The birth of the Province of Guwahati in 1959 from the Mother Province of North India was both timely and momentous. It was the tangible sign from above of the divine sanction that accompanied at every step the heroic feastof the Salesianpioneers who engendered the Assam Mission miracle. On 21st July, 1921, Fr. Paul Albera, Rector Major of the Salesians, acceding to the repeated request of Propaganda Fide, accepted the Assam Mission, reiterating St. Peter’s words to Christ, In verbo autem tuo laxabo rete (at your words I will let down the net, Luke 5:5). It was the beginning of a glorious chapter in the history of the Indian Missions, that is replete with missionary adventures and achievements which deservetobe written in letters of gold. True to the prophetic words of the Rector Major, his missionary sons braved innumerable obstacles and dangers to "launch ino the deep".
Although the Province of Guwahati as such was only established in 1959, its history is inseparably linked with the beginning and growth of the Catholic Church and the Salesian Mission in North-East India or “Assam,” as it was known earlier. Assam was established as a new Prefecture in 1889 and it was entrusted to the Society of Divine Saviour (Salvatorians). In 1915 the Salvatorians were expelled from Assam due to World War I, following which the Belgian Jesuits from Calcutta assumed temporary cared of the Mission at the departure of the German Salvatorians.
When it became evident that the Salvatorians could not return to Assam after the war, Propaganda Fide approached several religious Congregations to take up the Assam Mission. But none of them responded positively. From 1918, Propaganda Fide turned its attention to the Salesian congregation for the care of the Assam Mission. On 6th July, 1920, Fr. Albera wrote to the Prefect of Propaganda Fide conveying the inability of the Salesians to oblige them for several valid reasons In spite of the refusal from the part of the Rector Major of the Salesians, the Prefect of Propaganda Fide subsequentlyu made the same request not less than five times. It was on 21st July, 1921, that Fr. Albera officially responded to them conveying his willingness to accept the Assam Mission.
The Rector Major presented to Fr. Louis Mathias, the leader of the pioneering team, the list of Salesians who would form the pioneer group to Assam. The list consisted only of six priests. At the request of Fr. Mathias, five brothers were added to the group. At the solem ceremony of the departure of the missionaries on 23rd October, 1921, in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, Turin, Fr. Mathias described the new mission land as a New Patagonia and the New Promised Land where he said that the Salesians will speak the language of the Lord and will repeat the prodigy of the first Pentecost. On 20th December, 1921, the group celebrated Holy Mass in the little room of Don Bosco at Valdocco and started their long journey to Assam.
On 6th January, 1922, the pioneering team reached Bombay, and 9th January reached Calcutta. On 11th January, they left Calcutta and boarded the train to Guwahati. And finally on 13th January 1922, they reached Shillong.
The leader of the pioneering group, Fr Louis Mathias, with his motto “Dare and Hope” and his ten valiant companions, have initiated an unprecedented missionary activity in the North East which continues even today. At present there are three Provinces in the North East: Guwahati (1959), Dimapur (1981), and Shillong (2012): all of them equally missionary. Thanks to the early missionaries who dared and hoped, and it is their enthusiasm and inspiration that we have been able to emulate in our own limited ways.