Fr. Ajit Victor Costa, OMI
On December 21st, after travelling 10 hours by bus, I finally reached the Oblate Parish of St. Paul in Katadanga in the evening. Fr. Rocky Costa, OMI, the Parish Priest, welcomed me, maintaining a ‘healthy distance’. COVID-19 pandemic has constantly been teaching us new lessons. “Stay safe and Keep others safe”. However, I had no other option but to travel by public bus!
“Your room is ready, but please wait for a few more minutes, hot water will be supplied soon for shower”, he instructed me. I saw Dadu, an elderly man, boiling water for me using dry leaves as firewood. After 10 minutes he brought me a bucket of hot water and I had a refreshing shower. Now it is the season of winter in Bangladesh and obviously the need for hot water is inevitable. The poor villagers can hardly have this comfort!
At dinner table, Fr. Rocky gave me the “Daily Mass Schedule” beginning from December 22nd to December 25th. I was supposed to celebrate Christmas Mass in many far away villages belonging to the parish. And a few other important instructions: a Nun or a catechist will accompany me on this journey; a driver will take us to the villages by a vehicle (in fact, a three-wheeler), Mass-kits and Baptismal oils need to be carried as well; cloth yourself with warm cloths; and cover all the villages saying Christmas Mass, administering sacraments, etc.
Already on December 22nd, three days before the Church celebrates the birth of Jesus according to the “Ordo”, we began the “Joyful Christmas Celebration” the birth of ‘Emmanuel’. By December 25th, out of the 32 Catholic villages and 4 catechumen villages, we were able to offer Masses in 24 of them. The rest were not forgotten. According to the plan, the faithful in these villages participated in Christmas Mass in the nearby villages.
The Oblates undertook this Parish in 2009, under Rajshahi Diocese, only with 9 Catholic villages. Over the years, God has blessed us immensely to add new communities, thanks to the missionary zeal of the Oblates. Uraon, Santal and Pahari indigenous people became recipients of the gift of Catholicism. They are the most underprivileged ones who live in the periphery – the new faces of the poor we met. Earlier they followed traditional religions. Catechism, faith-formation, education, health awareness, and socio-economic-cultural development projects are the priorities of the OMI missions in these areas.
The simplicity, hospitality, and the simple but deep faith of these people touched me profoundly. We celebrated Christmas Mass for them either in a home or in a “hut-like” chapel (made out of tin, mud and bamboo). Yet my heart was resonated with “Bethlehemic Joy!” They hope that God will be gracious to grant their prayers to have a good chapel in future through kindhearted benefactors.