Fr Pat Raleigh writes about his return visit to Pakistan where he is researching the history of Columban mission in that country from 1979 until today.
On Tuesday, 11th February, I left Dalgan to spend six weeks in Pakistan. It was bitterly cold and snowing. I wasn’t sorry leaving the cold weather for a while.
In Dubai quite a number of people were wearing masks as a precaution against the Coronavirus.
On arrival at Karachi Airport in the very early hours of Wednesday 12th February, every passenger was asked to fill out a form to identify the countries recently visited, especially China.
Even at the very early hour of 5.15 am, the Airport was really abuzz with people waiting for their relatives to arrive from Dubai and elsewhere. I greatly appreciated being met at the Airport by my fellow Columban, Louie Ybanez, from the Philippines and now assigned in Pakistan.
Louie, with two Columban Lay Missionaries, Mona and Hazel also from the Philippines, are currently studying Urdu. They are a wonderful addition to the very small group of Columbans in Pakistan.
This is supposed to be the cool season but it is getting hot. It is still pleasant and a welcome change from the cold of Ireland.
It is good to be back in Pakistan where I had the pleasure of ministering for ten years. Good to also meet up with other Columbans Tomas King, my classmate Joe Joyce, Dan O’Connor, Liam O’Callaghan, Tony Cavanagh and the Columban Sisters in Hyderabad.
The reason for my return visit to Pakistan is that I have been invited to write the history of the Columban presence in Pakistan, since they first arrived in January 1979, just over forty years ago.
Over the next five weeks I will be doing research looking at the Archives and in so far as possible interviewing and chatting with local Church personnel.
The current group of Columbans in Pakistan will be a great guiding force in helping me to identify the audience and readership. It will be a very challenging project and I do hope that I will do justice to the work of the Columbans who have worked in Pakistan, to those who are still working here and to my colleagues who have died, PJ Kelly, Tommy O’Hanlon, Pat McCaffrey, Sean Rainey, Colm Murphy, Brendan A. Kennedy, Columban Lay Missionary Pilar Tilos from the Philippines and Columban Sister Marie Galvin who died recently.
I place this project of the Columban presence in Pakistan in God’s hands.
A little celebration in Karachi
It was good to get a little break on Sunday from going through a couple of trunks of Columban related material covering over forty years in Pakistan.
It is hard to know where to begin with so much correspondence, minutes of meetings, reports. Over the next few weeks I shall try prioritizing the important material which will give me some concrete ideas of where to start and what to emphasize.
With the help of the Columbans here I will identify who our readership will be and how to make the finished product something worthwhile and readable.
During the year as I gather material on the Columban presence in Pakistan, my hope is to share the material particularly through the stories of Columbans and their experience of working in an Islamic environment.
I have been staying at the Columban Apartment in Karachi which we are renting from the Franciscans. The Campus also houses the National Seminary.
On Monday I travel with Dan O’Connor to Mirpurkhas to stay with Tomas King for a few weeks.
On our way we will drop into the Columban Sisters in Hyderabad. This is where Sr Marie Galvin ministered. She is greatly missed by the Sisters and her wide circle of friends. She made a huge contribution particularly in the field of education especially for girls.
We celebrated Dan O’Connor’s birthday and the first Ordination anniversary of Louie Ybanez from the Philippines who is now assigned to Pakistan.
It has been a great pleasure for me to meet up with Louie for the first time and also Mona and Hazel, two Columban Lay Missionaries, from the Mountain Province in the Philippines and now assigned to Pakistan.
Mona had previously served as a Lay Missionary in Fiji. Lovely to be with them last night for a little celebration and also to be with my classmate Joe Joyce. It is very important, particularly in a place like Pakistan, to celebrate important occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.
I wish them the very best in the very challenging environment of Pakistan. An honour to be with them for a few weeks.
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