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Loretto in Faisalabad and Lahore

Posted on December 1, 2016, by Loretto Community

By Maria Daniel

Nasreen Daniel, far right, talks with neighbors about a skills development program for women.
Photo courtesy of Maria Daniel

Faisalabad was the first love of Loretto in Pakistan. We came back to our own country and found it a challenge. We had to be enculturated. Families we had known had moved on. We were not part of their history. The country had moved for good or bad and we had not witnessed it at all. None of us was from the Faisalabad diocese. The only person known to us was Bishop Joseph Coutts.

We had to make new friends with clergy and at the same time to be cautious so that we did not step too far from customary boundaries. It felt like some had different glasses to look at us now with the Community based in the United States and we being a bit more educated than the rest of the folks around us.

Bishop Joe asked us to serve on the women’s desk of the diocese, to provide legal aid for female victims and to begin to create sewing circles. Bishop Joe asked us to lead in-service development for school teachers at the diocese level and later on to take over the operation at St. Albert School. We started building relationships at all levels. While living in Faisalabad we installed solar in 12 areas in different parts of Pakistan.

After seven years of bonding with the people, we were to move on. We talked about a move to Lahore with much enthusiasm but when the day dawned on us, we realized that we were very fragile. It became difficult to leave behind the trees we had planted and the relationships we had built. For example, the La Salle Brothers were always available to us in any difficulty. Remember the time that all schools in Pakistan needed major security improvements? The La Salle brothers helped us locate workers for those tasks.

Our St. Albert teachers cried when we started teaching them English. When we were preparing to leave Faisalabad, they could converse well with us in English, but our departure caused them to cry again. Our students had to be taught minor things like washing hands after going to the restroom.

By the end of our time with them, they learned to greet and help the parents when they went back after school.

Pakistani archbishop conversing with Sisters outdoors under a shaded area.
Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan, second from left, meets with Loretto’s Pakistani sisters and others.
Photo courtesy of Maria Daniel

In Lahore we are in the novitiate building, made available by the Sisters of St. John of God. We sleep in one bedroom that has an air conditioner and is near the bathroom. The temperature in Lahore at night is often more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In the bedroom, there is hardly room to move freely to go to the restroom at night. We always bump into someone’s bed.

There is one room which has the stove for cooking. This is also the sitting room and dining room. The stove expels black smoke. We have made covers for the wooden chairs and sofas.

Slowly we are settling into Lahore. With the generosity of Cathy Mueller, who shared a gift from the Hilton Foundation for her years of service, we are going to start a skill development program for women. We invited our parish priest for dinner and discussed with him plans we have developed.

Right now the parish is going to celebrate the feast of St. Mark. The parish priest asked us to help in two areas for the people to understand St. Mark. We have written a street theater play on basic knowledge about St. Mark. The play tells about when he wrote his Gospel, who inspired him, who the government ruler was at that time and so forth. One play is for the youth of the school. A second drama, which the women of the parish are learning, tells the Resurrection account. Since most of the people are illiterate, they learn the lines of the drama by heart.

We have initiated some groundwork for skill development like glass painting, making dresses and embroidery. We show these things to the women in different locations so they know what they will be learning in one year’s program. This work will be like what we did in the sewing circles in Faisalabad when the diocese sponsored these programs.

We also have submitted a project to the Hilton Fund for Sisters to help bring some solar power to the very poor family dwellings. Since the need is vast and resources minimal, we three decided on criteria to qualify for a bulb and fan. Those who complete one year of skill development will get solar installation for one bulb and one fan. We hope to get those funds in February 2017.

Pakistani women walking through an area with open sewers.
Neighbors of Loretto’s Pakistani sisters walk through areas with open sewers.
Photo courtesy of Maria Daniel

Nasreen Daniel is teaching in the major seminary. Sister Michelle, the only remaining John of God sister in Pakistan, has asked us to provide in-service to the teachers in the three schools they run.

We have survived through thick and thin in all kinds of circumstances with your prayers, and we request continuation of your prayers for us in the new place with new challenges.


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