The earliest beginnings of Christianity in Pakistan are a matter of conjecture and claims such as the conversion of King Gondephares of Taxila by the apostle St. Thomas and the existence, at a little later date, of a diocese and a bishop; these are based on evidence which at best can be termed likely. More exact data is available from the sixteenth century. There are references to the Portuguese who came to Sindh for political, economic and religious reasons and maintained houses for the time of their stay. They were visited by Catholic chaplains from time to time.
At the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth, Augustinian missionaries evangelised Sindh. Very little is known about them because very little has been published about those times. Discalced Carmelites also came and maintained a house at Thatta, but they left around 1672 because of persecution and other difficulties. For a century after that no attempt was made to establish the Church in this region.
After the conquest of Sindh by the British in 1842-1843, Catholic priests returned, at first only as chaplains to the troops many of whom were Irish. Again, they were Discalced Carmelites who returned to the scene of their earlier labours. They established themselves at first in Hyderabad, then the capital of Sindh, and later at Karachi. Here they opened the first Catholic School the place of which was taken by St. Patrick’s High School. The Carmelites left in 1852 when they were replaced by the Jesuits who in the meanwhile had come to Bombay which held Sindh in its jurisdiction.
Birth of the Archdiocese
Present in the archdiocese now are seven Congregations for Men instead of just the handful of Jesuits in 1935; there are thirteen Congregations for Women in addition to the two existing at the start, and some of them have more than one convent in the city as well as their novitiate. The formation of priests is taken care of by the Pius X Minor Seminary, while the theologate of the National Seminary with the National Catholic Institute of Theology is also situated in the city.
The old pious associations may have, by and large, had their day; the newer movements are progressing; such are: the Focolare, the neo-Catechumenate, the Charismatics, Jesus Caritas Fraternity of diocesan priests, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Legion of Mary and Jesus Caritas Lay Fraternity of Charles de Foucauld.
The number of Parishes has risen from the original three – St. Patrick's, Sacred Heart’s and the church of the Immaculate Conception (Kotri) – to eighteen spread all over the ever-expanding area, including the parishes in Larkana and Khuzdar.
The Archdiocesan Catechetical Centre has been established for the religious formation of the laity, while the NCIT holds programmes for the laity as well as courses for potential candidates for the ministries and the lay diaconate.
The education of Christians, and with them of their non-Christian brothers and sisters too, is cared for by numerous schools: 14 High Schools, 2 Technical Schools, 25 Primary Schools and a number of ‘Bible Academies’. In the last few decades it has become the practice to appoint lay persons as Heads of Schools. There were also two Catholic Colleges, one for men and one for women but these were nationalised.
St. Patrick’s Teacher Training College trains its pupils for the Certificates for secondary and primary education, and the Notre Dame Institute of Education ((NDIE), in conjunction with Karachi University, confers degrees in education. The NDIE, though, is not a diocesan institution. The Holy Family Hospital and the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre represent the Church’s effort to contribute towards health care, while the Holy Family School of Nursing undertakes the training of candidates for the nursing profession.
Works of charity, publications & social work
Of Special Homes there are not a few: three Homes for senior citizens, three boardings for girls from broken homes, a boarding for boys, two Homes for the mentally retarded, one for the physically handicapped, and a day care centre for the handicapped. The Daughters of the Heart of Mary run the Tatarko Yagangat School as a Rehabilitation Centre for girls, and the Missionaries of Charity have a home for the destitute.
The Rotti Press, with the many difficulties that face it, keeps up with the times. Of publications, ‘The Christian Voice’ has replaced its predecessors for over fifty years now. In the area of social work, assistance is given by Caritas Pakistan, Karachi, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Social Services. The Idara-e-Amn-o-Insaf pursues its task of justice and human rights surveillance.
Remarkable achievements these, and naturally one wonders whether this march of progress will continue as vigorously into the near and distant future. One cause for doubt, considered grave, is the fact that a number of the community are joining the many others who are voting with their feet. Another adverse factor mentioned is the minority status of the community, with all that that implies in the various spheres of life. Yet these factors have been present during the last half-century too, though the second factor was not so much in evidence in earlier decades. Yet it was precisely during those fifty years that much of the development mentioned above has been brought about.
Visitors from abroad, even though they were formerly from this country, for instance, expressed amazement at the possibility of publicly holding the splendid liturgy of the recent ordinations of two bishops. Other great signs of hope are the active part taken by lay people in parish life, the initiative they manifest and the rise of leaders. Particularly encouraging is the interest shown by the youth. All this bodes well for the latest project the Church will be launching in a very short while: The Archdiocesan Pastoral Council with its s various committees.
Ever present is the assurance given to those to whom a task is assigned: "I am with you always."
STRATEGIC PLANNING WORKSHOPThe journey continues
The next important turn of events took place in April 1998. The Archdiocese in collaboration with the National Catholic Institute of theology (NCIT) organised a three day Strategic Planning Workshop from April 28 - 30, 1998. This workshop facilitated by Ross & Liz Keane from Australia, visiting lecturers of NDIE, was God’s gift to the Archdiocese at that time of the year. The time of the year was also very significant because the Archdiocese was celebrating the Golden Jubilee of her establishment as the Archdiocese of Karachi. This event of the workshop was unique because for the first time in the history of the Archdiocese the priests of the Archdiocese assembled for this kind of a venture. The presence of parish priests was particularly significant and encouraging. The purpose
The purpose of this workshop was to reflect on the work in the Archdiocese during the past 50 years, 1948-1998, set priorities and to plan pastoral action for the whole Archdiocese for the next five years. The first sessions of this workshop were spent in evaluating the past 50 years. Going back down memory lane, marking significant events that had influenced the Church as people and noting what were the accompanying experiences and emotions. A sampling: Independence of Pakistan, the first bishop, the division of the Bombay Archdiocese, the departure of the Jesuits, the arrival of the Franciscans, the appointment of Fr. Joseph Cordeiro as Archbishop of the new Archdiocese later Archbishop, then as Cardinal, the expansion of Mission work in the Archdiocese. Some of the dreams expressed at that Seminar are becoming real today. Yet some of the lacunae also surfaced such as: a lack of collective vision and professionalism. Ours is a ghetto Church, loaded with devotional spirituality rather than Gospel Christianity. A lack of communication between priests themselves and with the people. The outcome
The conclusion of the Seminar was only the beginning. At the end of the three-day sessions the participants arrived at the following priorities: Breaking the barrier between the English-Urdu speaking Communities Building Faith Communities, Education for all, Formation of the Laity, Implementation of Workshop Material Involvement of the Laity Proclamation of the Gospel Promotion of Vocations Unity among Priests,
Consequently, many commissions were also formed for better and effective pastoral planning of the Archdiocese. Those are:
Thereafter, to co-ordinate and follow-up the work of the commissions and other pastoral activities of the Archdiocese, a Strategic Planning Committee was established soon after the workshop, with Archbishop Simeon Pereira as the head of the Committee. The other members were: Frs. Archie D'Souza, Arnold Heredia, Clement Waidyasekara OMI, Joe D'Mello, Joe Paul, Johnny Mendonca, Mathew Sebastian, Max Rodrigues, Saleh Diego. Later Bishop Evarist Pinto, Auxiliary Bishop of Karachi and Fr. Mario Rodrigues joined the Committee.
The follow-upOn the first anniversary of the Strategic Planning Workshop, May 8, 1999, the participants formulated a Mission Statement as a vision and/or as a guiding principle for the Archdiocese with regard to the pastoral activities in the Archdiocese.
Moreover a few more commissions were added to the earlier list out of necessity. They are:
Family Life commission
Pastoral care commission
Sunday School commission
The second anniversary was observed on May 22, 2000. The Commissions were beginning to take shape. Each Commission has a coordinator and some members, usually nine. Furthermore for better co-ordination and communication of information within and among various Commissions, and to communicate all what takes place in the Archdiocese to the laity, religious and priests, an Archdiocesan Communication Center (ACC) was established.
As the Archdiocese journeys onwards to celebrate the third anniversary, April 27, 2001, the members of the Strategic Planning Committee have drafted this ARCHDIOCESAN PASTORAL DIRECTORY (APD) in order to facilitate the aims and objectives of the pastoral activities of the Archdioceses. Moreover the Strategic Planning Committee which consisted only of clergy, will now be named as Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (APC), where the members will include laity, religious -men and women - clergy.
We move on with the hope that we may recognise God’s Providence in all our undertakings and also be ready to accept the fact that his ways are often very different from our ways, specially at those times when we are tempted to follow the dictates of the world. We are living in this world but we are also people of faith, people striving to make the Gospel a reality in our lives and in all our undertakings. Our God is a God who often surprises us in ways we never dreamed of. Let us be open to what he has in store for us.