Saturday, October 14, 2017

Father Benjamin Costa, C.S.C., Passes Away

(L-R): Dominic Rozario and his friend Father Benjamin Costa, CSC, at the Mathis House of Notre Dame College, Dhaka
Photo (July 17, 2017) © Jerome D'Costa

(L-R): Father Bernard Palma and Father Benjamin Costa, CSC, as young priests in the early 1970's
Photo @ courtesy of Father Bernard Palma

With a heavy heart, I am announcing the unexpected demise of Father Benjamin Costa, C.S.C., on Friday, October 13, at 3:45 p.m. at City Hospital in Dhaka. He died of acute lung and respiratory complications due to pneumonia. He was 75.  

Father Benjamin Costa, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross in Bangladesh and former Acting Vice Chancellor of Notre Dame University, first in September last had suffered from chikunguniya virus attack and later from pneumonia and serious lung complications. On September 28, he was rushed from Square Hospital of Dhaka to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore where his situation did not improve. He was brought back to Dhaka few days ago and was admitted to City Hospital at Lalmatia.

His funeral Mass, held on Saturday, October 14, at St. Mary’s Cathedral at Ramna at 9:00 a.m., was attended by numerous grieving fellow priests, Brothers, Sisters, leaders of different religions, relatives, friends, school-college-university students and teachers, and well-wishers. Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, C.S.C., a classmate and friend of Father Costa, officiated at the Mass. Another memorial Mass was held at Holy Rosary Church at Tejgaon at 1:00 p.m. Around 4:00 p.m., he was buried at the Holy Cross Community Cemetery at Bhadun, about 20 km north-east of Dhaka.

In their condolence messages, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid, and Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Dr. Akhtaruzzaman expressed their shock at the death of Father Costa and praised his valuable contributions to the education and development sectors of Bangladesh.  

Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, in an October 14 email message to me, wrote: “…The climax of our [cardinal and Father Costa’s] friendship was on 26 Sept. when in ICC [intensive care unit] at the [Dhaka] hospital, Ben [Father Benjamin] asked for the sacramental absolution of his sins on his 75th Birth Anniversary. Confession was his best gift of friendship with me; and from me, the most precious gift to him in ministering reconciliation. Restlessly he worked, now he enjoys eternal rest.” It is noteworthy that Roman Catholics try their best to have a rewarding death by confessing their sins and receiving God’s forgiveness before leaving the earth.

Born on September 26, 1942 at Doripara Village of present-day Gazipur District, Father Benjamin Costa, at the age of five, with his siblings and parents (Late Matthew Costa and Late Elizabeth Palma) moved to Rajardior Village of Chatmohar Upazilla in Pabna District when their and fellow villagers' lands were acquired by the British government for building the railway line from Dhaka to Chittagong.  He studied at local parish primary school at Mathurapur of Pabna District and then at Little Flower Preparatory Seminary and Holy Cross High School at Bandura of Dhaka District and at Notre Dame College of Dhaka. He also studied at Notre Dame University in Indiana, USA, and later at Christ the King Major Seminary at Karachi in West Pakistan. On January 7, 1971, he was ordained a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross at Mathurapur Catholic Church. Much later, he also studied at the University of Chicago, USA.

He first served as a professor and later Principal (April, 1998- December, 2012) of Notre Dame College, Dhaka, and then Acting Vice Chancellor (2013-August, 2017) of the newly-established Notre Dame University Bangladesh in Dhaka. 

For Catholic youth formation and development, his contribution is legendary. He helped in the formation of the Catholic Jubo Seba Dal and other youth initiatives in the Archdiocese of Dhaka. He was also involved in many other charitable and educational organizations and initiatives. He was also was rector of college-going Holy Cross seminarians and Holy Cross Brother candidates. He was a prolific writer and translator. His write-ups appeared in numerous Catholic and secular newspapers, magazines, and journals. He wrote and translated several Catholic religious and spiritual books. In early 2017, his Bangla-language book of essays and articles, called Probondoshomogro, was published by Lekhaprokash -- a secular publishing house in Dhaka.

May God give an eternal rest to Father Benjamin Costa!

A part of his funeral ceremony at St. Mary's Cathedral can be viewed at: Fr. Benjamin Costa CSC: He Is No More

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