Our Queen of the Apostles, a parish for migrants in Mirpur-2

Established by PIME missionaries 25 years ago, local Christian community includes members from different ethnic backgrounds who moved to Dhaka in search of work. What brought them together was “faith".

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The parish of Mary Queen of the Apostles in Mirpur-2, Dhaka, is home to a motley crew, including volunteer catechists teaching children Friday mornings, the Don Bosco club mentoring neighbourhood kids, St Vincent de Paul missionaries who offer sewing courses and young migrant women from around the country working in local factories or enrolled in various schools in the capital. Eva, who wants to become a nun, is one of them.

The small community established 25 years ago by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital has turned into a parish that is now ready to be incorporated into the local archdiocese.

"I do not like slogans, but we can say mission accomplished,’ Fr Franco Cagnasso, a missionary from Italy, told AsiaNews. Now “The Holy Spirit will guide us onto other paths to start a new mission."

The ceremony for the "official transfer of the parish took place on Sunday,” said Fr Quirico Martinelli, the outgoing parish priest. “Mgr Shorot Francis Gomes, vicar general of the diocese, led the service. And Fr Teotonius Proshanto Ribero, the new parish priest, was welcomed with a big celebration. The church choir enlivened the ceremony with its songs.”

Fr. Gianantonio Baio laid the church’s foundations in 1994. "We have come a long way since then,” Fr Cagnasso noted. “The neighbourhood has changed a lot as well. “

“Fr Baio’s great idea was to establish a Christian presence where no one thought it possible. We knew that many families and people were moving into the area for work and we understood that they needed material and spiritual support,” Fr Cagnasso explained.

“Families who came from villages had lost their Christian identity as a result.” The main challenge was to unite such a diverse group of migrants, from unrelated ethnic backgrounds, and integrate them "within the larger Muslim majority community".

Thanks to the parish, “We recreated a sense of community" among these people. But it was their “Shared faith and the thirst for God that was already in them that unified them.”

For Fr Cagnasso, the services, which the parish started to provide, “established the Christian presence through action”. They include: the pastoral council, St Theresa School across the street, a centre for the disabled, a credit union, a centre for youth vocational discernment, and patient outreach.

Lastly, "bringing in lay people, non-Christians as well, was fundamental for taking root in the area".