In a rare Year of Faith activity, a Kolkata city parish organized a unique public rally and liturgical program for some 70 rickshaw pullers, all Catholics, to help them celebrate their faith.
The Sept. 8 program in the Auxilium parish on the feast of nativity of Our Lady offered an eye-catching procession with colorfully painted rickshaws. The rickshaw-pullers were dressed in red jerseys bearing Year of Faith logo and wearing white caps with “I Love My Faith” slogans printed on them.
The spruced up rickshaws and their pullers were lined up in front of the church for the blessing. The parish priest K K Sebastian moved around and blessed the rickshaws and their pullers.
After a refreshing a cup of tea and snacks they went up to the church for the special year of faith penitential service, which started with Rosary prayers.
“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, assistant parish priest at Auxilium for 30 years. Some 100-rickshaw pullers had registered for the program
The Sunday evening Mass followed the penitential service. During he Mass the rickshaw pullers joined the regular churchgoers and played active part in the readings, vociferous chanting of responses and hymns, and the offertory procession.
At a cultural program that followed the rickshaw pullers entertained the parishioners with skits and songs. The parishioners in turn gave each one of them surprise gifts, and the evening concluded with dinner for all.
The rickshaw pullers were issued identity cards for the newly introduced "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 rickshaw puller Ranjan carrying a packet of food stuff.
Parish priest Sebastian said it was "a fitting way to celebrate Mother Mary’s birthday and revitalize the faith of the straying rickshaw pullers.”
India: Members of public were asked not to venture out during the "curfew".