Archbishop Dominic Jala of Shillong and Father Mathew Vellankal, an Indian priest working in the United States, died in a road accident in California on October 10th, when the two were traveling to Clearlake in California along with Father Joseph Parekkatt, another Indian priest.
Their car collided with a semi-truck in Colussa Country, California, according to a press note from the diocese of Oakland. Father Parekkatt, who was seriously wounded, was stable in a hospital, the press note says.
Salesian Archbishop Jala was 68. Reports from Salesian sources in Shillong say Archbishop was going to California to meet his friend. He had gone to the US to attend a meeting of International Commission for English liturgy in New York. Archbishop Jala was born on July 12, 1951, in Mawlai in the northeastern Indian state of Meghalaya.
He was ordained a priest for the Salesians of Don Bosco on November 19, 1977. He was the provincial of the congregation’s Guwahati province before he was appointed the archbishop of Shillong on December 22, 1999. His episcopal ordination was on April 2, 2000.
He was the Chairman of the CCBI Commission for Liturgy from 2015 onwards and the member of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). He has also served CCBI from 2003 to 2007 as the Chairman of the CCBI Commission for Liturgy.
Father Vellankal, a missionary in Oakland Diocese, was a native of Kerala, South India. Father Vellankal, 60, was the pastor of St. Isidore Parish in Danville, California, since 2016. After completing the 12th grade, he joined the Salesians and was ordained a priest in January 1987.
After ordination, Father Vellankal spent three years as an associate pastor in a parish and a year as headmaster of a large school in northeastern India. He then spent two years as the youth director for the Salesian province of Guwahati before being named principal of a school in Guwahati, the commercial capital of Assam.
After two years as principal, he became youth director for the northeastern region comprising 10 dioceses. During this time, Rome appointed him international youth chaplain of the International Movement of Catholic Agricultural and Rural Youth, based in Belgium. The organization serves about 2 million youth in 65 countries. Father Vellankal left the Salesians and joined the Oakland Diocese, according to a source in northeastern India.
The Archbishop, after the Ad Limina meeting with Pope Francis left for the US to meet his old time friend Father Matthew Vellankal. The duo accompanied by another India priest, Father Joseph Parrackett went to Lakeclear for a break and while on their way back at Colusa County, a mini truck hit them from behind.
Speaking to Father Michael Makri over Skype and Whatsapp, Father Johnson of Oakland Diocese gave these details ‘As per the sheriff’s deputy, the accident took place around 2 pm on October 10, 2019 (CA time). They were on an intersection of highway 16 and 20, when their car and semi truck collided. Father Matthew was driving and Archbishop was sitting next to him in front. Father Joseph was sitting behind. Archbishop and Father Matthew died on the spot while Father Joseph was airlifted to the nearby hospital.
The Archbishop and Father Matthew died on the spot, while father Joseph sustain to serious injuries. They were taken to the hospital in Colusa County for autopsy.
Father Johnson said that the police will release the bodies only after autopsy which will take 4 to 6 days as this is week end and Monday is a holiday in California. The bodies of both the Catholic leaders will be flown to India and will be buried there. While the funeral for the Archbishop will be held in Shillong, the remains of Fr. Vellankal will be buried in his native place, Kerala, according to sources.
Archbishop Jala is the second Indian archbishop to die in a car accident abroad. Earlier, Archbishop Alan de Lastic of Delhi died on June 20, 2000, in a car crash in Poland.