Lent in Chandpukur: children give meat money to the poor (photo)
by Belisario Ciro Montoya

The parish hosts 300 orphans and children from very poor families. They eat meat only on Sundays. During the period preceding the resurrection of Christ, people pray, fast and confess. Works of charity and acts of forgiveness accomplish God's mercy.


Chandpukur (AsiaNews) – Fr Belisario Ciro Montoya, associated with PIME as fidei donum in Bangladesh, is pastor in Chandpukur, a parish in the Diocese of Rajshahi.  He recently suffered the theft of animals, but a few days ago, the children of his mission made him proposal.

He first thought that it would be about a picnic they had been waiting for. Instead they asked him to “stop buying meat”, which they eat once a week on Sundays, “and instead save the money to give as an act of charity to a poor person during Lent.” For Fr Belisario, this shows the “goodness of the children”. His story follows:

At our orphanage for boys and girls at the Chandpukur mission, we can currently only offer a portion of meat every week, at Sunday lunch.

Every day our kids, almost 300, eat about 120 kilos of rice, with some vegetables, especially lentils. However, apart from a hot egg every Thursday and occasionally some fish (when a benefactor gives us a bit more), children have access to this source of protein only on Sundays.

A few days ago, my kids called me for a meeting and made me a proposal. I thought it would be about the long-awaited picnic. But no, it wasn't that.

Their proposal left me speechless. They asked me to stop buying meat for them for Sunday lunch and instead save the money to give as an act of charity to a poor person during Lent. I was amazed and moved by their act of generosity and love, and embarrassed by my own pettiness.

This is the token of the magnanimity and goodness of the children, like the offering of the poor widow that Jesus himself praised, because she did not give any extra, but what she needed to live on.

The children learnt about mercy and charity at the mission by participating in Mass and praying every day. They also have a box for offerings that they fill up with coins whenever they can. They give up something to give to others.

Here in Bangladesh the paschal mystery of God who becomes man and rises for our salvation is truly accomplished.

The community is preparing for the resurrection of Christ with acts of forgiveness and asking for the remission of their sins. Everyone lives in extreme poverty and destitution, but they do charitable works and share what little they have to help those who are even more in need.

I’d have many stories to tell, but let me mention one above all: that of a widow in a remote village.

Her son works far away and she has nothing. Yet she never lacks food, support and medicine when she is sick, because neighbours take care of her all the time.

This is what made me fall in love with Bangladesh. The mission is like a big family: priests, nuns and children, our children. I feel fulfilled as a priest, as a Christian, as a human being.