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Father Richard William Timm: Legendary missionary to Bangladesh dies at 97

A Catholic missionary priest who was awarded “Asia’s Nobel Prize” for his works in Bangladesh died at the age of 97 in the United States on Sept. 11.

Father Richard William Timm of the international Catholic Congregation of the Holy Cross was dubbed as the “Father of NGOs in Bangladesh” for his involvement in various development projects and pastoral work.

He was an internationally renowned zoologist who discovered at least 250 nematodes, a group of worms that make up the phylum Nematoda.

Tagged as a legend, the priest was also an educator, a development worker, and an author of books.

In 1987, Father Timm was named a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for International Understanding.

The Ramon Magsaysay Awards Board of Trustees recognized the priest for “his 35 years of sustained commitment of mind and heart to helping Bangladeshis build their national life.”

The priest was honored with “citizenship” from three different Bangladeshi governments for his developmental works done for the country and its people.

He first arrived in Bangladesh in 1952 and then established a science department at St. Gregory’s College in Dhaka to introduce biological sciences and research to students.

In 1970, the religious priest organized and mobilized relief operations after a typhoon and massive tidal surge devastated the coast of Bengal.

It was also his first time to encounter brutal communal conflicts and rural power struggles.

The priest demonstrated inclusivity in his humanitarian relief programs by aiding everyone regardless of religion, belief, ethnicity, and race.

Father Timm was given a special award for taking part in the Liberation War of Bangladesh.

He was instrumental to the establishment of the Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh, the Coordinator Council for Human Rights in Bangladesh, and the South Asia Forum for Human Rights.

He started the Justice and Peace Commission in 1974 and served as its executive secretary for 23 years.

The priest was born on March 2, 1923, to a Catholic family in Michigan City, Indiana. He was an altar boy to the local parish and attended St. Mary’s Grade School and then St. Mary’s High School, where he was taught by Holy Cross Sisters.

He was ordained a priest on June 8, 1949, and went to Bangladesh in 1952 after finishing his doctorate degree from the Catholic University in Washington.

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