Thousands throng to Marian shrine for favors
’Miraculous’ statue popular among Christians and Muslims
Many of them come to give thanks for answered prayers or to intercede with the Blessed Mother to ask for favors.
“I suffered from a mental illness. My family and I prayed to Mother Mary and got well. So I came to thank her,” said Shefali Soren, a tribal Santal Catholic.
Forty-year-old Soren brought with her a sheep as manot (a thanksgiving gift) to offer to the Blessed Mother.
He was among 7,000 people who flocked to the Mary, Mother of Salvation Shrine at Nobai Bot-tala village of Andharkota parish in Rajshahi diocese on Jan. 16 for the annual pilgrimage.
Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi said people come to pray and present gifts at the Marian shrine.
“After several years of marriage I failed to conceive and was very disappointed. In 2009 I came to this shrine and prayed to Mary for a child. It really worked and I gave birth to a baby daughter,” said Shamima Akhter Sima. The Muslim woman claimed that she conceived through the intercession of Mary.
“I am now very happy with family life. With my husband and child, we came to thank Mary for her blessings," she said.
Carlos Marandi, 67, a tribal Santal Catholic, recounted the popularity of the Marian shrine.
He said many people fled from their villages and took refuge at the Church during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war.
“When the invading Pakistan army pointed guns at us…we began to pray to Mother Mary. Miraculously, the army didn’t shoot (us) even though they set villagers’ homes on fire,” he said.
Since then, local Catholics have been celebrating the annual pilgrimage of Mary as a way of expressing their gratitude to Mother Mary for saving their lives.
“We remember the great escape by celebrating the annual pilgrimage just one month after the victory day of Bangladesh on Dec. 16,” said Father William Murmu, the parish priest.
In 2004, the Bishop of Rajshahi declared the Marian shrine as his diocese’s major shrine. After hearing about the miraculously favors, the shrine attracted more and more people.
The number of devotees this year exceeded our limit capacity for receiving 6,000 people, said Bishop Grevas Rozario of Rajshahi.
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