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UNION OF SISTERS OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

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Pakistani Novices Visit to Sindh

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31/05/2019

Five novices – Sumble, Sundal, Arooj, Irum and Rushna from the Presentation Novitiate in Rawlpindi, Pakistan, give their account of their recent visit to Sindh.

We were very excited when we heard the news about going to the Province of Sindh which is located in the south of Pakistan. We were very enthusiastic to learn about the culture, traditions and customs of the people there. Sr Shahnaz Barkat, the Novice Director, and ourselves the five novices – Sumble, Sundal, Arooj, Irum and Rushna – started the journey early in the morning of 14 February 2019. We travelled by train from Rawlpindi, a city in the Punjab Province where we live. The stations through which we passed were Gujar Khan, Jhelum, Lala Musa, Gujarat, Wazirabad, Gujranwala, Patoki, Chichawatna, Khannyawal and Multan. At night we slept and in the morning our next station was Nawabshah. The last station was Tando Adam – finally we had arrived! 

Fr Denis welcomes the novitiate group from Rawalpindi

Presentation Sisters Regina Coughlan, Gretta Gill and Fr Denis Hartnett (a Mill Hill priest) very kindly came to collect us at 7.30am. The morning was very cool and fresh. We attended the Holy Mass at 8.15am at the centre on our side of the town of Tando Adam. The Mass was enriching for our souls. Then at the end of Mass, the local people welcomed us. Afterwards, we had a short visit and after breakfast we left for the next place on our schedule. 

As well as Tando Adam, we visited the towns of Tando Allah Yar and Khipro – the three locations where our Presentation Sisters are carrying the mission of Jesus and Nano.

The mission of our Sisters in Sindh inspires us. They are really working very hard with the tribal people, especially the Parkaris, Kutchis and Bheels. Our Sisters are bringing people ‘out of darkness, into the light’ through education. Sr Regina has overseen the building of five village schools and she also does much work in visiting many villages to see to the needs of the people. Sr Gretta works at the schools and also with the Punjabi families now living there. 

In Tando Allah Yar, we attended Sunday’s special Mass celebrated in the Kutchi Kohli language.

Mass at Kiphro

The people welcomed us and presented us with beautiful garlands made of petals. Two novices – Sundal and Sumble – stayed in Tando Allah Yar with Sisters Nasreen William and Sumaira Pervaiz.

In Tando Allah Yar, there is one main school, St Mary’s Presentation High School. Sr Sumaira is the Principal there. Besides that, she also runs a number of village schools. There are two hostels in Tando Allah Yar – one for boys and one for girls – who live far from the schools. Sr Nasreen helps in the school and looks after the boarding girls. The Mill Hill priests are responsible for the hostel for the boys. The number of girls boarding is thirty-six and the number of boys is forty-six. All of the boarders take computer classes and the girls learn embroidery and sewing in their free time. We helped them with their study from 4pm – 5.30pm and in other activities. The schools that the Sisters run in Sindh cater for over six hundred students – day students as well as boarders. 

Novices with Sr Sumaira and staff and pupils at Tando 
Allah Yar School

We also went to the school and helped the teachers and students. The students have zeal, passion and a thirst to learn – they have great ambitions. The teachers are very cooperative, hardworking and understanding. They shared their gifts and talents with us; and we shared ours with them. The students were very loving towards us. We also put much effort into helping them in every way we could, and we appreciated them. The students really want to do something for their families. Some of the children told us they go to work after school in order to support their parents and siblings. 

Three novices – Arooj, Irum and Rushna – stayed for a number of days at Khipro. We visited Fr Cyprian High School and some village schools. The Fr Cyprian High School is the main school and there are also nineteen village schools overseen by our Sisters. Sr Ghazala Daniel is the principal and Sr Zarish George is helping in the main school. Sr Clare Rehmat works with the Parkaris, a tribal community. We had a lovely time in school. Children are hard-working, even though facilities are sometimes inadequate. They are intelligent and confident. Some of them are carrying some of the responsibilities for their families. yet, their hopes and dreams are very high. They want to be doctors, pilots, teachers and engineers in the future. We would like to share one story with you. One day we asked one of the students: “Why do you want to become a doctor?” He replied very nicely: “Sisters, in our area people are suffering from different diseases and they often get sick. Therefore, if I become a doctor I can cure them.” His answer was beautiful. This is only one example. There are many other examples of their hope, compassion, thoughtfulness and generosity. Our Sisters are doing a great job with them. They are not only educating them, but also helping them in their spiritual life, family issues, personal problems etc. and making them better human beings, better able to face the world. The lay teachers are also working very hard to help them. They understand them. The Sisters, teachers and students have given us precious memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. After this visit, we have the strong belief that these students will succeed in the future. They are now like ‘ever-shining stars’ because they are strong enough to face the challenges of life ahead. We really appreciate the hard work of our Sisters and all that they are doing. 

We are very inspired by the lives of people in Sindh, We visited a number of families and we are happy that they are very loving, caring, innocent, honest and hardworking. The women work in the fields at home. They share their problems openly and they are very generous. They share everything, whatever they have. Their hospitality is marvellous. They are happy even though they live in poverty. They have strong faith in God; and no one can diminish that. However, some families still do not allow the girls to get an education. 

Our Sisters, in collaboration with the priests, are working very hard at raising awareness among the people about many issues and some opportunities. We were happy to see the ways in which they support boys and girls, enabling them to attend Vocational institutes for vocational training. They give them free medicines when they are sick, as medicine is expensive and not readily available. The missionaries in Sindh cooperate with people in every way they can. They visit them, listen to them and help them to solve their problems. 

The tribal families marry their children from the ages of 16 to 18. They have a famous custom – that the one who is going to marry has to spend seven days apart in prayer and silence. This is something very beautiful. In this way, they get time to think about their new life. The people use different symbols to mark the stages toward marriage. 

We are grateful to God for the call to religious life. Through this experience, each of us feels stronger in our vocation. We learned so many things and we had so many experiences which touched our hearts deeply. The faith of the people we met is inspiring us to draw closer to God and to each other. Their openness, love, sharing, respect and generosity towards one another teaches us to become humble and compassionate with everyone. The poverty of the poor speaks to us very strongly. It is a challenge to us – that we should share our gifts, talents and whatever we have openly. We feel that “The harvest is rich, but the laborers are few” (Luke 10:2). We should go wherever we are sent. There will be great joy and life if we take the risks and launch out into the deep and, if we are willing, to go to different places and be among people with whom we are not familiar. Jesus asks us to go the fringes, to the peripheries and to the edges. He tells us not to be afraid, for God will give us the courage we need. Wherever we go, we will find Him there ahead of us. 

We would like to thank all the Sisters who are working in Sindh for making our experience beautiful. Our special thanks to Sr Shahnaz who gave us the opportunity to visit Sindh. We would like to thank Sr Anna Sheehy (Ireland: South West Unit) who encouraged us to write a reflection on our immersion experience. May God bless them and all whom we met while we were in Sindh. 

Submitted by: Novices Sumble, Sundal, Arooj, Irum and Rushna

 

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