Bangladeshi deacons to be ordained by Pope Francis on Dec. 1

They hope his blessing will boost their priestly life and encourage local religious vocation
Bangladeshi deacons to be ordained by Pope Francis on Dec. 1

Bangladeshi deacons to be ordained by Pope Francis on Dec. 1 pose for a photo at Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Dhaka (Photo courtesy: Holy Spirit Major Seminary)


Until grade ten in school, Vincent Kanak Gomes didn’t know what his life’s calling would be.

Then the local parish priest took notice of the humble and shy boy who attended weekday Mass, served at the altar and read the Bible at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Dhaka Archdiocese.

"One day, the priest called my mother and insisted she send me to seminary to become a priest," Gomes recalls.

Gomes entered a diocesan seminary in Dhaka, beginning his journey to priesthood.

"After entering the seminary I realized God had called me to become a priest to serve people," Gomes, now 31, says.

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After more than a decade of academic studies and religious formation, Gomes, a deacon, is close to the greatest day of his life — ordination by Pope Francis at an open-air mass in Dhaka on Dec. 1.

The pontiff will ordain 16 deacons to the priesthood at the papal mass in Suhrawardy Udyan Park in central Dhaka—10 diocesan, five from the Holy Cross congregation and one from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation.

For Gourob G. Pathang, 34, a candidate from the Holy Cross, the largest religious congregation in Bangladesh, hopes of a religious vocation came at an early age.

"My father is a catechist and as a child I joined him in prayer services," Pathang, a Garo indigenous Catholic from St. Teresa’ Church in Mymensingh Diocese, told

Pathang says as a priest he wants to work for young people and fight for social justice.

"The Church does lots of things for people including education, health and development, but sometimes it fails to take a strong stance on justice issues when people are oppressed," he adds.

"Standing up for truth and justice is not easy, but I will make it a motto of my priestly life."  

Preparation for the big day

The deacons have completed six-years studying theology, spirituality and psychology at Holy Spirit National Major Seminary in Dhaka, which is affiliated with the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome.

Deacon Rinku Cizar Costa, 32, from Rajshahi Diocese, told that it would be a great privilege to have the blessing of Pope Francis.

Preparations for the big day have included a retreat in silence as well as spiritual and personal counseling, according to Father Emmanuel Kanon Rozario, rector of Holy Spirit Seminary.

"It’s a matter of great joy and privilege for the deacons and the church that the pope, the Vicar of Christ in the world, will ordain them," Father Rozario says.

A shifting of religious vocation

In Bangladesh, Catholics are minuscule in number compared to majority Muslims.

There are an estimated 375,000 Catholic faithful spread across eight dioceses, half from the majority Bengali ethnic group and the rest from indigenous communities.

In recent decades, religious vocations have declined in Bengali communities and surged in indigenous areas.

As more people obtained work in the Persian Gulf countries, Europe and America, they became wealthier and their families got smaller.

This proved to be a blow to the taking up of religious vocations, despite people still being largely religious-minded.  

As a result, religious vocation has shifted to indigenous dominated dioceses such as Pathang’s ethnic Garo dominated Mymensingh.

"This year we will have 16 new priests, which is remarkable," Father Rozario says enthusiastically.

The intention was to produce priests who could serve not only Christians but also other poor and marginalized communities.

On average, 10 to 15 new priests are ordained in Bangladesh each year.     

Memories of ordination by Pope John Paul II

Father Tapan C. De Rozario was among 18 deacons ordained to the priesthood by Pope John Paul II when he visited Bangladesh on Nov. 19, 1986.

"He is now a saint in the church and I feel proud to tell myself that a saint ordained me!" said Father Rozario, chairman of the World Religion and Culture Department at Dhaka University.

"After the ordination, the pope touched my cheek with his cheek and I greeted him by saying, "Peace be with you." 

#popeheartofasia #PopeFrancis

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