A few hours after the sunrise the shining light of St. Mary’s Samtoli that enlightened the paths of thousands died out for ever. The heartbeat of Fr. Suleman Tirkey stopped at 7.10 am on 1st June 2011. No one could believe it. In the morning at 6.15 he celebrated the Holy Eucharist in the convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Tarbs and had his breakfast there. He was back to St. Mary’s and complained about his pain in the chest. Fr. Vijay Manohar Tirkey, the Rector, rushed him to St. Martha Health Centre, Samtoli, hardly a few meters away from St. Mary’s. But without giving much time to serve him he departed from us for ever. In fact, it was a massive heart attack. We lost a very fine Jesuit of Ranchi Province. May he rest in peace!
Fr. Suleman Tirkey was born on 15th December 1947 in Raja Ulhatu of Ulhatu Parish. His father was Thomas Tirkey and mother Helena Tirkey. His early schooling took place in the village. He passed his matriculation in 1964 from St. Aloysius High School, Ranchi. He completed his Intermediate studies at St. Xavier’s College Ranchi. Then on 28th June 1969 he entered the Novitiate at St. Stanislaus College, Sitagraha. After completing his Novitiate and Juniorate studies at St. Stanislaus College, Sitagarha he did his graduation and Master’s degree in Ranchi University. Thereafter he did his mini regency and normal regency at St. Xavier’s School, Ambikapur. Then he went to DNC Pune for his philosophy and theology. He was ordained a priest on 17th April 1982. From 1983 to 1987 he served as a hostel in charge cum assistant teacher in St. Ignatius’ H. S. Gumla, St. Xavier’s H.S. Bundu, and Kishore Nagar, Namkum. From 1987 to 1996 he was Acting Headmaster of St. John’s H.S. Ranchi. He did his Tertianship at St. Stanislaus College, Sitagarha. From 1996 to 2002 he was the Rector of St. Mary’s Community and rendered his service to the school as an assistant teacher. From 2002 to 2007 he was the Director of Apostolic School Samtoli. After his retirement in 2007 he served St. Mary’s +2 and High School as the administrator till he breathed his last.
Fr. Suleman lived his life to the fullest. Hearing his sudden demise thousands of people thronged to pay him their last grateful and tearful homage. After grooming his dead body at St. Martha Health Center it was brought to St. Mary’s and kept it in the community chapel where people poured in to see him for the last time. Keeping in mind his popularity and huge crowd his burial Mass was celebrated in the Cathedral. Many people from Ranchi, Kunkuri, Gumla, Khunti and other places had gathered. There were 80 priests and hundreds of sisters. Fr. Xavier Soreng, the provincial of Ranchi, was the main celebrant. Fr. Rector Vijay Manohar Tirkey and the Principal Fr. Philemon Ekka along with many fellow Jesuits and others concelebrated. Fr. Alois Beck gave a moving homily underlining the life and love of Fr. Suleman. Though the whole atmosphere was sorrowful everyone felt the love and concern of Fr. Suleman. The music and singing of the choir group of Ursuline sisters made the atmosphere serene and prayerful. After the Mass the body was brought in procession to the Jesuit cemetery. Young Jesuits and the school and Plus Two staff carried the coffin on their shoulders in turns. Some important people from the town also turned up for his last ‘darshan’. It was 6.00 pm when his dead body was laid in the grave to rise again on the last day. With tears in year but peace in heart people dispersed. Fr. Pratap Toppo commented, “What a beautiful death! Gave no trouble or pain to others. After accomplishing his greatest priestly function, namely celebrating the Holy Eucharist….in ten minutes time he passed away.” He completed his race successfully. “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little. I will set you over much; enter in the joy of your master.” (Mat. 25.21)
Fr. Suleman had thoroughly understood his life. He had enjoyed every moment of his life. Therefore, his community members say – some people’s life is like sugarcane, press it and squeeze its juice but lo and behold the remains also keep up its sweetness. Fr. Suleman’s life was also just like that. To meet every member of the community, to understand their joys and sorrows, to labour hard to make the community even better was his sole aim. He was a man of rich personality. His heart was very big. He met all kinds of people- young, old or children cheerfully. By this half of their ailment was alleviated. In today’s pace- not many have time to listen to others. But Fr. Suleman listened to all very patiently and gave his precious time. He was a spiritual man. He had deep faith and trust in God. He guided thousands of boys and girls to their goals. His experienced counseling helped many who stood at the cross roads of their life to choose their right vocation. Today their number as priests and nuns is quite big. He even united many broken families.
He was dutiful. After his breakfast he would be in the school till four o’clock. After that from five to six he taught English to St. Anne’s candidates of Gumla Province. He did this for last four years. He was a source of inspiration. He filled the students with enthusiasm. He was a lover of games and sports. He was a very good football and basketball player. He was a man of discipline. He didn’t like any disorder in the school. Service was his sole motive. He was the C.L.C. Director for Ranchi archdiocese. He devoted lots of time for its growth. Four days ago he had just come back from Kolkata after attending a C.L.C. meeting. He was an iron man. He was not deterred by odds. It is said – defeated by difficulties and obstacles some sit back, whereas some go forward to remove the difficulties and obstacles of others. Fr. Suleman was a man of latter type. He did not wait in helping others. He would plunge into the river of life and bring the drowning person ashore. His last message to his fans is, “Friends! Life is a battle, fight it. Success will kiss your feet.”