The Xaverian missionary has been working in the Diocese of Novaliches for 13 years. Language and the relationship with tribals were among his greatest challenges. The great number of Catholics in the Philippines is also a challenge to evangelisation.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Fr Polash Henry Gomes, a Xaverian priest from Bangladesh, was sent as a missionary to the Philippines after his ordination because missionaries "bear witness to Jesus Christ among the nations".
Currently, he is parish priest at St Francis Xavier Catholic Church in the Diocese of Novaliches, happy about his life as a missionary. Speaking to AsiaNews, he said that “All Christians are missionaries from baptism".
In the Philippines for the past 13 years, he has learnt the language and adapted himself to a "different cuisine". Yet, he remembers how "the issue of food emerged at the beginning of my priesthood.”
“When I was ordained, a Xaverian asked me if I wanted to go to Africa, but then he warned me that the food there was very different from Bangladesh. I replied: 'I will work for Jesus everywhere'."
His vocation was born at an early age, when he attended St Francis Xavier Parish in Golla, Archdiocese of Dhaka. "I was very devoted to the saint who inspired me to become a missionary."
At the beginning, life in Philippines was not easy. "I had a hard time understanding the language. Sometimes even the tribals do not speak it."
Another challenge was the number of Catholics. "In Bangladesh, a diocese has about 60,000 members; in the Philippines, a single parish has the same number. This is why the work of catechesis and evangelisation is very difficult."
Catholics are the majority in the Philippines, which is the most Catholic country in Asia. However, it is not immune from the crisis of religions.
For instance, "many faithful in my parish are no longer coming to Mass on Sundays,” Fr Gomes noted. “This is why we visit Catholic homes, bless them and encourage people to come to Church. This big responsibility falls on parents."
In Bangladesh Italians make up the bulk of the missionaries of the Pious Society of St Francis Xavier. But for the Xaverian clergyman, the decline in religious vocations in the West, "the time has come for us [from the developing world] to give missionaries [to the universal Church]”.