ASIA/BANGLADESH - "The widow's offering": the Lenten offerings of poor Bangladeshis for works of charity

Monday, 3 April 2023 lent   charity  

Dhaka (Agenzia Fides) - These are offerings that come from very poor families, from faithful who often struggle for survival but who - like the evangelical "widow's offering" - do not want to miss a donation for community works of charity: almost all Bangladeshi Catholic families have collected throughout the Lenten period, cash offerings in small cardboard boxes, which will then be delivered to the parish priests on Easter Day. Lent has been lived in a spirit of prayer, and the offerings represent the cash equivalent of the moments of fasting: by depriving themselves of a meal, on Fridays or other occasions, families place the cash value of that meal in the offering box.
Khakan Costa, a Catholic from Tejgaon Parish in the Archdiocese of Dhaka, reports that the practice is observed in his family as an integral part of the Lenten season: members of his family fast, read the Gospel and donate money for the Church's charitable works. "I feel immense joy and spiritually receive peace during the Lenten season. With my family members we have started the collection and will deliver what we have saved by not buying meat or fish. It is a help toward those who are in extreme need, and so we do what we can, even a small sacrifice", he testifies.
Parvin Gomes, a housewife of the same parish, says that "in Lent we feel closer to Jesus and his sufferings. We fast and celebrate the Stations of the Cross. We try to approach the sacrament of Confession, which we often neglect. We try to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. With my family members, even my son and daughter, we put our small donations in the offering box".
The priests are edified by seeing so much faith and charity in God's people. Fr. Subroto B. Gomes, parish priest of the parish of Tejaon, tells Fides: "The faithful participate actively in charity with their donations. This year we distributed more than 4,000 boxes on Ash Wednesday. The Lord, in his Providence, will give us what is necessary for the poorest".
The parish priest informs that, in homes and schools, children also contribute by placing their offering in the box. The faithful are invited to give up some comforts and donate what they save for works of charity and evangelization: "Many people come to our parish, from remote areas of the parish territory, in need of medical care or education. With the offerings, we give them support. Sometimes, with the funds raised, we help build a new chapel in a distant village".
Fr. Albert Rozario, parish priest of Dhaka Cathedral, explains to Fides: "In our archdiocese of Dhaka there are many elderly priests who are sick and need care. A part of the offerings collected we allocate to the medical care and assistance of elderly priests, who have given their whole lives to the mission. People are happy to help them: it is a way of expressing gratitude to them. (PA/FC) (Agenzia Fides, 3/4/2023)