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Denied dream, deacon finds calling

- Priesthood beckons former student leader-politician who once craved for army fatigues

To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe — Anatole France

Shillong, Jan. 30: His childhood dream was to serve the country as a soldier in the army. But destiny had something else in store for deacon Rimiki Niangti. On Sunday, Niangti will be ordained as a priest of the Roman Catholic Church here.

While working as a volunteer with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta in 2004, Niangti realised that he had a mission too, along a different path — the path of spirituality. Niangti, 36, who had a stint in the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), and later in the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement (KHNAM), a regional political party in Meghalaya, had spent considerable time in prayer, and assisting the needy while in Calcutta.

“Being in Calcutta for a month was the turning point in my life. I realised the importance of spirituality and the triviality of worldliness,” Niangti told The Telegraph. This feeling was compounded by the words emanating from a Catholic priest at the Umroi Retreat Centre in Ri Bhoi district earlier that year. “The words were: what is the point in conquering the entire world when one is spiritually poor? This really stirred me as I was then living in luxury and spent time in worldliness,” he recalled. After returning from Calcutta, Niangti met several priests who encouraged him to join the order.

In 2005, he left his home at Lumkshaid locality in Lower Mawprem here for St Xavier’s minor seminary in Upper Shillong before pursuing philosophy at Christ King College, Laitumkhrah, from 2006-2009.

He was then sent for his regency to St Paul’s Seminary in Upper Shillong, and from 2010 to 2013, he pursued his studies in theology from Oriens Theological College, Mawlai. From 2010 till 2014, he worked at Pynursla parish in East Khasi Hills as part of his deaconate ministry.

The chronology of events from 2004 until date appears to be simple and lucid. However, it was not so.

“In college, I was part of the NCC as my desire was to serve the country as a member of the army,” Niangti said. After graduation, Niangti, an avid sportsperson, appeared for his National Defence Academy (NDA) examination. “I was utterly disappointed on not qualifying for the army,” he said.

With that dream shattered, Niangti associated himself with the KSU, and even served as an active member of the KHNAM since its formation in 2002 and until 2004, which was a defining moment for him.

Come Sunday, Niangti will be ordained by Archbishop Dominic Jala of the Shillong archdiocese in his home parish at Mawprem.

He would be the second from the 11-year-old parish to be elevated to priesthood.

It was in 2006 that the parish got its first priest when Jameris Shylla was ordained.

For this man of many parts, responding to this special calling is now mission possible.


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