Salesian Archbishop Killed in California Auto Accident

17 Oct 2019

(ANS – Oakland, Calif. – October 14) – Salesian Abp. Dominic Jala of Shillong, India, died in a car accident on Thursday, October 10, near Wilbur Springs in Colusa County, Calif. Fr. Mathew Vellankal of the Oakland Diocese also died, while another Oakland priest, Fr. Joseph Parekkatt, was seriously injured and hospitalized in stable condition.

According to reports from the California Highway Patrol, the three priests were in a Toyota Prius when, around 2:20 p.m. local time, they pulled in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer on Highway 20 while making a turn from Highway 16 and were broadsided. Bishop Jala and Fr. Vellankal died instantly.

Abp. Jala was born on July 12, 1951, in Shillong. He did his novitiate in Shillong in 1963-1964 and was ordained a priest on November 19, 1977. His motto was “Growing in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”

In his service to the Congregation he was director of the community of St. Antony of Shillong (1989-1992), the provincial house of Guwahati (1992-1993), and Don Bosco Institute of Shillong (1993-1996). In the province of Guwahati, he was vice provincial (1990-1993), councilor (1993-1996), and provincial (1996-2000).

At age 48 he was named archbishop of Shillong on December 22, 1999, and was ordained bishop on April 4, 2000.

As prelate, he was president of the Commission for the Liturgy of the Conference of Indian Bishops from 2003 to 2007 and again from 2015 onward. He was also a member of the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL). He was a Salesian for 50 years, a priest for 42, and an archbishop for 19.

Fr. Vellankal was born in Ayavana, State of Kerala, India, on May 14, 1958. He did his novitiate in Shillong in 1977-1978 and made perpetual vows as a Salesian in 1984. After being ordained in 1987, he worked in several Indian Salesian parishes and schools before being incardinated in the diocese of Oakland in 2001. In the diocese he was also known for his skills as a magician, which he used to raise funds for charity initiatives.

Commenting the death of Abp. Jala on Twitter, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he was “anguished,” and he noted that the Salesian archbishop “will be remembered for his impeccable service to society and passion towards Meghalaya’s progress.”