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Bangladeshi Catholic educator dies after recovery from Covid-19

People of all faiths mourn passing of Holy Cross Brother Robi Theodore Purification

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Bangladeshi Catholic educator dies after recovery from Covid-19

Holy Cross Brother Robi Theodore Purification, 61, a prominent Catholic educator in Bangladesh, died on Oct. 6 following his apparent recovery from Covid-19. (Photo: Facebook)

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People in Bangladesh are mourning a prominent Catholic religious brother and educator who died days after his apparent recovery from Covid-19.

Holy Cross Brother Robi Theodore Purification, principal of St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School and College, a renowned church-run institute in Dhaka, passed away at a city hospital on Oct. 6. He was 61.

Brother Purification was hospitalized last month following days of illness including fever and tested positive for Covid-19. He had also been suffering from kidney and pancreatic complications.

Brother Chandan Benedict Rozario, vice-principal of the institute, said Brother Purification's death was extremely shocking as he had recovered from Covid-19 and was scheduled to be released from Ajgar Ali Hospital on Oct. 5.

His health deteriorated suddenly due to pancreatic inflammation on the day of his release and he was put on life support in the intensive care unit of the hospital.

“We will observe a mourning day tomorrow [Oct. 7] in honor of our principal,” Brother Rozario said in a notice to teachers, staff, guardians and students on Oct. 6.

Brother Purification was a well-known teacher, head, educationist and administrator of leading church-run and Holy Cross congregation-managed education institutes in Bangladesh.

He will be buried at the Christian Cemetery in Dhaka on Oct. 7 following public viewings of his remains in his home village, two schools he headed in Dhaka and a funeral Mass.

Teacher, administrator and educationist

Robi Purification was born on May 2, 1959, in Tiria village under St. Nicholas of Tolentino Church in Nagari in Gazipur district.

He entered religious formation life to become a Holy Cross brother in 1978 and professed his first and final vows in the congregation in 1980 and 1986 respectively.

Following his graduation in 1983, he completed a diploma in education and master's degree in education from the Institute of Education and Research of Dhaka University in 1986 and 1987 respectively. He obtained a master’s of science degree in administration from Notre Dame University, Indiana, US, in 2000.

He was an assistant teacher at St. Nicholas High School of Nagari, his alma mater, in 1980 and from 1983-86. He served as headmaster of prominent Bandura Holy Cross High School in the Nababganj area of Dhaka from 1989-95.

From 1995 to 2012, Brother Purification led St. Gregory’s High School as the headmaster and was credited with modernizing and advancing the century-old institute in the old part of Dhaka during his tenure.

From 2012 until his death, Brother Purification was principal of St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School and College in the Mohammadpur area of the capital.

He was the founding principal of St. Joseph International School, an English medium institute, from 2017.

He also served as councilor and secretary of Holy Cross brothers in Bangladesh and a governing body member of church-run Notre Dame College in Dhaka for years.

He was director of the church-run Bangladesh Rehabilitation and Assistance Center for Addicts from 2004 and became the executive director of Holy Cross-run Addiction Rehabilitation Residence this year.    

Tributes pour in

The sudden death of Brother Purification saddened his confreres, Christians and non-Christians at home and abroad.

Holy Cross Brother Romeo Paul Rozario termed him an “excellent educator and administrator.”

“He was a soft-spoken but competent and confident administrator. He prioritized proper financial management, communication and guidance for teachers and staff. He spoke a little and listened to all before taking a decision. His sudden death is a blow to the congregation and education sector in the country,” said Brother Rozario, assistant headmaster of Miriam Ashram High School in Diang in Chittagong.

“The death of Brother Robi is a great loss for the Holy Cross congregation in Bangladesh, especially for the Catholic education sector. We have lost a brilliant teacher, educator and administrator,” said Sentu B. Gomes, a Bangladeshi Catholic now based in Canada.

Chanchal Chowdhury, a prominent actor, expressed shock over the death in a long post on Facebook.

“For five or six years, I have known Brother Robi Purification. He was a hospitable man with an amazingly great personality. I have discussed with him many things including education, arts, culture and humanity. News of his death sounded incredible and I was stunned,” wrote Chowdhury, a Hindu, whose son is a fourth grader in the school.

“May thousands of children take up the path of enlightenment that you have shown them.” 

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