A priest and a leader

Thousands bid tearful farewell as Father Sngi is laid to rest

By Rining Lyngdoh in Shilong
  • Published 31.05.16

Shillong, May 30: Tens of thousands of people today bade adieu to legendary priest of the Catholic church, Rev. Fr Sylvanus Sngi Lyngdoh.

Fr Sngi passed away at Nazareth Hospital here on Saturday at 5.10am after a brief illness. He was a well-known religious leader from the Khasi community who also had a role to play in the formation of the first coalition government in Meghalaya in March 1978.

Fondly called Fr Sngi, the 96-year-old priest who belonged to the Salesians of Don Bosco, was laid to rest at the Catholic cemetery, Laitumkhrah, here after a requiem mass at the Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians here.

The archbishop of Shillong, Archdiocese Rev. Dominic Jala, led the requiem mass along with other bishops and priests. Religious heads and nuns of the Catholic church from different dioceses of Meghalaya and the Northeast joined the funeral mass which began at 1.30pm and ended around 3pm.

After his mortal remains were brought from Sacred Heart Shrine of Theological College, Mawlai, people paid their last respects to Fr Sngi when the casket was placed inside the cathedral church around 11am .

Faithfuls and well-wishers thronged the cathedral to have their last glimpse of Fr Sngi and paid their tributes as they joined in prayer for the departed soul during the funeral service.

Various political leaders, including chief minister Mukul Sangma, Meghalaya government chief adviser D.D. Lapang, ministers, Shillong MP Vincent H. Pala, members of the Assembly and autonomous district councils attended the service.

The coffin was covered in ryndia, a traditional Khasi shawl, and wreaths. A sea of people accompanied the funeral cortege on the streets right from the cathedral to the cemetery.

People also purchased several books and commentaries he had authored. He authored more than 30 books. His outstanding literary contributions include Khasi-Hebrew, Khasi-Greek and Khasi-Aramaic dictionaries.

Fr Sngi made immense contribution to the welfare of society not only as a religious leader but also a social reformer. It was he who took a leading role in eradication of opium plantation in Ri Bhoi district.

After his ordination as a priest on July 1, 1958, he specialised himself in scriptural studies in Rome. He became a teacher of different theological institutes, including Sacred Theological College, Mawlai, here.

The Khasi priest, who wore a cassock and always put spong, a traditional Khasi turban, besides ryndia, had a special love for Khasi culture and tradition. The priest who had witnessed many movements during his time, including that for the creation of the hill state (Meghalaya) which was carved out of Assam in 1972, also had a share in formation of the erstwhile All Party Hills Leaders Conference during the hills state movement.

Fr Sngi was among the most sought-after church leaders for his advice during any political crisis.

The priest was involved in the selection of a chief minister in March 1978 by drawing of lots between two candidates - D.D. Pugh and veteran political leader S.D. Khongwir,

However, luck was with Pugh who became the chief minister and Khongwir his deputy of the first coalition government formed by the three parties - APHLC, Hill State People's Democratic Party and Public Demand Implementation Convention along with the support of a few Independents.