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Catholics honor priest who went the extra mile

Looking after vulnerable people in a vulnerable place

Fr. Philip Sujit Sarker Fr. Philip Sujit Sarker
  • Shakhi Halder, Bagerhat
  • Bangladesh
  • August 30, 2011
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When Father Philip Sujit Sarker died of cancer four years ago, at the age of 50, Catholics throughout the Khulna diocese were shattered. He had served them for 23 years and was widely considered to be one of the most benevolent and compassionate priests they had known.

The loss was most keenly felt in the Shelabunia parish, for this was where he was born in 1957 and ordained in 1984, the first priest to come from that area.

Determined to keep his memory alive, the villagers of Shelabunia clubbed together and raised the funds to start the Fr Sujit mini football tournament in 2008. It is now a highlight of the diocese calendar, with up to 12 teams participating each year.

Fr Sujit had a reputation for going the extra mile for his parishioners and there was plenty of scope for his kindness. Located on the Bay of Bengal coast, Shelabunia is one of the most vulnerable places in the country; as such it is no stranger to natural disasters like cyclones and floods.

Its inhabitants, who are mostly poor and needy, have countless tales to tell of Fr Sujit’s help.

“When I couldn’t pay for my school final exams, Fr Sujit helped me with the money,” said 32-year-old Swapan Sarker. “Since then, whenever I needed educational help, he would always give me a hand. Many students like me got support from him, to pay for school and boarding expenses.”

“He was especially compassionate towards disabled people,” said Sonjoy Dutta. “I’ve no feeling in my limbs and I’ve suffered a lot as I can’t move. Fr Sujit realized my suffering and managed to find a wheelchair for me.”

Fr James Romen Boiragi, the diocesan vicar general, spoke in glowing terms about the wide range of his late colleague’s activities.

“He realized that poor boys and girls have problems finding accommodation here, so he set up hostels. He was the first to launch a project for disabled people, to help them become more accepted by society. And he collected foreign funds to support the poor people,” he said.

Christian Mukul Sarker, a housewife, summed up the feelings of many when she said  “for the great things he did for us, Fr Sujit will live forever in our midst.”

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