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Rickshaw Pullers Keep Faith Year

By C. M. Paul
69 rickshaws and pullers in front of Auxilium Church Kolkata for Faith Year celebrations.
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Guwahati, Sep. 15.  KOLKATA --In a rare Year of Faith activity held any where in the world, a Kolkata city parish organized a unique programme for its Catholic rickshaw pullers on Sunday 8th September, the birthday of Mother Mary. Of 106 Catholic Rickshaw pullers of the parish registered to attend the faith rally, 69 rickshaws and their pullers started the rally to Auxilium parish Gobra at 3 pm from Dhanapara colony collecting Catholics of the area on their rickshaws.

It was an eye catching procession of colorfully painted rickshaws. Their pullers were dressed in red jerseys bearing Year of Faith logo and wearing white caps with ''I Love My Faith'' slogans printed on them.
Archbishop emeritus Lucas Sircar of Calcutta, parish priest Fr KK Sebastian and three priests of the parish welcomed the rickshaw pullers at Auxilium Church. The spruced up Rickshaws and their pullers were lined up in front of the church for the blessing. The parish priest moved around and blessed the rickshaws and their pullers.

After a refreshing cup of tea and snacks they went up to the church for the special year of faith penitential service which started with Rosary prayers led by prayer leader Mr Kashinath Das while four priests heard their confessions.

''I never knew there would be so many Catholic cycle rickshaw pullers in the parish, and I never had the opportunity of hearing confessions of so many of them at one time,'' said 91 year old Italian missionary Fr Stroscio Rosario who is assistant parish priest at Auxilium for 30 years.

One of the parishioners witnessing the penitential service commented, ''they were such a relieved lot as many of them had not been to church and confession for years together.''

The penitential service was followed by the Sunday evening Mass during which the rickshaw pullers joined the regular church goers and played active role taking part in the readings, vociferous chanting of responses and hymns, and the offertory procession.

After the mass, a cultural programme was held in the parish Hall where the rickshaw pullers entertained the parishioners, Fathers, Sisters, and the church staff, with skits and songs. The parishioners in turn gave each one of them surprise gifts, and the evening concluded with sumptuous dinner for all.

The rickshaw pullers were issued Photo identity cards for the Chal-Dal (Rice-Lentil) Scheme which consisted of better off family's donating food grains for the needy.

''We are touched by the opportunity for this special celebration and go with a renewed trust in God and parish community concerned about us in tangible ways,'' said a rickshaw puller Ranjan carrying a packet of food stuff.

Happy at the way the whole event went off, parish priest Fr KK Sebastian said, ''it was a fitting way to celebrate Mother Mary's birthday and revitalize the faith of the straying rickshaw pullers.''
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