Celebrating 50 Years in Bangladesh

With grateful hearts and praising God, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate of Bangladesh are celebrating 50 years of missionary presence in the country.

The Golden Jubilee year of the Missionary Oblate presence in Bangladesh was inaugurated in July during a visit from the newly elected Superior General of the Oblates, Fr. Luis Ignacio Rois Alonso, OMI.

In his message to the members of the delegation, Fr. Luis invited them, in the words of Pope Francis, “to look at the past with gratitude, the present with passion, and to embrace the future with hope.”

The Past with Gratitude

The Missionary Oblates arrived in Bangladesh in 1973 when it was popular for congregations to send missionaries to foreign countries. Most of the early Missionary Oblates in Bangladesh ministered in remote mountain villages where they were the only priests to assist the local Catholic

One of the initial tasks of the Missionary Oblates was also to teach at the major seminary and to train the local clergy, combined with pastoral care for English-speaking members in local parishes.

In addition to providing for the spiritual needs for the Catholics in the country, the Missionary Oblates focused much attention on education. They opened dozens of grade schools in rural villages that served children of all faiths. Youth hostels run by the Missionary Oblates allow nearly
1,000 young people to attend nearby high schools.

Archbishop Bejoy D’Cruze, OMI, of the Archdiocese of Dhaka, said the pioneering missionaries dedicated their lives to the humble service of the poor and underprivileged indigenous people in Bangladesh. The Missionary Oblates have also been very close to the people, nourishing their
faith, building communities and helping them live as humans.

The Present with Passion

The Missionary Oblates currently serve at eight parishes in four dioceses in Bangladesh. There are 28 Missionary Oblate priests ministering in the county, along with one archbishop and two seminarians. The Missionary Oblates have a significant presence among the Catholic population.

In addition to parish work, the Missionary Oblates also run two high schools, about 40 elementary schools and two seminaries.

“We Christians are a minority in Bangladesh, but we have a big influence on society because we are very active and we do a lot,” said Fr. Pinto Louis Costa, OMI. “We have been especially active in the healthcare system and in education.”

The Future with Hope

To mark their Golden Jubilee of presence in Bangladesh, the Missionary Oblates took on a new parish last year, St. Eugene’s Catholic Church in Lokhonpur, in the Diocese of Rajshahi. The parish serves an area of about 1,500 Catholics who otherwise would not have any access to a local Catholic church.

One of the main hardships for the Missionary Oblates in Bangladesh today is finding the funds to continue their ministries. Donations from friends abroad have helped to alleviate some of this shortfall.

Father Herat Mondol, OMI, is the first Missionary Oblate from Bangladesh to study for the priesthood in the United States. He studied at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, thanks to a scholarship provided by generous benefactors.

“We are a poor Church with poor priests and a poor bishop,” said Bishop D’Cruze. “So, it is a great help for us when we receive donations from people in the United States who want to help us continue our mission.”