23rd of February 2020 was a big day for the faithful of the parish of Saint Anthony Claret in Bishrail, in the state of West Bengal – and for two reasons: first it was the silver jubilee of the establishment of the parish, and secondly the occasion of the consecration of their new parish church – both events celebrated with a great feast. Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, ACN was able to help with a contribution of 36,500 Euros, so that this long cherished dream of the faithful could become a reality. Father Martin Soren has written to thank us:
„Our heartfelt thanks to all the benefactors of ACN for their generous financial support, which has now made this project a reality. Once again, we want to reiterate our sincere gratitude to you all. Without your tireless prayers, your help and financial support, this undertaking would never have been possible. Thank you for everything you have done us!
The original, tiny chapel had been built of mud with an asbestos roof. Not only was it far too small but had long been in danger of collapsing. So naturally, it had been increasingly difficult in recent years for the parish community to come together for Holy Mass, catechetical instruction, marriage preparation classes, work with children and young people – and still more for celebrating the major feast days or their patronal feast. The alternative of holding the celebrations in the open air had likewise been difficult, especially in the rainy season and in the scorching heat of summer.
By themselves, and the Catholic faithful could contribute very little towards the cost of this new church, since the diocese of Raiganj to which the parish of Bishrail belongs, noise on the frontier with Bangladesh in the region of extreme poverty. Most of the people living here belong to the marginalised ethnic minorities and barely earn enough to support their families in the first place. And the 94,000 Catholics of the diocese account for only around 1% of the population, while the majority still follow various animist tribal religions. There is still widespread superstition and belief in witchcraft. And yet more and more people are coming to hear about and feel drawn to the comforting message of the Gospel, attracted at the same time by the faith witness of the Christians they encounter. There are even some local vocations to the priesthood: in fact most of the priests now working in the diocese are local men, and more and more young people are feeling that God is calling them to serve Him.
Moreover, here as in many other parts of the world, the Church is playing an important role in the field of education, knowledge and development. Whilst her primary goal is of course a pastoral one, the Catholic faith is also always expressed in works of practical charity towards all people, regardless of faith or creed.
Thanks to the support of our benefactors, the Catholic faithful in the parish of Bishrail can now take pride in their new church and pleasure in the fitting celebration of their liturgical life.