The neophytes come from Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. St Anthony’s Parish has about a thousand members living in 45 villages. More missionaries are needed.
Gazipur (AsiaNews) – Fourteen people were baptised on Easter eve in St Augustine Catholic Church in Gazipur, 25 km north of Dhaka.
The neophytes who chose to embrace Christianity left their old religion (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam), but they are not the only ones. In the parish, at least another five hundred are waiting to receive the sacrament of baptism.
“In our parish, there are great opportunities to preach the message of God to people of other faiths,” said Fr Dominic Sentu Rozario, the parish priest, speaking to AsiaNews. “Most of them are of tribal origin or domestic migrant workers."
Founded in 2007, the parish has a congregation of about a thousand people living in 45 villages "but we are able to preach [the Gospel] only in 18 of them," Fr Dominic said. However, he is not alone. The Fathers of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) and the catechist nuns of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of the Angels, are also involved in missionary work.
"We teach catechism to the new believers who wish to embrace Christ,” he explained. “It will take some time before the 500 candidates can become mature Christians."
The parish has a junior high school, two hostels for boys and girls and the Church of St Anthony, a secondary centre established in 2008.
The hostels represent a real blessing for the families who work in the Gazipur area, a major manufacturing hub, especially for the garment industry. Bangladesh is the world's second largest clothing exporter after China.
One of the new Christians is Mong Mong Shin Marma. The 13-year-old former Buddhist lost his mother when he was four. After that, his family gave him the care of the hostel.
"My mother's sister was very sick. I prayed to Jesus Christ to heal her and he has fulfilled my request. My aunt is healed and I decided to receive the baptism,” he said about his conversion.
When he grows up he wants to become a priest and preach Christianity to others.
The newly-baptised include a Muslim couple who recently had a baby. They said they were very happy.
Like the young orphan, Swc Thwe Augustine Marma, 15 and a Buddhist, also joined the community of Christians on easter night.
"For me this Easter is very special,” he said. It is “a day full of joy because I received the baptism and now I am a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus was killed for our sins. I believe that God will bless me greatly and grant me Heaven."
In the parish, several seminarians are training for the priesthood. They come from non-Christian families and hope to baptise their parents after ordination.
Sister Rony Gomes is one of the PIME sisters serving in the church. Together with the kids from the hostel, she set up the altar for Mass.
She explained that her fellow nuns teach in the local school, serve in the church and visit families in remote areas to bring them comfort.
Speaking about the schools, she noted that "Many parents do not understand the importance of education. [But] We encourage them” to send their children to school.
"There are many possibilities to preach the Christian message. We need more missionaries,” she pleaded.