Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
January 10, 2024 // Diocese

Christ the King Partners with Parish in Bangladesh

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical on fraternity and social friendship, the Holy Father wrote at length about the need for communities to be willing to extend their help and friendship to others which might have less. “A love capable of transcending borders is the basis of what in every city and country can be called ‘social friendship.’ Genuine social friendship within a society makes true universal openness possible,” he wrote (No. 99). He continued: “Social friendship and universal fraternity necessarily call for an acknowledgement of the worth of every human person, always and everywhere. If each individual is of such great worth, it must be stated clearly and firmly that ‘the mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity’” (No. 106).

Photos by T.J. Groden
Funds from Christ the King Parish in South Bend helped to build a new chapel, above, which is run by its sister parish in Jalchatra, Bangladesh.

For the past 15 years, Christ the King Parish in South Bend has truly lived out this vision of social friendship.

At an assembly this past fall, students at Christ the King Catholic School learned about their community’s sister parish in Bangladesh. Guests that day were Holy Cross Seminarian T.J. Groden and Will Robbins, a Notre Dame student who boxes in Bengal Bouts to raise money for the missions in Bangladesh. Both young men had spent time this summer at Corpus Christi Parish in Jalchatra, Bangladesh. They told stories and showed slides and videos of the places they went and people they met in the small country located on the eastern border of India.

Christ the King students were able to identify with shared experiences their counterparts in Bangladesh had – experiences such as first Communion and confirmation – but they also noticed differences in the culture and living conditions: the simplicity of the classrooms and the way their peers eat, dance, and celebrate.

Members of the community of Corpus Christi Parish in Jalchatra, Bangladesh, gather inside one of its chapels, above, and during an outdoor service, below.

“Hopefully these images will be in their minds as they pray for them and bring in money for fundraising events,” said Christ the King parishioner Kathleen Kloska, a member of the parish committee that oversees the relationship between these sister parishes. “This creates a unique connection within the universal Catholic Church.”


See more photos from Bangladesh.

The two parishes began their partnership in 2008. The former Pastor, Holy Cross Father Neil Wack, said he “felt that forming a sister parish relationship was an important way of emphasizing that we at Christ the King are part of a universal Church that is much bigger than just our parish, our diocese, or our nation.” He assigned the task to Holy Cross Father Steve Lacroix, who is now the Pastor at Christ the King but was the Associate Pastor at the time. Father Lacroix reached out to the Holy Cross Mission Center and began what is now a 15-year relationship.

A parish committee helped launch the effort. Kloska, a member of that first committee, told Today’s Catholic, “We found fun and informative ways to introduce the Corpus Christi Parish to parishioners and students while raising funds to help them.” From the beginning, they wanted a mutually beneficial relationship involving prayer and cultural exchange, not just sending money overseas. A parish prayer is regularly included in the bulletin, and each parish regularly offers Masses for the intentions of the other. Father Lacroix said, “They pray for us an awful lot!” There have also been special Holy Hours and assigned prayer partners. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was talk of a pilgrimage overseas; perhaps that idea will be revived, parish leaders said.

The two parishes regularly exchange emails and photos, which often appear in the bulletin at Christ the King, which helps to keep everyone in the community informed about what’s happening at Corpus Christi in Jalchatra.

While there are many similarities between the two Catholic parishes, the differences are striking. Corpus Christi is located in a largely Muslim country where less than 1 percent of the population is Christian. Parishioners at Corpus Christi are tribal peoples, so they’re ethnic as well as religious minorities. For that reason, the parish offers many services American parishes don’t typically provide, including health care, legal advocacy, and economic development initiatives. Their parish structure is also different, as Corpus Christi includes more than 20 chapels and 18 schools, some of them boarding schools, across the region.

Needless to say, Corpus Christi in Jalchatra has great financial needs. Christ the King sponsors an annual fish fry, sending all the profits to their sister parish, as well as free-will offerings at various times. During Advent and Lent, several of the school service projects are designated to assist Corpus Christi.

“One of the most amazing surprises from all of this has been to see how far our money goes in Bangladesh,” Father Lacroix told Today’s Catholic. “For instance, they sent us photos of the dedication of a new chapel they built; the cornerstone said that it was donated by Christ the King! I never imagined that the amount that we donate would be able to fund an entire chapel – you certainly couldn’t build one for that amount here in the U.S. – but it goes to show how even what seems to be a small gift to us can make a big difference to others in the developing world.”

Despite the differences, Father Lacroix said, “We see so many similarities in the way we celebrate the sacraments, worship the Lord, and form our children. I think that seeing how they practice their faith in their context helps us understand how to practice our faith more fully here at Christ the King.”

Kloska agrees. “This has been a great way to view our Catholic faith in a universal
way, remembering that although people and cultures are different around the world, we are all united through the Eucharist. We have been introduced to a community with far fewer modern amenities and living in poor conditions, yet they exude such happiness and love of their faith. We have learned so much about true gratitude and joy from them. We, in turn, as a parish and school, pray for our sister parish and share what we can to help improve their living conditions.”

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