Although Christianity took its roots in Garo Hills as early
as in 1867, it was only in 1933 that Catholic missionaries
began organized evangelization work among Garos. Prior to
1933, some missionaries had occasionally visited areas
inhabited by Garos. Fr. Rudolf Fontaine, a Salvatorian priest
then residing in Guwahati, was the first Catholic Priest to visit
Garoland in 1913. It is recorded that during the time of the
Jesuit missionaries (1914-1922), Fr. Carberry, SJ visited
Laskarpara, a village of the Garos, in 1921.
The first Garo Catholics in Garo Hills were those
baptized by the Holy Cross Fathers in the present Bangladesh
and then migrated to Garo Hills, especially to those villages
near Baghmara. The first apostle of Garo Hills was Peter
Shem Momin, a Garo who received the Catholic Faith while
undergoing agricultural training in Shillong. He was
responsible for the early conversions at Laskarpara,
Chotcholja, Damit Apal, Kharkutta and Dilma.
The first Salesian Missionary to tour Garo Hills was Fr.
Gil in 1923. Frs. Piasecki and Marmol who visited Garo Hills
and also those villages on the Baghmara side via Mymensing
once a year followed him. In 1931 Msgr. L. Mathias, the then
Prefect Apostolic of Assam appointed Frs. Pianazzi and Rocca
to work among the Garos. As they were not allowed by the
Government to reside in Garo Hills, they took up residence
at Dhubri in 1932. In 1933, the Fathers managed to obtain
from the then DC, Mr. William Shaw, permission to stay in
Garo Hills and thus opened the first Catholic mission at Tura.
From then on many European priests of the Salesians of Don
Bosco have worked tirelessly to spread the Gospel in Garo
Hills. The Sisters of the Congregation of Missionaries of Christ
Jesus (MCJ) were the first women religious to arrive in Garo
Hills in the year 1948. The first batch included Mother Camino,
Sr. Maria de Villar and Sr. Pilar Gonsalves.
The missionary endeavors in Garo Hills received a
great boost with the arrival of missionaries from South India.
The first Indian missionaries to set foot in Garo Hills were
Frs. M.P. Alexander and Mathew Elanjipuram who came to
Garo Hills in 1956. Fr. E.O. Mathew in 1959 and Frs. George
Mamalassery and George Elavumkunnel in 1960 followed
them. In the year 1970, the MSMHC Sisters, the Missionary
Congregation of Blessed Sacrament Fathers and some
Diocesan priests from Changanacherry Diocese volunteered
to work in Garo Hills.
Rt. Rev. Orestes Marengo SDB, former Bishop of
Dibrugarh and Tezpur, was appointed Episcopal Vicar in 1972.
On 7th April 1973, Tura was made a diocese by detaching
territories from the Archdiocese of Shillong-Guwahati with
Bishop Marengo as Apostolic Administrator. The diocese had
at that time around 40000 Garo Catholics spread over the
entire Garo Hills and the Goalpara and Kamrup districts of
Assam. There were 6 parishes and a total of 21 priests: 16
religious and 5 diocesan. The sisters were only 26 in number.
The making of the new diocese accelerated the growth
of Church in Garo Hills at all levels. New parishes were opened
at Selsella (1973), Tikrikilla (1974), Chokpot (1974),
Dadenggiri (1976), Mendal (1977), Williamnagar (1977),
Garobadha and Tura, Chandmari (1978). The Medical
Mission Sisters (1971), the MSFS Fathers and the Daughters
of St. Thomas (1975) now joined the missionaries already
working in Garo Hills. Numerous young men from the South
India who later became priests were recruited now for the
new diocese. In 1977 the first Garo priest Fr. Crispinus
Rangsa from Baghmara was ordained a priest.
The Holy Father Pope John Paul II relieved Bishop
Marengo of the office of Apostolic Administrator on 8 February
1979 and appointed Rev. George Mamalassery of the
diocesan clergy as the first bishop of Tura. The new bishop
was consecrated on 18 March 1979. The first task of the new
bishop was to build proper infra-structure in all the existing
parishes. Putting all his abilities into work, he completed in
each of these parishes a church, a presbytery, hostels for
both boys and girls, a convent, a school and a dispensary. In
order to promote local vocations to the priesthood, a threestorey
seminary building was built in 1983. Many new religious
congregations were invited to work in the diocese. They were:
Sisters of Mary Immaculate (1980), Daughters of Mary Help
of Christians (1982), Franciscan Brothers (1983), Claretian
Fathers (1984), Missionaries of Charity (1985), RNDM (1985),
Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod (1986), SMMI (1987), Holy
Cross Sisters, Menzingen (1993), Montfort Brothers (1995),
Daughters of St. Francis De Sales (1996), Sacred Heart
Sisters (1998), Capuchin Fathers (1999), Jesuits (2003),
Disciples of Divine Master (2005) Ursuline Sisters (2006) and
Bishop George opened many more new parishes and
built many spacious churches at key centers. The new
parishes opened were: Mangsang and Nangwalbibra (1979),
Purakhasia (1981), Chimaimpel (1984), Rongkon (1986),
Rongara, Ampati and Cathedral (1989), Songsak (1992),
Araimile (1994), Mendipathar (1995), Rabhagre, Rajabala and
Jengjal (1996), Siju (1997), Samanda (2000), Mronggre and
Dumnikura (2003), Kharkutta, Chidimit and Chapahati (2004)
and Dawagre and Danakgre (2005). In each of these parishes
a church, a presbytery, hostels for both boys and girls, a
convent, a school and a dispensary were built.
In 1987 Bishop George invited the Salesians of Don
Bosco to open the much needed Catholic College at Tura to
the great benefit of many Catholic boys and girls. In 1989 a
parish for Rabhas and Boros by the name of Mukti Dada
Ashram was opened in Tikrikilla under the care of Rev. Fr.
E.V. George. In 1991, a pastoral centre was opened adjacent
to the Bishop’s House. The establishment of the 150 bed
Holy Cross hospital at New Tura in 1993 was a major event
in the history of the diocese. On 29 March 1994, an
interdenominational Garo Bible was released.
In 1995 when the new diocese of Guwahati was
established, Damra parish, having a large number of Garo
and Rabha Catholics, was given over to the new diocese.
The opening of the Home for the disabled and normal School
at Danakgre in 1996 was a significant event in the history of
the diocese. In the same year a Marriage Tribunal with
qualified personnel was established in the diocese. On 30
July 1998, barely a month before his 94 birthday, Bishop
Marengo was called by God for his eternal reward. The Silver
Jubilee of the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop George
Mamalassery was celebrated on14th March 2004 at Tura.
To mark the occasion, the Rino Simonetti Nursing School at
Danakgre was blessed in the presence of all the Bishops of
the region. In the same year, on 17th June 2004, His Holiness
Pope John Paul II, nominated Rev. Andrew R. Marak as the
co-adjutor bishop of Tura. He was ordained a bishop by Most
Rev. Pedro Lopéz Quitanta, Apostolic Nuncio to India on 3rd
October 2004 at Tura.
In the following year, on 31st May 2005, Fr. Mathew
Elanjipuram, the first Indian and diocesan priest to work in
Garo Hills, passed away. The SMI convent and the girls’ hostel
at Rajabala were opened in 2006. Spacious Churches were
also built and blessed at Chapahati, Karkhutta and Damas.
Providence Sisters came to work in 2010, followed by
Augustinians Sisters in 2011. Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi
(OSF) also joined in 2013. The Social Services of the diocese
were re-organized and brought under the banner of Bakdil
with a full-time director.
On completion of 75 years of age on April 22, 2007,
Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop
George, and appointed Bishop Andrew R. Marak as the
Bishop of Tura. Subsequent years saw further progress of
the diocese. In 2010, the Diocese lost two Diocesan Priests
in the persons of Dominic Sangma and Tengman Momin.
New parishes were opened in Rimrangpara (2007),
Walbakgre (2009), Damas (2011) and Darenchigre (2012).
In the year 2014 the diocese is blessed with another three
new parishes at Somonpara, Bajengdobha and Babadam.
Existing schools at various parishes were extended and
upgraded into High Schools. Higher Secondary schools were
also opened in many places. On 27 April, 2014 a well known
Apostle of the Rabhas and Assamese Rev. Fr. E.V. George
passed away in Guwahati. In 2015 Vincentian Sisters and
Franciscan Clarist Congregation were invited to work in the
diocese. Presentation sisters arrived in 2016.