ASIA/BANGLADESH – New vocations among the Brothers of the Holy Cross

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Dhaka – “When I entered the formation house to be a religious, I felt I had arrived in the right place at the right time. Here I can be a witness of Jesus Christ as a brother by putting my talents at the service. In this consecrated life I discover full happiness”, said Brother Immanuel Raphael Gomes, who entered the Congregation of the Brothers of the Holy Cross in Sagardi, near Barisal. With him 14 other young people took their first vows. Among them six are religious brothers and nine intend to pursue studies towards priesthood. 22-year-old Brother Immanuel Raphael shares with Fides the testimony on how he discovered his vocation: “My father was a cook in the house of the Brothers of the Holy Cross. I studied at their school. Their holy life, their style of teaching attracted me a lot. My parents and siblings also encouraged me. This is how I will spend the rest of my life: serving to preach the Good News of God”.
Brother Immanuel is from the parish of Diang, of the Archdiocese of Chattogram, and is the first religious in his parish. The parish has two nuns and does not currently have a resident priest. The Congregation in Bangladesh runs two rehabilitation centers for drug addicts, and Immanuel is keen to serve in one of the centers that help young people quit drugs.
Among the 15, Brother Abraham Dopho, a Garo tribal from the parish of Pirgacha in the diocese of Mymensingh, tells Fides that he was attracted to religious life by observing the life of other Brothers of the Holy Cross. “When I was a student, I met some Brothers of the Holy Cross. I noticed their pastoral work, their good and kind work, the holy lifestyle, the style of teaching that attracted me. Today, as a brother, I can work for Jesus Christ”. He says he wants to work for the needy, according to their mission: “We are called to be educators of faith and to bear witness to the option for the poor. Jesus Christ taught and preached. I will listen to those in need and try to show them the compassion of Christ. Jesus will use my talents for His work. I am totally dependent on Jesus Christ in my life”, explained young brother Abraham Dopho, 21, who will in the future work as a teacher at the school. His parents once forbade him from joining religious life.
“My father did not know much of the Brothers, but when he met them he encouraged me and now he is proud of me”.
The Director of Formation of the Brothers of the Holy Cross of the country, Brother Tapon Lawrence Serao, told Fides that the congregation has a flowering of vocations to religious life in Bangladesh. “We have 66 aspirants in different formation houses. Every year we welcome five religious brothers on average. We are working in the field of education, in drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation centers, on a pastoral level we are present in parishes and in various Episcopal Commissions. With our lifestyle and Christian values we preach and bear witness to God’s message in this country, which is 90% Muslim”, he says.
The Congregation is rooted in Bangladesh: 119 Brothers of the Holy Cross are involved in eight dioceses, and Brothers from Bangladesh have been sent to Canada as missionaries. The religious run two rehabilitation and treatment centers for drug addicts, 28 between schools and colleges.
The religious institute, which has also founded a Catholic university, intends to found sections of university faculties in remote areas, or so that needy young people can easily follow their teachings. Brother Tapon Lawrence Serao explains: “We have extended our ministry of education to remote areas. We deal with educational institutions attended by 27,350 students. In our boarding school there are 485 students”.
Notre Dame College in Dhaka, established in 1949, is the country’s leading college and institution of upper secondary education. The excellence of the college’s education prompted the government and the Church in Bangladesh to submit a request to the Congregation to establish a university and so the University of Notre Dame held its first lectures on December 7, 2014. The Brothers are known for the quality of educational institutions and many professionals, public figures, parliamentarians are former students of their schools.
In 1851, it was the Congregation of “Propaganda Fide” that asked Blessed Basile Moreau, a French priest, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, if the congregation could assume responsibility for the mission of the Church in East Bengal. Moreau accepted. Since then the Brothers have a long history of pastoral service, defense of the dignity and rights of the poor. In Bangladesh the Servant of God, Brother Flavian Laplante CSC, embodies the commitment of the congregation. Agenzia Fides, 29/10/2021)