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Bishramganj is situated 35 kms South of Agartala, the capital of Tripura. The Salesians of Don Bosco started the apostolate at Bishramganj in the year 1999 as an extension programme of St. Xavier’s School, Pathaliaghat. The purpose was to reach out to the poor of the area and the school dropouts. Fr. Joseph Pulinthanath (PJ) started residing there from 5th August 1999 and offered coaching classes for Madhyamik failed candidates from Bengali medium schools. Fr. Joseph Kizhakkechennadu (KJ) joined him on 1st May 2000 as Director of the Centre and gradually set up a Non-Formal Vocational Training Centre.
It offered training in the following trades: Driving, Motor Mechanics, Welding, Computer Training and Weaving. Later on, Embroidery, Tailoring and Bamboo Craft were added.
Agro-based Training and Production continues to be an important aspect of service rendered at Don Bosco Centre. The Centre has 50 acres of land devoted solely to training in agriculture, pisciculture, and animal husbandry. Fr. Joseph Kizhakkechenadu was the Director of the Centre from its inception till June 2009 when Fr. Joseph Kavalakadan was appointed as the new Director.
The Centre went through several difficulties due to the financial liabilities incurred by Fr. Joseph (KJ); the financial liabilities amounted to more than 1.5 Crores. Though Fr. Joseph (KJ) was asked by the Provincials (Fr. Philip Barjo and Fr. Joseph Almeida) to move from Bishramganj to take up other assignments, he did not oblige. It reached the case of disobedience and breach of religious discipline. There was open division and rebellion, causing much scandal to the Church and to the Congregation. The stalemate continued; several efforts at dialoguing and resolving the issue failed; Fr. Joseph Almeida, Provincial initiated the process of dismissal of Fr. Joseph (KJ) from the Congregation. The process was not completed when the division of the Province took place in May 2012. After the division of the Province, after much discernment, a renewed process of dialoguing took place with the mediation of Mr. Thomas Pulickal. Fr. George Maliekal, Provincial, delegated Fr. Davis Aricatt and Fr. Pulinthanth Joseph to represent the Salesians in resolving the issues related to the financial liabilities and to get Fr. Joseph (KJ) transferred from Bishramganj. It was indeed a difficult process. On 14th-12-2012 Fr. Joseph (KJ) moved to St. Joseph’s RRTC (Umran) complying with the transfer served on him.
In 2014, Fr. Davis Aricatt took over as the Rector of the Centre. In addition to the services offered at Bishramganj, an English Medium school was also started by the Salesians. The classes were held in the parish hall and in the classrooms of the non-formal training Centre. With the financial assistance from CEI (Italian Bishops’ Conference), the construction of the new school building began in November 2015 in No.2 plot, about a kilometer away. In January 2017 some classes of Don Bosco School were shifted to the new school building (partially completed).
In its early years, Don Bosco Centre also served as the headquarters of Sampari Pictures, a registered filmmaking concern of the Salesians that had for its objective the promotion of the culture and language of the indigenous cultural communities of Tripura. Its productions include feature films – Mathia, and Yarwng, and over a dozen documentary films. It also made a couple of telefilms and television serials. In later years, its office was shifted to Peace Centre, Agartala.
SACRED HEART PARISH
At the request of the Provincial and his council the Bishop shifted the Parish centre from Pathaliaghat to Bishramganj on 8thJuly 2002. Fr. Francis Basumatary, who was the Parish Priest at Pathaliaghat at the time of the shifting of the Parish centre, continued as the first Parish Priest at Bishramganj. The Parish is known as the Sacred Heart Parish. They felt the need to separate the school and the parish, the semi urban nature of Bishramganj town, better communication facilities were the reasons for shifting the Parish centre to Bishramganj. It was felt that the area demarcated for the Parish centre was insufficient.
Sacred Heart Parish was carved out of Mariamnagar Parish, erected as a separate Parish at Pathaliaghat and entrusted to the Salesians of Don Bosco by Bishop Denzil D’Souza of Silchar on 10th May 1995. Fr. Joseph Kizhakkechennadu was appointed as the first Parish Priest and Fr. Joseph Pulinthanath, its first Assistant priest. In August 1996, Fr. Joseph Pulinthanath was transferred to the newly purchased property at Nandan Nagar. In March 1997, Fr. Francis Basumatary was appointed Assistant priest. On 01st October 2000, Fr. Francis Basumatary was installed as the second Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Parish at Pathaliaghat. From the time he was appointed Parish Priest, the post of the Assistant priest remained vacant until the appointment of Fr. Damian Basumatary on 03rd March 2004. In June 2004, Fr. Francis Basumatary was transferred to Dotma in Assam. His successor, Fr. Joseph Puthenpurackal arrived at Bishramganj on 02nd June 2004 and was officially installed as its third Parish Priest by Bishop Lumen Monteiro on 11th July 2004.
In 2006, the Salesian presence at Bishramganj was formally recognized as a canonical community under the patronage of St. John Bosco. Fr. Joseph Palamthattel (Sunny) was installed as Parish Priest on 01st July 2007 and Fr. Joseph Puthenpurackal was transferred to Don Bosco, Nandannagar. In June 2008, Fr. Isaac Mattappillil was appointed Assistant priest. He was transferred in February 2010 and Fr. Remol R. Marak, ordained on 24th January 2010, was appointed Assistant priest. Fr. Joseph Kavalakadan too helped in Parish works during his tenure at Don Bosco Centre Bishramganj. In 2014 Fr. Blasius Kujur was appointed the Parish priest of Bishramganj Parish. On December 11th, 2016 the new parish church was blessed and inaugurated by Bishop Lumen Monteiro CSC.
The total area of the Parish is around 2000 sq.kms and has a population of over 150,000 people spread over 450 villages. It is predominantly a tribal area. The main languages spoken by the people are Bengali, Kokborok, and Molsom. The Catholics number about 2500 spread out in 34 villages.
From September 2007, Don Bosco School, Udaipur, came under the pastoral care of Bishramganj Parish. The MSMHC group of sisters set up Ferrando Nivas Convent at Udaipur in 1991. The sisters conduct a large school and a hostel for girls at Udaipur. They are also engaged in the pastoral work of the Parish, like visiting families and catechizing.
Two MSMHC Sisters (based at MSMHC Community of Udaipur) were assigned to pastoral ministry in the Parish and they took up residence at Sukmohanpara village in 2011. The majority of people in that area belonged to the Molsom group. The land allotted for the school was in dispute for long. So no school was constructed; the sisters lived in two rooms attached to a family and it was very inconvenient for them. Meanwhile, the small Catholic Community of PITRA Village (Jamatias) showed great interest for setting up a mission center. Fr. George Maliekal (Provincial) began the negotiation with the leaders of Pitra Village and the Province purchased a plot of land (from several owners) at Pitra and began the construction of the school building. Fr. Palamathattel Joseph (Sunny), then Parish Priest at Bishramganj was very much instrumental in facilitating the land transactions and the beginning of the Pitra Centre. The MSMHC Sisters moved from Sukmohanpara to Pitra in February 2013. Don Bosco School was constructed (the first building with tin roof) with the assistance from Don Bosco Mission, Turin and the collaboration of the people of Pitra. The MSMHC Sisters took up residence in the house of the Catholic leader. In 2014 the Sisters were able to move to the temporary convent built near Don Bosco School. It was built by the SDB. The sisters look after the school under the direction of the Parish. On 15th November 2015, Fr. George Maliekal, Provincial, blessed the foundation for the new school building at Pitra. The financial source was Don Bosco Mission Turin. The school building was completed in January 2017. The new Chapel at Pitra was constructed with the financial assistance of Salesian Missions, New Rochelle and was blessed in June 2016.
It is agreed with the MSMHC Provincial that sufficient land will be allotted free of cost to the Sisters by the SDB and the sisters would build up proper Convent and the Girls Hostel as soon as possible.
FMM PRESENCE AT BISHRAMGANJ
FMM (Franciscan Sisters of Mary) reached Bishramganj, at the invitation of Fr. George Maliekal (Salesian Provincial), to collaborate with the SDB in 2013. The first group of six sisters arrived at the Parish Centre on 13th June 2013. It was a joint venture by the FMM Provinces in India. The initiative was taken by Sr. Taurina, FMM Provincial of New Delhi. The first group of six sisters divided into three groups and began to look after the schools at Bishramganj (Centre), Herma and Navasadar. At Navasadar they began their stay in rooms allotted to them by a family. At Herma a small house was built for them by the Parish. In all the three places the sisters began their ministry in the midst of several inconveniences. Due to lack of security and essential conveniences, the sisters stopped staying at Herma in October 2013. They continued to look after the school of Herma making daily trip to the place while staying at Bishramganj. From February 2014 (new academic year) sisters discontinued their services at Herma. From January 2014 the sisters at Navasadar began to stay in the new house built for them by the parish. In 2016 the FMM took a decision to set up full-fledged convent at Navasadar. The process is in progress to get the land allotted in the name of FMM so that they can begin the construction of the Convent and other facilities. The FMM sisters at the Parish Centre look after the school and assists in the Parish ministry.