Fr. Ajit Victor Costa, OMI
“She stood behind Jesus at his feet, crying. She began to wash his feet with her tears, and she dried them with her hair, kissing them many times and rubbing them with the perfume” (Luke 7:37-38).
On March 8, 2021, while conversing with Jugen Kisku, I found the tears of joy in his eyes. Because on that day, Jugen and fifty three other villagers of Shahabajpur, a village under St. Paul’s Parish, Rajshahi Diocese, received the Sacrament of Baptism and became Catholic. Among them, 35 received the Sacrament of Confirmation and marriages of 18 couples were rectified. These new followers of Jesus, belong to “Santal” ethnic or indigenous group.
Jugen is the present “Manjiharam” (Leader) of the village. As a lad, he was blessed to receive the primary school education in a Catholic Boarding School, run by the PIME Fathers (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions). Fr. Emili, PIME, was the Parish Priest and In-Charge of the boarding. In the boarding school, he was never asked to change his traditional faith, the ancestral belief system, with which he grew up. But Jugen was immensely impressed by the simple life-style, generosity, kindness, affection, prayerfulness, tenderness, and loving heart of Fr. Emili. Many years later, after having raised a family and being blessed with two daughters and a son, he began to dream of becoming a Catholic.
In 2017, Fr. Ranjit Costa, OMI, was instrumental in helping his eldest daughter to get married to a Catholic boy. He prepared her for the Sacrament of Baptism, and solemnized their marriage before a large crowd at Shahabajpur village. They witnessed the beauty of Christian marriage and many of them expressed their desire to become Christians. Sr. Lila and catechist Promila, began catechizing them. When Fr. Rocky Costa, OMI, took over from Fr. Ranjit as the Parish Priest, he continued the project, in the midst of COVID-19.
The final outcome of the efforts of all them was that on March 08, 2021, the villagers of Shahabajpur received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage and the Eucharist. In the presence of Most Rev. Gervas Rozario, Bishop of Rajshahi Diocese, Fr. Ajit Costa, OMI (Delegation Superior), Fr. Rocky Costa, OMI (Parish Priest), Fr. Lintu Areng, OMI (Asst. Parish Priest), some religious nuns and a few invitees from other Catholic villages witnessed the special event.
Like St. Joseph, Jugen as a lad, once dreamed to welcome Jesus in his heart. In the year of St. Joseph his long cherished dream has now been fulfilled. The entire village welcomed Jesus with ‘tears of joy’, upon reception of Sacraments.
In 2009, Oblates undertook St. Paul’s Parish, an indigenous Parish, with only 9 villages. Thanks to the robust evangelization of the Oblates among Santal, Uraon, and Pahari communities, today the parish serves 33 villages. Several other small villages are also following the course of catechumenate. Every year one or two indigenous villages become Catholics. The farthest village is 35 kilometers away from the centre.
Since there are no constructed churches in most of these villages, the Oblates often use the house of the village leader for Eucharistic Celebration and prayer services. Villagers dream to have a small village church of their own for worship. They trust in God’s Providence.