Candle-lit rosary procession marks pilgrimage
Thousands take part in a candle-lit rosary prayer at popular Marian shrine in Diang, Chittagong
Dipali Rozario's Marian pilgrimage took her more than 500 km across country, from Natore in the north west to the Lady of Fatima shrine at Diang, near the southern port city of Chittagong. The trip was by no means easy for her, especially with two children, but she had excellent reasons for making the effort. “I remember the days when a disease almost paralyzed the left side of my body,” she said. “Also, my husband had serious spinal pain and my son was sick and bedridden. All those illnesses were very serious, but we came through them every time because we prayed to Mother Mary. “Now I’ve come to pray before Mother Mary again for the well-being of my husband and kids and for happiness and peace in the family.” This was her first time here; Andrew Gomes had made the pilgrimage 10 times. “In 1991, my son was badly injured in a road accident and almost everyone lost hope for his recovery," he said. "Then I cried out to Mother Mary. “It took more than three years for him to get better and we believe Mary blessed us in abundance to make it happen.” Rozario and Gomes were among 4,000 people - Christians and non-Christians alike - from all parts of the country who came to the shrine for the annual pilgrimage on February 9-10. This year's event, which was the 37th, included Eucharistic celebrations, a traditional candle-lit rosary procession around the hilly Diang roads, a healing prayer service and the sacrament of reconciliation (confession). For those who wished to attend, there were also seminars on the inspirational presence of Mary in the family and in small Christian communities, as well as a presentation and discussion of a three-year pastoral plan for the Bangladesh Church. The purpose of the pilgrimage was summed up by Holy Cross auxiliary Bishop Lawrence Subrato Howlader of Chittagong. “God wants to see His own image in us,” he said, “and Mary inspires us all to fulfill His will through our life and work, as she did.” The pilgrimage’s main Mass was celebrated by Holy Cross Bishop Moses M. Costa of Chittagong. He told the congregation: “We need to remember that we are pilgrims in this world, our temporary abode. Mary, Mother of God inspires us to be good pilgrims with her virtues of faithfulness, purity and obedience.” One of the oldest Catholic settlements in Bangladesh, Diang is steeped in history. Portuguese Catholics settled there in the 16th century and the early Portuguese missioners, Jesuit Father Francesco Fernandez and Father Andre Boves, set up the first church there in 1600. The area was attacked by marauders from neighboring Arakan in 1602. They burnt down the church and jailed, tortured and killed Fr Fernandez, along with 600 Catholics. Perhaps inspired by the Jesuit’s example, Canadian Holy Cross missioner Brother Flavian Laplante arrived in the 1940s and launched an ambitious program for the local fishermen and refugees. He set up an orphanage, a health center, a number of schools, a fishing assistance center and a sewing center. He also established the Marian grotto and opened a monastery, where he spent the rest of his days until his death in 1981. In 2009 Holy Cross Bishop Patrick D’Rozario declared Brother Laplante a Servant of God, the first step towards sainthood. Related Reports: Popular Marian shrine opens new church
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