Oakland: Archbishop Dominic Jala of Shillong and Father Mathew Vellankal, an Indian priest working in the United States, died in a road accident in California. The accident occurred around 11 pm on October 10 (10:30 am India) 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 Colusa 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 the International Commission for English liturgy in New York. Father Vellankal, 50, was the pastor of St. Isidore Parish in Danville, California, since 2016.
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 archbishop of Shillong on December 22, 1999. His episcopal ordination was on April 2, 2000. 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.
Father Vellankal, a missionary in Oakland Diocese, was a native of Kerala, South India. After completing the 12th grade, he joined the Salesians and was ordained a priest on 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.
Few posts expressing their grief over the accident: