Fr Philip Tushar Gomes is the first priest in 250 years in Bakshanagar
by Sumon Corraya

The 37-year-old clergyman was ordained on 3 January. His vocation came when others graduate from seminaries. He has worked with the youth ministry and wishes to continue as a spiritual guide for mature vocations. He also wants to help fellow Christians face societal challenges like land disputes.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Fr Philip Tushar Gomes, 37, is the first priest from Bakshanagar, a village in Dhaka division, since Christianity came to the area 250 years ago.

The new clergyman was ordained on 3 January in the presence of Mgr Shorot Francis Gomes and 500 Catholics.

“God selected me to work for his Kingdom from our village. I am very happy. I will serve aptly,” he told AsiaNews.

“My parents and relatives encouraged me to be a priest,” he explained. “St Anthony of Padua blessed our village, which was waiting for a priest. With me, the expectation has been fulfilled.”

Philip belongs to St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, a parish that has about 300 members. His village has given 14 nuns to the Bangladeshi Church, but never a priest.

“Today is day significant day for us,” said Thomas Rozario, a local community leader. “We are very happy to get a priest from Bakshanagar village. We have waited a long time for a priest and prayed a lot and God heeded our plea in the end.”

Seeing the priestly ordination, youngsters will hopefully be encouraged to envisage a religious life, Rozario noted. “I hope,” he said, “that more children will enter the seminary and training house.”

For his part, Fr Philip noted that his vocation is a family thing. “My parents always wanted me to become a priest, but I didn't enter the seminary until 2012, at the age of 30.”

“In college I worked as a volunteer guide for the Episcopal Youth Commission. At that time, I realised that if I had worked selflessly, I would have joy and self-satisfaction in return.

Equally, “I realised that if I became a priest, served [others] and gave myself selflessly, I would be happier in my life.”

After studying tourism management, Fr Philip heeded the call to a religious life and entered the seminary. “My friends,” he explained, “told me that at my age it was more common for students to graduate from the seminary. Thus, I was an inspiration for them.”

“I discovered the beauty of selfless work. Religious life offers a great opportunity to serve human beings, I told myself and God. I understood that the priesthood was what I wanted and I chose this life to serve people.”

Fr Philip’s first assignment is as assistant parish priest at the church in Tumilia, Gazipur, a Dhaka industrial suburb. He wants to work for young people. "I've worked with youth before and enjoyed it,” he said. “I can reach out to them.”

However, “Since I discovered my religious vocation later in life, I would also like to work with more late vocations. I have already started working on it with some young people who have finished their studies and would like to become priests. I am helping them with advice and guidelines.”

Alongside the youth ministry, the newly ordained priest wants to work on “issues that challenge Christians, such as land disputes, marital problems and peacebuilding.”