Thursday, June 6, 2013

Brother Donald Joseph Becker, C.S.C., Dies At 81

Brother Donald Joseph Becker, C.S.C., a missionary in Bangladesh for 56 years
Photo (Brothers' Residence at Mohammadpur, Dhaka: January 22, 2012) © Jerome D'Costa

Brother Donald Joseph Becker, CSC (1932-2013), a US member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, died on April 25 this year of advanced-age complications at the residence of the Brothers of Holy Cross at Mohammadpur of Dhaka. He was buried in the Christian cemetery at Wari, Dhaka. 

A missionary for 56 years, he is popularly known as “Brother Donald.” He was diminutive but active person all his life. Due to the burden of his age, he became gaunt, yet his lingering smile that he always wore did not fade ever.

 Born in Quincy, Illinois, USA, on April 23, 1932, Brother Donald entered the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1952. He received his B.Sc. degree in Biology in 1955 from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA. In the same year, he took his final vows as a Brother.
In 1957, Brother Donald went to the then East Pakistan (since 1971, called Bangladesh) as a missionary and continued his service until his death.

He taught at St. Gregory’s High School in Dhaka in the 1960s and 1970s. For many years he was involved with St. Joseph’s School of Industrial Trades at Narinda. He was a pioneer of technical and vocational training in Bangladesh. He also served as the first Director of the Technical School Project of Caritas Bangladesh and as a staff of the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Centre for Addicts (BARACA) between 1983 and 1994. 

He supervised construction of many buildings belonging to the Brothers of Holy Cross. He was “always concerned about how to do good construction work at a low cost.” He also helped Brother Ronald Drahozal, CSC, in the construction of the APON (Ashokti Purnorbashon Nibash), a residence and centre for drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation in Dhaka. 

He had a profound love for Bangladesh. At the last stage of his life in 2012, he was in the USA for rest and health check-up. He first refused to undergo some needed medical procedures, but upon his Superior’s insistence, he relented. His condition did not improve much and he was told to stay in the USA for the rest of his life. He declined and coaxed his Superior to allow him to return to Bangladesh, where he died a few months later.

Brother Binoy Gomes, CSC, former Provincial of the Holy Cross Brothers in Bangladesh, says: “He was a member of our [Bangladesh] Province. He wanted to live and die in Bangladesh…. He liked to be one of us.”

Brother Donald was well-known for his austere and simple life-style, which was a reflection of the vow of poverty that he took so seriously. Ajmal Sobhan, a former Muslim student of St. Gregory’s High School in Dhaka and a long-time friend of the Brother, writes: “Brother Donald was a simple man and lived a very ‘Spartan’ life. I have rarely ever seen him wear something new. He wore give-away clothing which had been sewn and repaired many times over.”

Ajmal Sobhan further writes: “His [Brother Donald’s] only true passion was trekking and hiking. It was my fortune to have been able to share with him the passion of trekking and hiking. He was the person who introduced me to both [of] these vocations.” Brother Donald bicycled the lengths and breadths of Bangladesh with Brother Ronald Drahozal, CSC.
Assessing Brother Donald’s life, Brother Binoy Gomes, CSC, says: “He was a man of work and prayer. He wanted to work up to the last day of his life. At times, I had a hard time to find work for him! I rarely saw him missing morning and evening prayers and Mass as well as mediation. He was a role for all of us.”

Ajmal Sobhan writes: “Brother Donald is an example of a man who has given everything in life for the poor in Bangladesh. He had no material desire and he was a compassionate and kind-hearted individual. At the same time, he was not critical of people who lived a life of conspicuous consumption. If anyone could come close to Mohandas Gandhi [Mahatma Gandhi] in principles and daily living, it would be Brother Donald.”

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