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News of our work India & Bangladesh May - October 2007

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Letter from Barisal

Examination results
On 6 September the Intermediate (Higher School Certificate) results were published. In St. Clare’s Hostel seven girls took this exam, and six of them passed. We are very proud of this result.

The death anniversary of Father Lionel Rigby BE
The Oxford Mission High School arranged for a memorial meeting in the School Hall on 21 September for Father Lionel Rigby, who founded the school. There were talks, songs and dances. The members of the school Managing Committee, with the schoolchildren and their teachers and some guests, were present, together with the guardians of the children. There were not too many of the latter due to very bad weather.

St. Michael’s Hostel fishing day
On 25 September 2006, the first day of Ramadan (the beginning of fasting for the Muslim community) all High Schools had a holiday. The St. Michael’s boys were allowed to catch fish in the big pond (called the reserve tank) for the whole day, which they all enjoyed. The best catcher was encouraged with claps in the dining-hall during supper.

Aquatic Sports on St. Michael’s Hostel Day
This was a very exciting day for the boys. It began with a Mass, and in the afternoon there were aquatic sports in the reserve tank of the Hostel, with different styles of swimming -free style, back stroke, break stroke, butterfly stroke and diving. The boys decorated their dormitories, and there were three prizes, for the small, middle and elder boys. The sports were followed by a rich supper in the dining hall, to which the local priest and his family, the Manager and his wife, and the house teachers from St. Agnes’s Hostel were invited. There were songs, music, dances and some talks. The boys and guests enjoyed the day’s programme, which was organised by the Revd. Father Francis.

Refresher Course for the OM Primary Teachers
This took place in 19 September from 10 a.m. till 4 p.m. in the OM Primary School, Barisal. Two Training Officers came from the Government Training Institute on Primary Education. All the primary school teachers were present, together with teachers from St. Gabriel’s Primary School at Jobarpar whose bus fares were paid by the Revd. Mother Susila CSS. The Management Committee members were also invited, and two of the CSS Sisters. All were entertained to a rich lunch, after which the teachers of OM Primary School sang group songs, and the invited teachers provided a song and a comic sketch. The workshop was very useful to the teachers, and they were very happy.

Dhaka Diocesan Women’s Committee, Barisal Branch
On Sunday, 29 October the local members of the Diocesan Women’s Committee conducted the morning service at St. Peter’s Parish Church. In spite of political disturbances, which forced the rickshaw drivers in Barisal to join in a strike, attendance was satisfactory as all the members walked to church.

This is the biggest festival of the year for Muslims. It marks the end of Ramadan, and all schools are given a holiday. In the OM High School the holiday dates were from 18 October to 2 November, and all the boys of St. Michael’s Hostel went home. Most of the girls in St. Agnes’s Hostel stayed, because they wanted to study for the forthcoming exams: also they could not, like the boys, travel without their guardians, and many decided it was not worth fetching the girls for such a short holiday.

Pre-Christmas programme in the Boys’ Hostel
On 17 November many of the staff members who stay in the compound, and some from outside, were invited by the boys who gave them each a slice of Christmas cake. They showed a Christmas drama, sang carols, and enjoyed the thrill of exchanging gifts. It was a colourful evening, accompanied by Father Christmas, and the programme was followed by a festive supper.

Employees’ pre-Christmas gathering
This took place on 16 December, and began with a prayer meeting, followed by a talk by Mr. T. K. Byapari, the Manager. He said that we work for Jesus -not for fear of our employers. The Oxford Mission is Jesus’s home, and through our work we can worship and serve Him. We shall have to give an account of our work to Him. We need to examine ourselves and confess our sins, to be prepared for Christmas. Christmas money-gifts and Christmas cards were then given for the families, and snacks in paper bags to everyone.

A Birthday
It was Lucy Holt’s 76th birthday on 17 December, and she had a prayer meeting to which the CSS Sisters, the Byaparis and gardener Usha were invited. She was presented with flowers and small gifts.

St. Clare’s Hostel pre-Christmas
This took place on 18 December. Lunch was at 1.30, and speeches, songs and a recitation took place during the meal. Afterwards presents were given to all the girls and guests, and a speech was made by the Warden, the Revd. Sudotta Boidya.

22 December
A prayer meeting was held in the Epiphany Church in memory of the late Kiron Biswas.

Christmas Day
There were two Sung Eucharists, one at midnight and one in the morning. The church was beautifully decorated by the Sisters and the St. Mary’s girls.

New Year’s Day, 2007
This was celebrated with a Sung Eucharist and a number of festal meals. Mr. and Mrs. Byapari invited the Revd. Sudotta Boidya, two Mission employees and Lucy Holt to breakfast, and Lucy to lunch as well. Some of the Sisters had lunch in St. Mary’s. In the afternoon the Revd. Sudotta gave a tea-party, and we had a very enjoyable time. In the evening four of us went to visit Mother Susila in the nearby hospital. We were delighted to find her more ‘aware’ and her voice clearer than on our last visit.

The Feast of the Epiphany (6 January)
There were two Sung Eucharists in the church in memory of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of the Epiphany.

Class at Barisal High

Class II, Barisal Primary School

Farewell meeting for the Revd. L. Kirtonia and Mrs. Kirtonia
The Revd. L. Kirtonia has been priest of the parish church, St. Peter’s, for six years, and is being transferred to the parish of Bollobhpur in Kushtia Deanery where he will be Rural Dean. Though this was a parish function, some of us in the Oxford Mission were invited, together with guests from other churches. There were many speeches in appreciation of the Kirtonias, and three teachers of the OM Primary School sang a farewell song by Tagore.

Presents were given to the departing couple, goodies in paper bags were given to everyone, and guests invited to the parsonage and given hot tea - very welcome on a cold evening.

St. Agnes’s Day, 21 January
This was a special day for the girls of St. Agnes’s Hostel. The Mass had the theme of St. Agnes, and a function was held in the hostel’s hall-room with speeches, dances, songs, comic sketches, and a play which was the story of St. Agnes. New girls were welcomed with a flower and a sweet, and were very much encouraged. Afterwards there was a festive lunch.

St. Paul’s Day, 25 January
A function was held in St. Michael’s Hostel to welcome the new boys, who were each given a paper garland and a spray of flowers. There were songs, dances, and a recitation, interspersed by speeches in which the older boys were asked to be kind to the new boys and not to teach them any bad thing, and the new boys were asked to obey the rules. There was a festive supper, with more speeches, songs and a dance.

Problems: girls’ toilets in need of refurbishment, and House encroaching on OM land

Other events
On 26 January the St. Agnes’s girls gave a second performance of their play, the Life of St. Agnes. They had invited the St. Michael’s boys, and we hope this will impress them too. We experienced a firewood crisis in January. There has been an increase in the number of brickfields in Barisal, and these need a huge amount of firewood. Consequently there has been a shortage, and prices doubled from what they were last year. Mercifully we have plenty of trees, so we had some branches cut off and a few trees cut down without affecting the environment.

The first week of February was suddenly rainy, which was unusual. It was good for the IRRI rice cultivation, but harmful for the tomatoes, potatoes, mustard seeds, onions and garlic in our vegetable garden.

On 5 February the Revd. L. D. Kirtonia left for Bollobhpur parish (a long way from Barisal). He was replaced by the Revd. Robin Mondal, and on 10 February the Parish Committee gave a welcome meeting for him.

The annual picnic for the St. Michael’s boys took place on 9 February, and with their house-brothers, two High School teachers and two hostel cooks they went by bus to Khalishpur, nearly 200 km. away. They had a friendly volleyball match with the youths of Khalishpur church, which was very enjoyable. The senior boys and the two cooks made an excellent meal, to which a number of local Christian leaders were invited. The picnic party arrived back late at night, after a very exciting day.

On 16 February four girls from St. Agnes’s and one from St. Clare’s were baptised in the Epiphany church. The Revd. Sudotta Boidya officiated, and the Sisters and all the boys and girls attended. In the evening a supper was given by St. Agnes’s in honour of the five girls, to which all the Godparents were invited. For most of the boys and girls it was a new experience to see adult baptisms.

International Mother-Language Day
Early in the morning of 21 February the boys of St. Michael’s Hostel, and the older boys and girls of the Primary School, went to the National Memorial in Barisal. They put flowers in front of the Memorial, to show their deep gratitude and respect to the language martyrs who in 1952 laid down their lives to save their mother-tongue.

On their return to the Mission there were gatherings and cultural functions in the Primary and High School halls, at which an outline was given of the clear facts of this date in 1952. Other talks were given to stress the importance of the Bengali language.

As Ash Wednesday also fell this year on 21 February, the devotions and fasting were postponed till the following day. We did however have Holy Communion and the Imposition of Ashes on the correct day.

Primary School Sports
On 24 February the Sports were held on the gaily decorated children’s field. The chief guest, the District Primary School Officer, was welcomed with a badge (rosette) and flowers.

He hoisted the flag, while we sang the National Anthem. A little girl in Class I then danced for us, followed by a regional song performed by a group. A teacher sang while the children acted.

The sports followed, with different races, girls’ skipping, ball-passing, frog jumps, a memory competition and a fancy-dress competition. Prizes were given to the winners. The day was very colourful and enjoyable for the children.

High School Sports
On 26 February the High School boys and girls had their annual athletic sports. There were various races, two dances, musical chairs and passing the ball. The Barisal Education Officer was the chief guest, and gave a helpful speech to the boys and girls. Some events, such as javelin throwing, discus throwing, shot-put (throwing a heavy iron ball), cricket-ball throwing and high and long jumps, were completed the day before.

School Final Examination
This public examination will go on from 8 March until 3 or 4 April, throughout Bangladesh. Sixty-six of Oxford Mission High School pupils are taking it. Of these, 12 girls are in St. Agnes’s Hostel and 6 boys in St. Michael’s Hostel. We hope they will get good results and be able to go to college.

We thank God for all His blessings up till now. We thank our readers, our sponsors and all our well-wishers for their kind concern and prayer for our OM Barisal. Please do not forget us, and especially keep Mother Susila in your prayers.

With best wishes,

Manager, OM Barisal

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