Ethnic indigenous Catholics after a program honoring the elderly on the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly at Corpus Christi Church in Mymensingh Diocese of Bangladesh on July 25. (Photo courtesy of Father Donel Stephen Cruze, CSC)
Catholics in Bangladesh attended Mass and social programs as they celebrated the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly by honoring elderly Catholics in parishes on July 25.
Despite strict lockdowns amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic, Catholics joined Sunday Masses in parishes in eight dioceses where bishops and priests delivered special sermons calling on the faithful to love and care for the elderly, church sources said.
“I pray for the grandparents and elderly people. I have gained lots of courage and encouragement to forward in my life. The elderly people are our assets. So, in response to the pope's call, we should take care of the elderly and grandparents and extending our helping hands to them,” Oblate Archbishop Bejoy N. D’Cruze of Dhaka said in his homily on July 25.
The Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral in Dhaka was broadcast live from the Facebook page of Weekly Pratibeshi, the national Catholic weekly of Bangladesh.
Weekly Pratibeshi also published a special message, based on the pope’s appeal, from Holy Cross Bishop Ponen Paul Kubi of Mymensingh, the secretary-general of Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) and chairman of its Commission on Family Life.
The message was circulated across Catholic parishes in the country.
While visiting villages, I have found many elderly people lying alone and neglected. There is no one to take care of them
In a gesture of honor, Catholics greeted elderly Catholics with flowers and washed their feet before and after the Mass.
Father Patrick Gomes, parish priest of St. Anthony’s Church in Rajshahi Diocese in northern Bangladesh, said about 100 elderly and young Catholics attended a special program after the Mass.
“The elderly people entered the church with a procession before the Mass. During the program, young Catholics greeted them with flowers. Some elderly people shared about how they felt after being honored by the young on the day,” Father Gomes told UCA News.
At the end of the program, participants enjoyed snacks including cakes and soft drinks together.
Father Gomes lamented that elderly people are not respected and cared for in families and society like they were in the past.
“Many elderly people live a lonely life and no one wants to be on their side. While visiting villages, I have found many elderly people lying alone and neglected. There is no one to take care of them,” the priest said.
“The pope thinks about elderly people and the Church also cares for them. In fact, elderly people in the parish were very happy to know that a day has been set for them by the Church. This day should remind the young that elderly people should be loved and given due respect.”
In Corpus Christi Church of Mymensingh Diocese in northeast Bangladesh, elderly ethnic indigenous Catholics were honored.
“We celebrated the day on a small scale due to the lockdown. Some elderly and young Catholics came to the church. The grandparents were greeted with flowers and their feet were washed. We also gifted them religious pictures with Jesus and Mother Teresa. Some of them shared about their life and feelings on the day,” Holy Cross Father Robert Nokrek, assistant parish priest, told UCA News.
I felt very happy since I came to know from my grandson that the pope has fixed a day for elderly people like me
A 59-year-old Catholic from St. Rita’s Church in Rajshahi Diocese said that he is neglected by his five sons.
“I felt very happy since I came to know from my grandson that the pope has fixed a day for elderly people like me. Sadly, four of out my five sons live in different places and the one who lives here doesn't care for me enough, though I get three meals a day. He is mostly busy with his own family,” he told UCA News, requesting anonymity.
Pope Francis announced the World Day for Grandparents and Elderly during his Sunday Angelus address on Jan. 31. The pope said the day will be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday of July to coincide with the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, Jesus' grandparents.
The first celebration of this day was on July 25 with the theme “I am with you always” (Mt. 28:20).
According to the Social Welfare Ministry of Bangladesh, more than 10 million elderly people are in a population of more than 160 million and their number is increasing by 4.41 percent every year.