06/15/2023, 11.31
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First priest in Mary's village among 'untouchables'

by Sumon Corraya

In Marianpally, Khulna Bishop Msgr. Boiragi presided over the priestly ordination of Fr. Ruben Biswas of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. A mature fruit of the first evangelization brought 70 years ago among the last people of southern Bangladesh by the Xaverian missionaries.

Khulna (AsiaNews) - June 9 was a historic day for the villagers of Mariapally village in Satkhira, southern Bangladesh. For the first time in its history, in fact, the local Christian community saw one of its own sons become a priest.

Presiding over the priestly ordination of Fr. Ruben Robel Biswas, a religious of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, in front of an assembly of 800 people was Khulna Bishop Msgr. James Romen Boiragi.

"Today I am very happy because we have the first priest from our village. I hope many more boys and girls will join religious life seeing Fr. Ruben's example," said Marcus Sardar, a Mariapally villager.

Fr. Biswas told AsiaNews that their village has 550 Catholics in 115 households. More than 70 years ago, Italian Xaverian missionaries-present in the region since 1895-first brought the Gospel to the village among the Horijon, the so-called "untouchables" in the caste system.

The people of Mariapally are farmers, day laborers, barbers and shoemakers; only 20 percent of the people are educated: it was with the arrival of the missionaries that the work of literacy began.

Fr. Biswas-who is 36 years old and the son of an electrician and a housewife-told of owing much to the testimony of Italian priests who supported his studies. In particular, he cited the figure of Fr. Marino Rigon, who contributed to the socio-economic development of Khulna Diocese and Mariapally and was also awarded the honor of "Friend of the Liberation War" in Bangladesh.

He added that he was inspired to vocation to the priesthood by the figure of Bishop Michael A. D'Rozario: "He used to visit our homes. Seeing his holy lifestyle, I entered the seminary," he recalled.

Before 2003, the name of the village was Putimari. "It was the Xaverian missionaries who renamed it Mariapally, which means Mary's village. They encouraged us to pray through Our Lady who will save us from all dangers," Fr. Biswas explained. Now all the villagers are Catholic.

"The Xaverian priests planted the seed of the good news and today we got the fruits," commented Pieal Biswas, elder brother of the new priest.

Fr. Ruben will now minister in Pirgacha Parish of Mymensing Diocese as an assistant pastor. "God chose Jeremiah to speak," Msgr. Boiragi told him in the homily. "You too now have faith in Him, and He will speak to people with your life, your mouth and your heart, inspiring you to work among people.

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