We have lost a very great educationalist, a great man of creativity, innovative thinking, zealous and committed missionary. Many of his students will remember him as a dedicated guru, great musician, a man of 'magis' and a man whose heart was filled with the love and sympathy for the poor, needy, Adivasis and marginalized.
Fr. James Lakra was born in Ranchi Pathalkudua village on 1 August 1943. He joined the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus' College [novitiate], Sitagarha on 26 July 1961. And lived his 50 golden years in the service of the people of God as a true son of St. Ignatius, our Founder. He was ordained priest on 5th May 1974 in Ranchi Cathedral. He took his final vows on 22 April, 1983. All these 38 years of priestly ministries were very fruitful and source of inspiration for all categories of people.
His ministries are mostly in the line of education, spiritual, youth animation, sports and music. He worked in the education line for 38 years. Out of these, 23 years of his precious young life were spent in St. Ignatius Gumla from 1975-1998, as a prefect, apostolic school director, Principal of the school and Rector. He himself was a sportive man so he got involved in SAI (Sports Authority of India) in Gumla and trained many students and made their future bright.
He worked 8 dedicated years in St. Xavier's English medium school Doranda from 1998-2006. Here in Doranda he started taking the school to the slums of Ranchi through the "Outreach" programme in which he motivated the school students to involve themselves actively in teaching the less fortunate children living in the slums.
He landed in our Assam Mission, Balipara in the month of April in 2006 and worked 6 full years whole heartedly in different areas till his death 21 April 2012. In Balipara he took very keen interest in the pastoral works and visited all the 24 centres of the Parish by his motor bike in the evenings. He was regularly out in the mission field to meet either the youth group, to run the out-reach programme or to have the meeting of LLN groups (laity faith formation), or to meet the Mahilas and men folk.
He was a dynamic creative thinker. Our St. Xavier's College staff and students have experienced this aspect of his life. He was busy trying to find out different ways and means to make teaching interesting to part the knowledge. He was an expert in IPP (Ignatian Pedagogy Paradigm) Programme. He has experimented it with our Junior College Staff and students and done good job all these 6 years.
He has a good mastery in English grammar. Whenever he got an opportunity he taught the students grammar. With the help of Fr. George Soreng, social work coordinator, he started many Study centres in our Balipara parish in different villages and tea gardens. In these centres many parishioners learnt to read, write and sign rather than give thump print.
Through Hockey training centre, he wanted to open the job opportunities for the illiterate girls. Some 48 girls of Sonabheel and Bhaitabhanga have been constantly being given coaching in Hockey.
Mobile Grihini was also another area though which he wanted to improve the lives of the illiterate girls and to make them well equipped mothers to run the families well.
He was trained in music and drama in Mumbai. So every time any function he would come out with creative ways of presenting the message in a very powerful ways through skit and drama. Our Balipara people will remember him for dramas and skits through which he was trying to touch the hearts of the parishioners.
His insights were new, innovative and creative. He was always available for the priestly ministry. His missionary spirit was bubbling in Balipara parish in different centres because of his every day visit to different centres together with Sr. Pratibha, the pastoral Sister.
His heart was for the poor, marginalized and Adivasis. Therefore in St. Xavier's Junior College, Sonabheel he made 2 mediums of teaching English cum Assamese. He wanted that our people poor, marginalized and less privileged target groups of people should get good education at the affordable tuition fees. Extra emphasis was given to have the spoken English for those who come from Assamese or Boro mediums. His life style has been very simple, poor and by nature he was a friendly person.
On Friday 20 April, 2012 in the morning he started to feel uneasy and giddiness therefore he took the tablet to reduce the pain and remove uneasiness but when it did not subside then he took another doze of the medicine which worsened the physical condition. Soon he was brought to the Baptist mission hospital Tezpur and doctors did their best to bring the B.P. to normalcy to activate his heart but till the end it was not possible. He has blockade in the heart. Normal flow of the blood was not there so at the advice of the doctors we were taking him to Guwahati but on the day he breathed his last at 4.30 p.m. on 21 April, 2012.
As a good and faithful servant of the Lord he has run the good race. He has done all the works well. He has no time to rest so I am sure the Lord has invited him to have eternal rest with Him. May the Soul of Fr. James Lakra rest in peace with our Risen Lord.