct. 28. Sonada A short film entitled ''Missionary of the Balasun Valley'' is to be screened at celebration of Extraordinary Missionary Month of Darjeeling-Sikkim Diocese scheduled to be held on 31 October 2019 at St. George School, Pedong, northeast of Kalimpong town in North Bengal.

The 6 minutes docufilm features outstanding Italian Salesian missionary Father Luigi Jellici who worked in the Balsun Valley from 1963 till his death in 2009 from Sonada and Mirik in Darjeeling district.

One of the main rivers of North Bengal and Darjeeling district, Balasun rises from the Jorepokhari, Sukhia (about 18 km from Darjeeling town) and flows towards the south east into the plains of North Bengal, where it joins the Mahananda River. The Balsun river passes between the valley of Pokhriabong, Dhotreia Tea Estate (T.E.), Nagari Farm T. E, Moonda Kotee T. E (8 km below Sonada Town), Balasun T. E, and Ambootia T. E.

Luigi Jellici born in Tesero near Trentino in northeastern Italy came to India with 7 Salesian companions on 5th December 1932.

After 17 years in Calcutta, Fr Luigi was transferred to Sonada where he stayed for 29 years after which he moved to Mirik in 1992 where he worked for 17 years.

Catechist Mr Cleophas Giri of Sonada who preached and taught catechism with Father Luigi from 1975 to 1990 lists at least 18 places where both of them worked:  Marma, Gopaldhara, Sangma, Tarzum, Margaret's Hope, Nehru Balasun, Singer, Rungmukh, Dhajea, Nagari, Malat, Shantirani, Dilaram, Sonada, Gorabari, Chatakpur, Dhotria and Chaibagan.

''Father Jellicii never denied educational help to a student of his mission. At one time Father Jellici had over 1,500 children in his scholarship program,'' recalled Headmistress of Nirmala Academy Mrs Rupa Lepcha of Gorabari, Sonada.

In the interveiw for the docufilm Bishop Stephen Lepcha recalls Father Jellici as an ''outstanding missionary who worked very hard for the missions. He always preferred to walk, because he wanted to meet people - the old strategy of the missionaries who visited families on foot for the sake of the Good News.''

At the end of the film, Bishop Lepcha does not hesitate to claim Father Jellici was ''indeed a walking Jesus who reached out to all people.''

Speaking to BIS, director and producer of the film Salesian Father C. M. Paul says, ''when Father Jellici took charge of Balasun valley area, there were only 5 Catholic families in the whole Balasun mission: one in Gorabari, one in Balasun, and 3 in Shantirani-Pacheng Bazar.''

At Father Jellici's death at the age of 94, in 2009, there were 24 Mass centers, parishes in Sonada and Mirik, as well as a quasi-parish in Dhajea and many Catholic families.

Rector of Salesian College who lived 17 years with Fr Luigi both in Sonada and Mirik Dr. (Fr.) Mathew Pulingathil says, ''Fr Luigi exuded Salesian characteristics of passion for people, especially the young, the desire to be present with people and assist them, and love for music were part and parcel of his life.''

The film will be available on YouTube under the same title from 10 a.m. IST (Indian Time) on 31st October 2019


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