The arrival of the first three Jesuits from the
Karnataka Province of the Society of Jesus to start the Mission at
Kohima-Jakhama, Nagaland in North East India in April 1970 marked the beginning
of time for this mission.
Why distant Karnataka and not a nearer Province?
Many have wondered how Karnataka Province, in the deep
South of India got to start the “Nagaland Mission” which lies at the North-east
frontier of India while there were several Jesuit Provinces geographically
closer. The reason is that all the Provinces nearer to Nagaland “disqualified”
themselves for one reason or another. Calcutta, the nearest and most obvious
choice to take on the challenge, could not do it because foreigners (non-Indian
Nationals) were not allowed to work in Nagaland especially after the Chinese aggression
of 1962. Other Provinces also expressed their inability due to a limited number
of Indian nationals or because they had recently taken up mission territories
There have been three singular graces in the making
and sustaining of the Kohima Region.
1. Frontier Men: Almost all the Jesuit Missions are
located in rural, interior, villages or small townships. When the Jesuits
arrived, Kohima was out of bounds because the Salesians were already there.
Surrounding Kohima, the only village that was willing to welcome the Jesuits
was Jakhama, 26 km south. The Jesuits were turned away from other villages because
they were “anti-Christ” (as the local Baptists referred to the Catholics). This
forced the opening of new missions in remote or very remote villages. This has
made it possible to bring the gospel and quality education to over 25 interior
2. Mobility: The Jesuits handed over fully developed
mission centers and parishes to the diocese. The practice of freeing oneself
for more challenging ministries where the need is greater and the fruit could
be great has been the rule. The list of places handed over is long and includes
parishes, colleges, schools, boarding houses, dispensaries and convents. Our
ability to reach out to many places that are more deserving with our limited
personnel and resources got multiplied as we handed over missions to the
dioceses to take over.
3. The twinning with the Wisconsin Province - now the
UMI Province - of the USA was another blessing. The financial support of the
Region is what everyone thinks this twinning is about. Nothing can be farther
from the truth. While the financial support is a piece of the puzzle that Fr
General initiated, the graces Kohima and Wisconsin have received through this
relationship has been manifold. The Jesuits, especially scholastics, who have
spent summers, sometimes for a few weeks or even months, or Jesuits who have studied
or were assigned for ministry in each other’s territories have been blessed
with many graces.
In conclusion, if the past
is anything to go by, “writing the future” is going to be another exciting
adventure of grace and human cooperation awaiting us. Considering the Universal Apostolic Preferencesof the
universal Society of Jesus and the Region apostolic planning, with 98
scholastics and brothers in formation of 158 members of the Region, the best is
yet to come.