Father Dominic Sentu Rozario has spent 37 years teaching and preaching among non-Christians. He has baptized about 2,500 people. (Photo supplied)
A man who was once unaware there were Christians in Bangladesh is a Catholic priest today.
On Dec. 30, he was ordained a priest along with five others at St. Mary’s Cathedral in capital Dhaka.
“When I was 8 years old, I did not know Bangladesh had any Christian people,” newly ordained Father Biswajit Bernard Bormon told UCA News.
However, a local diocesan priest, Father Dominic Sentu Rozario, knew his family and the youngster began to learn about the Catholic faith.
Father Bormon, 32, was baptized by Father Rozario in 2002 and in 2003 he joined Little Flower Minor Seminary of Dhaka Archdiocese.
“I saw father’s life. I also felt God's love and felt he wanted me to become his servant. I’m very lucky and proud to be a Catholic priest. I’m the first priest from our ethnic Koch community, so I give all my gratitude to almighty God,” he said.
Father Bormon likes to work with children and young people. He also likes to work for evangelization and spread the word of God. On Dec. 4, his Hindu parents received their baptism from his hands.
“This day was the most joyful day of my life when my parents received their baptism from me. In my future life, I want to work as a disciple of God and try to work as a servant of God with all dignity, honesty and devotion,” he said.
On Jan. 8, Father Bormon offered his thanksgiving Mass at his home parish’s St. Anthony Church in Shimulia of Gazipur district of central Bangladesh in the presence of Oblate Archbishop Bejoy D’Cruze of Dhaka and his guru, Father Rozario.
About 2,500 Catholics have been baptized by Father Rozario, who has devoted his priestly life to teaching and evangelization. He has worked in areas where there are no Christians, often living with Muslim families.
The 69-year-old priest is one of a handful of local Catholic clergy and religious who took up efforts for evangelization in recent times in a country where the Christian faith grew thanks to great missionary work by European and American missionaries over five centuries.
His decades-long missionary activities are laudable and courageous but risky in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. Its constitution grants equal status to all religions and allows propagation of faith freely, though proselytizing is prohibited.
Islamic radicals have been strongly against evangelization by other faith groups including Christians and there have been sporadic cases of threats and abuses against non-Muslim preachers.
Father Bormon became a priest after benefiting from the teaching of Father Rozario. (Photo supplied)
Father Rozario was born in Savar under Dhaka Archdiocese on Feb. 7, 1952. He was one of 12 children but three died at a young age.
Like Father Bormon, he started his religious training at Little Flower Minor Seminary in Dhaka, joining the institution in 1965. He was ordained a priest on Jan. 4, 1984. He worked as an assistant parish priest before becoming director of Little Flower seminary in 1987. He earned a doctorate in moral theology in 1994 after studying in Rome.
Father Rozario worked as a teacher at Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Dhaka and started his evangelization work by traveling around the area on his tiny 55cc motorbike.
“When I was in the Konabari area around 50 kilometers from Dhaka city, I celebrated Mass with migrants in a Muslim family. Very interestingly, a Muslim woman gave the purpose of Christ as prayer. This incident inspired me to work with migrants and the Koch indigenous people,” Father Rozario recalled.
He started his work from St. Therese of Child Jesus quasi-parish at Faucal in Gazipur district. He offered Mass to migrant Christians and worked with the Koch and Oraon indigenous people.
On Dec. 27, 1997, he baptized five people but sadly one of them died the same day. “I believe he is now in heaven beside almighty God.”
As he moved on, Italian missionaries from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) joined with him in evangelizations and pastoral care for new Christians.
He started working in Sacred Heart Parish in Manikganj district in 1999. He baptized about 80 people in 2000. In 2005, he helped to open a new church building and boys’ hostel.
Father Rozario has faced many challenges in his 37-year priestly journey. He had to leave Sacred Heart Parish in 2015 after being threatened by Islamic fundamentalists. He has also faced financial crises and difficulties in teaching people that changing religion does not mean changing nationality.
“I always try to do evangelization through education. There are no indigenous homes or immigrant Christian homes in the area that I have not visited. That result is six church centers in this area and around 6,000 Catholics,” said Father Rozario, who is now working as a professor at Holy Spirit Major Seminary.
Newly ordained Father Bormon is a successful example of Father Rozario’s preaching.
“I’m proud of Biswajit becoming a priest and another three are in the pipeline. No matter how many people I have baptized, I think I have been able to take the word of Christ to more people and I have succeeded in that task,” Father Rozario said.
“My hope is that the priests will be inspired to preach the good news of the Lord. Many will be hesitant about having to stay in villages with no electricity or place to eat. But I have not eaten much or eaten bread. To be a follower of Jesus, you have to be prepared to live a life like Jesus."