Church trains prayer leaders for vital role
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Father Ignatius Bindu Hembrom, the parish priest, described the training as “vital,” for in this remote part of north west Bangladesh, the role of the prayer leader is essential.
There are more than 5,000 tribal Catholics, scattered across 65 villages in the district. Few can afford transport to go regularly to church. Even if they could, Chandpukur is an average of 35km away from the villages and the roads are often impassable.
Only five percent of the local Catholic population is educated and, as the prayer leaders come from the same background, they are no exception; few of them continued their education after fifth grade. But forward-thinking priests like Fr Hembrom realize the immense value of improving the prayer leaders’ knowledge.
“It’s vital to make the prayer leaders efficient,” he said, “because we can only offer Mass twice in a whole year in each village. The prayer leaders can perform a lot of duties in our absence, often double what we can do.”
Fr Hembrom frankly admitted that he and his fellow priests can’t make enough time for their parishioners. As a result, he said, “their bond with the Church is in decline. Young people are becoming reluctant to go to church and social disputes are on the rise. Prayer leaders can do a great job because they are village leaders. They know the people and their problems better than we do.”
Samson Hasdak, a tribal Catholic teacher, agreed.
“Prayer leaders have the skills to lead a village, but they lack in knowledge and technique,” he said. “This training was important because now they can give better encouragement to the faithful, to live a Church-focused Catholic life.”
Haken Kisku, one of the prayer leaders on the course, said that growing social problems along with diminishing connections with local priests are major challenges.
“When they get disconnected from the Church and influenced by superstitions, rural Catholics often go back to their pre-Christian life and follow old customs and traditions which are not in accordance with Church teachings. We have to try hard to change their minds and get them back to Christ,” he said.
Lucas Baskey was another delegate who found the training useful. “It will help me to serve the people better,” he said.
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