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First Polish Divine Word priest returns to Bangladesh after two years

Divine Word Mariusz Pacula with a group of seminarians in Banladesh (Photo supplied)

The first and only Polish Divine Word missionary returned to Bangladesh after two years of waiting to get a visa recently.

"The time has come to come back to Bangladesh. For the past two years, I have been waiting for a work permit in this country, so when I finally landed in Dhaka, my heart was filled with joy and enthusiasm that I could be here once again and start again," says Devine Word Father Mariusz Pacula.

The Society of the Divine Word began its missionary work in Bangladesh at the Archdiocese of Chattagram in 2018. Chattagram is the second-largest city in Bangladesh after Dhaka, the national capital.

The late Holy Cross Archbishop Moses Costa entrusted two parishioners—Jamal Khan in Chattagram and Noakhali—to the Society of the Divine Word.

The parish of Our Lady of Lourdes (Sonapur, Noakhali) has approximately 2,000 parishioners. 

Greeting of Missionaries in Borishal Parish. From the left: Fr. Mariusz Pacuła SVD, Fr. Justin Thomas SVD, Fr. Lintu Roy (photo supplied)

The Archdiocese of Chattogram has 11 parishes and two sub-parishes. The geographical location of the Archdiocese of Chattgoram is divided into two pastoral regions, namely the Chattogram region and the Chattogram Hill Tracts region. There are four parishes and two sub-parishes in the Chattogram area and seven parishes in the Chattogram Hill Tracts parishes.

Home to nearly 39,664 Catholics, the Archdiocese of Chittagong represents the Catholic community in 17 districts of Chittagong.

The Archdiocese of Chittagong sits in the southern part of the country. The area of the Archdiocese covers 20% of the total surface of Bangladesh.

The total land area of the Archdiocese is 29,395 square kilometers. Boundaries are with the Archdiocese of Dhaka and Tripura State of India in the north, the Barisal Diocese in the west, Myanmar and Mizoram State of India in the east, and the Bay of Bengal in the south.

Bangladesh is a Muslim country with a constitutional ban on changing religion until the age of 18. It has a population of around 164 million, including around 500,000 Catholics.

"I was assigned to work here to look after the so-called Apostolic School, i.e., a boarding school for primary and secondary school students," Pacula said.

These students come from tribes living in the mountains, where there is no infrastructure. These grounds are called "hill trucks" and are reserved for foreigners. Therefore, the archbishop offers help to deserving and talented students with accommodation, meals, and the possibility of attending school.

The boarding school was opened in 2020 without any basic educational materials.

Noakhali parish has no media, cultural, or sports background. But there are many possibilities.

"From 2023, I will be responsible for the school and students, and I will also help in the parish," said the Polish priest.

"Knowing the English language helps you not to feel lonely and lost. However, knowledge of the Bengali language is very important," he adds.

After two years of hiatus, he is glad that he can read Bengali because it means he can say Holy Mass with good pronunciation. "But I still need a long time for people to understand when they talk to me," Pacula says.

"I treat the time of learning a new language as a kind of treatment for dementia. I believe that God will not refuse the gift of the Holy Spirit by sending me to this piece of earth," he adds. "Because God has planned everything and He wants the best for us. Everything will be given to us if we are open to His holy will." 

The Society of the Divine Word, founded in 1875 by St. Arnold Janssen, is the largest Roman Catholic order dedicated to missionary work. The Society of the Divine Word is divided into 60 provinces around the world.

They are also known as Verbites, Divine Word Missionaries, and Steyler Missionaries at times.

It had 6,023 members as of 2020, composed of priests and religious brothers working in more than 70 countries, including many Asian countries.

Father Paulus Budi Kleden, an Indonesian, is the current Superior General. In the congregation's history, he is the first Asian to hold a position.


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