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2 priests killed in crash with tractor trailer, another minister injured

2 priests killed in crash with tractor trailer, another minister injured

Father Mathew Vellankal of the Diocese of Oakland, Calif., (R), and Archbishop Dominic Jala of the Archdiocese of Shillong, India and apostolic administrator of Nongstoin, India (L). | Photo: Facebook/Diocese of Oakland; Screenshot/YouTube

A California pastor and an archbishop visiting from India were killed in a crash with a tractor-trailer Thursday that also wounded another priest.

The Diocese of Oakland announced in a Facebook post Saturday that one of their pastors, Father Mathew Vellankal, was killed in the accident that occurred in Colusa County, on Oct. 11. Archbishop Dominic Jala of the Archdiocese of Shillong, India, and apostolic administrator of Nongstoin, India, was also killed.

Father Joseph Parekkatt, pastor of St. Anne Parish in Walnut Creek, was also injured in the crash but he is in stable condition at Santa Rosa Hospital in Oakland, the announcement said.

“Father Vellankal’s joyous spirit and faith will be deeply missed,” Bishop Michael C. Barber said. “May his soul and the soul of Archbishop Jala rest in the peace of Christ.”

The crash happened about 2:30 p.m. Thursday, when a Toyota Prius with the three men was hit by a tractor-trailer truck on State Route 20 near Wilbur Springs, the California Highway Patrol told NBC.

Vellankal was born in Ayavana, Kerala, India, and ordained a priest on Jan. 5, 1987, in Randar, India, as a member of the religious order Salesians of Don Bosco, the Oakland parish said. He worked in parishes and schools in India before coming to the Diocese of Oakland in 2001. His assignments included Queen of All Saints, Concord; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fremont; Holy Spirit, Fremont; and St. Bonaventure, Concord.

In addition to his spiritual work, Vellankal was also known for his skills as a magician, which he used for parish fundraising events. His book, From Humor to Inspiration: Jokes, Reflections, and Quotes to Enliven Your Day, was published in 2005.

Archbishop Jala was born July 12, 1951, and ordained a priest of the Salesians of Don Bosco on Nov. 19, 1977. He was ordained archbishop of Shillong on April 2, 2000.

A report from Vatican News said Jala left Shillong for Rome on Sept. 17, where along with other Indian bishops he was on an “ad limina visit,” which heads of dioceses are required to make every five years to report on the state of their jurisdiction.

He was also among 44 Indian bishops who met Pope Francis on Sept. 26.

A Shillong Archdiocesan source told the publication that Jala arrived in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 30 to attend a meeting of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy in New York. He went to California on Oct. 6 to meet some of his priest friends. 

“Our deepest condolences to the people of St. Bonaventure and Holy Spirit, Fremont as well as the Archdiocese of Shillong. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon the. May their soul and the soul of all the Faithful Departed through the mercy of God rest in peace,” the Diocese of Oakland said.


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