Mymensingh bids farewell to Fr Rabanal who taught the Garo how to grow rice
The Philippine Holy Cross missionary came to what was then East Pakistan as an agriculturalist. He later discovered his priestly vocation. For Bishop Ponen Paul Kubi, “He loved the Garo and the Garo loved him.”
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Fr Alejandro R. Rabanal, a Holy Cross missionary originally from the Philippines, passed away on Sunday at the age of 88.
For many years, he preached the message of God among Garo communities, while contributing to the development of local rice farming.
Alejandro R. Rabanal arrived in 1958 to work as an agriculturalist in what was then East Pakistan. He later discovered a religious vocation and entered the seminary of the Holy Cross
He was ordained on 18 January 1988 at the age of 54 in Jalchatra, Tangail district, in the Diocese of Mymensingh.
"People still remember him for his great contribution,” said Fr Lawrence Reberio, parish priest in Jalchatra, who was at the funeral service led by Bishop Ponen Paul Kubi of Mymensingh, also a Holy Cross missionary.
Fr Rabanal spent his life as a priest in various parishes in the diocese, among the Garo, an indigenous ethnic group, many of whom still do not know the Gospel.
He led “such a simple life that it still leaves me speechless,” said John Gomes, a Catholic in Mariamnagar.
“His prayerful and simple lifestyle was exemplary for other priests,” explained Bishop Ponen Paul Kubi. “He was a real missionary.”
“He loved the Garo and the Garo loved him,” the bishop added. “He learnt their languages and culture. He entered their hearts. He was lovingly called achu, which means ‘grandfather’.”
Thanks to his incessant pastoral work, Diglakona today is a lively parish and new members have joined the community in Sherpur district.
Friend of the farmers, in a country where 80 per cent of the population earns a living from agriculture, Fr Alejandro introduced new rice growing methods, making a fundamental contribution to the sector.
“Once people in Madhupur did not grow rice but Fr Alejandro encouraged them to do so,” said Fr Lawrence Reberio. “Today farmers still produce it aplenty.”
“We have changed our socio-economic situation thanks to paddy farming. We are grateful to Fr Alejandro,” noted Premsog, a Garo farmer in Jalchatra.
Many Garo attended the missionary’s funeral as did many Catholic clergy and lay people, remembering him “always with smiling face”.
He was laid to rest at the Holy Cross missionary cemetery in Gazipur, near Dhaka.