I am not sure how many of you gave any thought to Pakistan before Fr. Shafique was named our pastor, but I am going to give you a quick history lesson so you will better understand a project that we will be working on over the next few years. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world. Because it is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China in the northeast, it is an important ally of the United States.
Christianity in the area now known as Pakistan goes as far back as the preaching of the apostle St. Thomas. Unfortunately, in an area dominated by other world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Sikhism) the church never got a strong, long term footing. Even with the work of missionaries in the 1500’s, it was not until the 1800’s, and the rise of the British Empire that the Catholic Church finally found fertile ground. Because of its work in medicine and education, the Church found many converts in the lower and working class. Even after the establishment of an independent Pakistan in 1947, the Muslim government has embraced the Church for its work in those areas.
To move our history lesson a little closer to home, over the last few years we have been discussing the idea of having a “Sister Parish.” This would be a Parish that would be in great need, which we could establish an ongoing relationship with so that we could see how our help could benefit the Parish in the long term. After conversations with Finance and Pastoral Council as well as the Christian Service Committee, we have decided to adopt Sacred Heart Catholic Church, in Gojra, Pakistan, which is located in the Diocese of Faisalabad. This is a Parish that Father Shafique was pastor of from 1994 to 2011. The Parish covers a large geographical area, has a school with a hostel, as well as a convent. Because there are not school buses available, many of the students have to live at the schools hostel so that they can receive their education. This lent, we will start working on a program to assist Sacred Heart Parish and the school. We hope our support will help to continue to grow the church in Pakistan. Please look for more information about our Sister Parish in the near future.