Pope Francis to make Josim Murmu, from a tribal village, a priest
The deacon will be ordained on 1st December along with 15 others. His conversion led his family and village to do the same. Once they were animist, influenced by Hinduism. The flame of Christ burns in him. “I will love my people, the poor, the disabled, Christians, and Muslims,” he said.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Josim Murmu will be the first priest from a tribal village in northern Bangladesh. His example of Christian testimony led to conversion of his family, and then of the entire community of 800 inhabitants.
Josim is one of 16 deacons who will be ordained by Pope Francis on the 1st December, during the pontiff’s pastoral visit to Bangladesh. He met with AsiaNews at the Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Banani district to tell his story.
About 100,000 people are expected to attend the Mass at Suhrawardy Udyan Park. For him, the most important people at the event will be his family, especially his sick father. "He can hardly walk, but he'll come. He can’t miss the most important day of my life," he said.
The deacon, 30, comes from a poor family. His father is a farmer and his mother is a homemaker with seven children (4 boys and 3 girls). His village, Pollibut, comes under the diocese of Dinajpur. Residents were animists influenced by Hinduism.
Speaking about his priestly vocation, he said that his encounter with Christ came in his childhood when he met Fr Gerome, a Franciscan priest.
"One day he came to me and said: 'Josim, let's go and teach those people.' And I went with him. After a while, a desire to be like him was born."
The boy asked the priest how to become a Christian, but the answer surprised him: "First you have to learn."
After a period of preparation and prayers, Josim told his family that he wanted to be baptised. The family surprised him. "They agreed with me, and accepted my decision. They told me that they too wanted to become Christians. So my whole family converted.”
Another peculiar episode in this period was a talk with another priest. "He took me on the side and said, 'Josim, you have a fire burning inside of you. Do not turn it off. The burning fire was Christ."
Afterwards, the young man went to university where he got a Bachelor of Arts degree, which was followed by the decision to enter Dinajpur seminary. "My desire was to become a priest, to teach people, to work for them, to preach the Good News that is God."
His example of life was so powerful, his attitude so fascinating, that within four years the whole tribal village converted and was baptised.
"At first, they did not accept us,” he remembers. “They were against us and did not want to help us. They were different, they had so many Hindu traditions, like worshipping gods and making offerings to them. Although they were poor, they gave what they had.”
“I did not know what to do, so I spoke to my spiritual guide who said to me, 'Do not worry. Live your life, follow your decision to the fullest. They will understand and will gradually change their lives as well."
"Jesus Christ came for me,” the deacon said. “He is my friend, my God, my Creator. When he came into this world, he taught people, preached to people. He gave his life for me. He came to earth and saved me from sin; he died to save me from sin."
After his ordination, Josim plans to follow his example. "I will go and bear witness to Christ and preach the Gospel." But he will not do so stridently.
"Respecting everybody's faith, be they Buddhist or Muslim, I shall bring the Good News and follow the example of Pope Francis to work for people. I shall serve my people in the parish of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Suihari, where I will be the assistant to the parish priest, Fr Gian Battista Zanchi (from PIME). I will love my people, the poor, the disabled, Christians, and Muslims." (ACF)