In January 1981, two MSSP members arrived in Pakistan. A year later the Society accepted the parish of Chak Jhumra — a far-flung, rural parish in the diocese of Faisalabad. This was followed, a few years later, by another parish and a formation house for local vocations. Formation needs also led to another house in Karachi — an hour’s flight from Faisalabad. In 1994, the Society was requested by the Archbishop of Lahore to take charge of the parish in Yuhannabad.
Today, the Society is working in Conversion of St. Paul Parish, Lahore. This parish was established in 2007. At that time, the parish did not even have a parish church and consisted of less than 600 families. Now it is a thriving suburban parish with six churches besides the parish church while the number of parishioners has more than doubled.
The Church in Pakistan is still a relatively young Church with the added disadvantage of being rather isolated from the rest of the Church. It has seven dioceses with 1.7 million Catholics, as well as more than two million Christians belonging to other denominations. Officially protected by the constitution, Pakistani Christians still face a lot of prejudice and sometimes even persecution.
Our main work, naturally, is the pastoral care of the people as in any other parish in the world. We also provide a two-way link between the local Church and the universal Church. Our parishioners see in us a sign that the rest of the Church cares for them and has not forgotten them. We also help to raise the consciousness of the plight of Christians in Pakistan when we visit Malta or any other country.
The parish also serves as a platform for charitable works with the poor. Our principal contribution is in the field of education. Joseph De Piro Boys High School started as a small, co-ed primary and middle school. When the Dominican Sisters of Malta opened a school in the same locality which also followed our philosophy of providing quality education for those who cannot afford it, they took over the education of the girls while we concentrated on the boys. Our goal is to open up more career opportunities for them while countering the adverse effects of a socially depressed area through value education. We also help by sponsoring students going on to higher education.
Finally, we contribute to the formation of the local Church by helping at St Francis Xavier Seminary – teaching and providing spiritual direction. We are also available for retreat and confession services for other religious.
Above all, in this country where Christians are a very tiny minority, the Church and we are aware that whatever we say or do can be an occasion for witness. Through our works and in our daily lives with people who often have a distorted idea of Christianity, we are gifted with many opportunities to account for our hope, in simplicity and with respect [1 Peter 3:15].