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Catholics mark birth centenary of Bangladesh's first saint candidate

Archbishop Ganguly was known for his humility, modesty and love for the poor

Catholics mark birth centenary of Bangladesh's first saint candidate

Catholics pay their respects to Archbishop T.A. Ganguly during a celebration to mark his birth centenary at Holy Rosary Church in Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Feb. 18. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)

Thousands of Catholics joined special celebrations to mark the birth centenary of Archbishop Theotonius Amal Ganguly of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s first candidate for sainthood.

Three special Masses and memorial services were held at three Catholic churches in Dhaka Archdiocese to pay tribute to Archbishop Ganguly on Feb. 18.

Holy Cross Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka presided over the Mass at Holy Rosary Church, the country’s largest Catholic parish in the central part of capital Dhaka, in the presence of about 1,000 Catholics.

Masses at St. Nicholas of Tolentino Church in Gazipur district and at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Hashnabad of Dhaka district, Ganguly’s birthplace, drew thousands of Catholics as well.

“Reflection on the saintly life and prayerfulness of Archbishop Ganguly can help Dhaka Archdiocese and the Bangladesh Church as a whole to be blessed and to attain a life of holiness. Archbishop Ganguly is an outstanding guiding light and pioneering prelate thanks to his extraordinary knowledge, services and humility during his lifetime,” Cardinal D’Rozario said in his homily.

The process for canonization of Archbishop Ganguly started in 2006 and three church bodies — a diocesan tribunal and two commissions — have worked tirelessly to conduct the necessary probes and provide documents, which were submitted to the Vatican in 2018, he said.

“We are eagerly waiting and praying for the day when Archbishop Ganguly would be declared ‘venerable’ and move toward being declared a saint one day,” Cardinal D’Rozario added.

Earlier, in two separate messages published in the current issue of Pratibeshi, Bangladesh’s sole national Catholic weekly, Cardinal D’Rozario and Father Patrick Simon Gomes, secretary of the local Church’s canonization tribunal, urged Catholics to pray to Archbishop Ganguly and inform parish priests if any of their prayers are fulfilled miraculously to help speed up his canonization process.

Somir Rozario, 25, a Catholic businessman who attended the program at Holy Rosary Church, said he has great respect for the saintly former prelate of Dhaka.

“I have not seen Archbishop Ganguly, like many Catholics of my generation, but whatever I have heard and read made him a great man to me. I pray to him with great respect and I hope he will become a saint one day,” Rozario told UCA News.

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Archbishop Ganguly was not only a man of outstanding knowledge and humility but a great lover of humanity, said Father Theotonius Proshanto Rebeiro, the local Church’s notary for the cause of beatification and canonization of Archbishop Ganguly.

“I was lucky enough to be in touch with Archbishop Ganguly in his lifetime. He was an outstanding personality — a wise but humble man who loved people so much. I have never seen him to be angry about anything or with anyone. People revered him like a saint during his lifetime,” Father Rebeiro, a canon law expert, told UCA News.

A saintly man

T.A. Ganguly was born on Feb. 18, 1920, in a village under Hashnabad Parish of Dhaka.

He was ordained a Holy Cross priest in 1946 and became the first Christian in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to obtain a doctoral degree in 1951.

Father Ganguly taught logic at Holy Cross-run Notre Dame College in Dhaka and in 1960, for a short period, he became the first native priest to hold the post of principal at the prestigious institute.

In 1960, Father Ganguly made history when Pope John XXIII appointed him the first native Bengali auxiliary bishop of Dhaka. He then became coadjutor archbishop of Dhaka in 1965 and led Dhaka Archdiocese as its first native archbishop from 1967 until his death from a heart attack aged 57 on Sept. 2, 1977.

Besides his outstanding academic excellence, Archbishop Ganguly was known for his great personal virtues including humility, modesty and a love for the poor.

He played a pivotal role in empowering the Church, including promotion of lay leadership, youth formation and support of the country’s downtrodden communities, after Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan in 1971.

In 2006, Archbishop Paulinus Costa of Dhaka declared Archbishop Ganguly the country’s first Servant of God, the prelude to the Vatican’s three-stage canonization process by which a candidate may be declared venerable, then proclaimed blessed and, lastly, canonized as a saint.

For candidates who are not martyrs, the Vatican requires a miracle certified as due to their intercession for a venerable candidate to be beatified. A second miracle is then required for canonization.

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