Merina, Happy and Cecilia, missionaries of the Immaculate, new 'brides of Christ'

Consecrated in the Mary Queen of the Apostles Parish in Dhaka, the three women religious hail from the dioceses of Rajshahi and Dinajpur and have "strengthened their missionary zeal" with a year of training in India.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – After making their perpetual vows, Merina, Happy and Cecilia have become three new members of the Missionaries of the Immaculate, a women’s congregation associated with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).

As new "new brides of Christ", they will bring the Gospel message to the villages of Bangladesh, each with their own distinct personality, this according to Sr Anna Maria Panza, provincial councillor in Bangladesh: "Cecilia with kindness, Happy with sensitivity and resourcefulness, Merina with an irresistible joy that overwhelms everyone.”

The three women were consecrated on 15 August in Mary Queen of the Apostles Parish, Mirpur-2, a district in Dhaka. "They are a great gift to the Bengali Church," the parish priest, Fr Quirico Martinelli, told AsiaNews. Mgr Shorot Francis Gomes, auxiliary bishop of Dhaka, led the ceremony, which was enlivened by traditional songs and dances.

“About 200 people were present, including the sisters’ relatives and many parishioners,” said Sr Anna Maria. “Afterwards each of them took part in a second ceremony in their village of origin, following local traditions.”

All three come Christian families. "Happy’s family is Bengali and has been Christian for a long time, evangelised by the Portuguese. Merina’s and Cecilia’s families are ethnic Santal who are recent Christian converts. They accepted Christ’s message as a result of the evangelising work of the missionaries last century, including PIME fathers."

Cecilia Hembrom (picture 1, right) comes from Sursunipara, a parish in the Diocese of Rajshahi. She is the youngest of three children.

"Since childhood, she loved to pray, go to church and stay with the nuns,” said Sr Anna Maria. Then she expressed the desire to be with Jesus. After Grade 10 exams, she studied with the nuns for 11 years, she got a B.A. in literature and took some courses in theology. She likes reading a lot, especially the lives of the saints. She is attentive to others, especially the sick, the poor and the suffering. She treats everyone with kindness and is always available."

Happy Rozario (picture 1, middle) hails from Bonpara, Diocese of Rajshahi. Hers is a large family, with five sisters and two brothers. She grew up in the PIME Sisters' mission, then studied economics. "She is an outgoing and sensitive girl, loves being around people, helping and getting involved in situations. She is very resourceful and when there is something she can’t do, she tries harder."

Merina Hasdak (picture 1, left) is from Hasarpara, a village in Dhanjuri parish, Diocese of Dinajpur. "From childhood on, she wanted to be a sister," said Sr Anna Maria. “The nuns made fun of her but got her involved her in various activities. She has always been a lively child, a bit naughty. She likes to dance, plays instruments and sings. She is an artistic and creative person."

"Merina is one who brings joy. Wherever she is, there is always a smile. She visits the elderly and those who are lonely, and is able to bring joy everywhere."

“Theirs are simple vocations, more practical and based on experience. They lived with the sisters, they loved to pray and decided to take on the same life. During their training period they faced the actual discernment. Specifically, they spent a period of apostolic training in India, where their missionary zeal was strengthened."

The ceremony in their home village "was a real wedding party,” Sr Anna Maria explained, “in terms of rite, like the Gaye Holud in which the bodies of the future brides are covered in turmeric, and the decorations. But instead of a man, their spouse is Christ. And they became brides of Christ."