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Catholic Church, Bongaon (WB) Celebrates Platinum Jubilee

By Fr. IC Jacob, SDB
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Kolkata, Mar. 20. Catholic Church, Bongaon in West Bengal, celebrated its Platinum Jubilee on March 17, 2013 almost coinciding with the Solemnity of its patron St. Joseph.  The presence of two Bishops in a remote village augmented the joy and excitement of the participants. A large number of faithful, who once belonged to the then parish Bongaon, came from Monsada and Thakurnagar to be part of a very simple and meaningful function organized by Fr. VL Paul the Parish Priest and his team.
Unlike other Sundays, the church bells pealed out jubilee tidings as the flock began to arrive by mini trucks.  By 9.00 AM the church was packed to capacity.  Rt. Rev. Thomas D'Souza the Archbishop of Kolkata, flanked by Rt. Rev. Joseph Gomes the Bishop of Krishnagar and 25 priests moved in procession towards the church, led by the bearers of Papal and National Flags. The Ministers walked over flower petals spread over the aisle leading to the altar. The Celebrants were ushered in by a dance troupe.

After the initial welcome rites, the Archbishop complimented and thanked all the priests who worked in Bongaon Parish and the faithful who gave a collective witness to the Gospel during the past 75 years.  He acknowledged the services of the numerous Catechists and Apostolic Carmel Sisters. The well participated Eucharist with the local choir taking an active part, came to an end at 10.30 AM.

After the Eucharist, the newly erected bust of Mr. Chandrakanta Basak, the Catechist who first sowed the seeds of Christianity at Bongaon, was inaugurated, blessed and garlanded by Archbishop Thomas.

At 11 AM, after the light refreshments, an entertainment programme compered by Mr. Opurbo Halder, was held in the church grounds.  After the welcome address by Fr. VL Paul, the Jubilee lamps were lit by Archbishop Thomas, Bishop Joseph, Fr. VL Paul, Sr. Lancia AC superior of Anjali Novitiate House, Barrackpore and Mr. Sukumar Basak the Principal of Petrapole Simanta Model School the grandson of Mr. Chandrakanta Basak.

Bishop Joseph Gomes recalled the days he ministered as a priest at Bongaon. Fr. Joe D'Souza now at Ambikapur in Chattisgarh who ministered as Parish Priest at Bongaon, was overjoyed to see the phenomenal growth of the Church over the years.

The Jubilee Magazine was released by Archbishop Thomas D'Souza and the first copy was presented to Fr. Ashis Das, SDB the first and only priest from Bongaon parish. The various dances beautifully choreographed, intertwined with speeches and symbolic presentations exuded the fragrance of a vibrant church community living hardly three kilometers away from the international border.

The function came to an end with Fr. Antony Kodiyan declaring the official closure of the jubilee celebrations at 1.00 PM, after which all were served lunch.

The presence of other religious groups was noteworthy namely, Sisters of Mary Immaculate, Salesian Sisters, Disciples of Jesus, Apostolic Carmel Sisters along with their novices, MC Sisters, Ursuline Sisters, Sisters of Providence from Pathuria and Thankurnagar and the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There was a good representation of Diocesan priests from Krishnagar. Around 18 Salesians came from near and far, notable among them those who earlier ministered in the Parish namely, Fr. Joe D'Souza, Fr. Liberatus Bara, Fr. Peter Gomes, Fr. VD Mathew, Fr. UP Sebastian, Fr. David Mondol, and Fr. Alphonse Soreng. Mementos were presented to the former Parish Priests. Fr. Luke and his relatives from Germany who are friends of Archbishop Thomas also graced the occasion.

Fr. VL Paul and Fr. Antony Kodiyan dexterously coordinated the function putting in a lot of hard work, networking with the Apostolic Carmel Sisters and the Jubilee Committee.  

The growth of the Christian communities in Bongaon over the years from the time of Fr. Vincent Lazaro SDB, who ministered then from Shimulia Parish now in Bangladesh, is commendable. The birth of the parishes namely, Thakurnagar, Monsada and Bongaon with its eight substations is indeed a marvel of God who causes a tiny mustard seed to sprout and gradually grow into a giant, full-blown tree!
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