Recently, the Catholics of Bangladesh have had reason to rejoice on two separate occasions. First in November of 2016, when their Archbishop Patrick D‘Rosario of Dhaka was made a cardinal – the first ever in his country. It was a great moment for many people in Bangladesh, not only locals Catholics. Then, in 2017, there was a still more amazing piece of news, when Pope Francis announced that he would be visiting this country in Southeast Asia from November 30 to December 2nd.
Catholics make up a tiny minority – 0.2% – of the total population of Bangladesh, among an overwhelming Muslim majority of 89%. Yet the Church is very active and the faith of the Catholics is very strong.
There are close to 80,000 Catholics living in the Diocese of Mymensingh, a city around 75 miles to the north of the capital Dhaka. Like everywhere else in Bangladesh, the Catholic faithful belong overwhelmingly to the ethnic minorities, making them minorities in a double sense – both as Christians and as an ethnic group.
The Catholic faith arrived in the region only 125 years ago, and most of the people who were baptized formerly adhered to traditional tribal religions. The good News of Christ has now deeply penetrated their lives, and they live their faith with great intensity. For them, the Church has now become their true home.
The people have a particularly strong devotion to Our Lady, the Mother of God. The first bishop of the diocese, which was founded in 1987, helped to encourage this devotion by establishing an annual pilgrimage to Baromari Mission, in the hills to the north, which proved immensely popular right from the start.
Today, the shrine has a large statue of Our Lady of Fatima, a Way of the Cross, and a house for the two priests who work there and lodgings for the pilgrims. By now the shrine has become so popular that up to 25,000 people sometimes gather there. There is also a pilgrimage especially for the disabled, for whom the opportunity to make such a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Fatima is an immense blessing. It also attracts not only Catholics, but even Muslims and Hindus.
There is one problem, in that the shrine does not have a proper church, but simply an area where the pilgrims gather for Holy Mass and other prayers in the open air, with no more than a makeshift shelter to protect them from the heavy rain or burning sun.
Bishop Paul Ponen Kuni of Mymensing has turned to ACN for help to fulfil his own dearest wish and that of his faithful, to finally have a proper church in Baromari. We are hoping to help with a contribution of $53,200.
Will you give to help Bishop Kuni building a church for the Shrine of Our Lady in Bangladesh? We are sure he will remember you in his grateful prayers.
Aid to the Church in Need commits to invest your funds where they will have the greatest impact for the Church that we serve. Funds donated to Aid to the Church in Need’s projects will be used towards the greatest need in our programs to help keep the Faith alive.