We are church: in dialogue with culture, religion, and the poor
On Ash Wednesday, Father Morris Jalal, OFM Cap, the pastor of our parish, St. Columban, said Mass for us and the children. Father Morris is a native of Lahore. He has a vision and his passion shines through. He spoke in Urdu as he delivered the sermon and interacted with the children. He said later that because Ramadan fasting is attractive to Christian children, he urges them to consider 40 days of Lenten practices like studying and being generous. His first goal for the parish is sacramental presence and he himself said five masses that day. His associate pastor (he smiled and said “compadre”) and two helpers for the day each said four masses at the 12 parish subdivisions each with 700 families, and at the five schools in the parish. It’s a big parish and a poor one.
Father’s second goal for the parish is catechesis. He’s hired catechists in each sector and he directs the archdiocesan communications department which includes radio and cable TV. We can access it on YouTube Pakistan Catholic TV. The programs feature live interviews, tapes of homilies, announcements of events, videos, etc., all in Urdu, so I can only look.
His third area of focus is youth. He is raising money to pay partial tuition to trade schools for school dropouts in order to help strengthen family ties and build the future. And he is promoting advanced education in fields like medicine and engineering that will yield better conditions for everyone.
I am so clear, visiting Pakistan as I am, that I am an outsider. And yet, we American Lorettines have been given the lucky opportunity to share in Loretto in Pakistan. This mission calls to us, late in the life of our American community, to what the Asian bishops named back in 1970 as the triple dialogue with culture, religion and the poor. We are joined with Father Morris and with the Lasallian Brothers, who have been great friends, and also with our Muslim students and parents, as well as the Christian ones. Muslim cantors call us to prayer. And we meditate, share the Eucharist, pray the office and the rosary and bless our food.
The sisters live very simply. We eat from our garden. We share what we have. We live in a poor neighborhood in a poor city. Our wealth is our education and we share it freely.