Today, we have 27 Pakistani Sisters Finally Professed, 11 Irish Sisters, 7 Juniors, 9 Novices and 4 candidates. These are the hope of the future. The Pakistani Presentation Sister is Nano Nagle to the children of Pakistan. She knows her own people and will be able to break down barriers of prejudice and injustice. To be ‘Women of Light”’ working in an Islamic State is a great privilege and also a great challenge for all of us. We have confidence that the Lord of the Harvest will call many more Sisters into His vineyard here in Pakistan and also “Go One Step Beyond” to other countries.
Photo of Presentation Sisters Pakistan taken on 17 February 2013 at Presentation Convent Rawalpindi
The Presentation Story began in 1895 in Rawalpindi, which was then part of the sub-continent, when Mother Ignatius McDermott, Sr. Xavier Lonergan and Sr. Evangelist Coatsworth arrived in Rawalpindi from Madras. The first Mass was celebrated on 8th September 1895 and the school was opened on 1st October - with ‘three Sisters, three pupils’. The school was for Christian children, the sons and daughters of army personnel, British and Irish. The overwhelming majority of the people living around them were Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.
The annals recorded every step the Sisters took in the years that followed. The picture portrayed is thickly overlaid with dark shadows of struggle, disappointment, disease and loss, with occasional shafts of light between. In 1908 Mother Columba O’Sullivan returned from Ireland with seven would-be postulants. As the years passed more Irish postulants gradually swelled the ranks and new foundations were made in the sub- continent:
Peshawar 1913, Murree 1917, Quetta 1923, Srinagar, Kashmir 1936, Delhi 1939 and Sargodha 1946. After the partition of Pakistan the following Convents were opened: Risalpur 1948, Jhelum 1950, Wah 1951, Josephabad 1957, Swat 1965, Fatima Villa 1981, Tando Allah Yar 1986 and Khipro, Sindh in 2000.
In 1947, when Pakistan came into being, the Sisters immediately responded to the needs of the changing times and Muslims, Hindu and other non-Muslim students were admitted into our schools. One of the problems which the Sisters had to solve in the wake of the partition of the country was whether four local girls who had religious vocations should form a separate Congregation or join the Presentation Congregation.
Political uncertainty prevailed in the country and as foreigners the future of the Irish Sisters was not bright. The Vatican was consulted by Bishop Hettinga, the then Bishop of Rawalpindi. The answer came back that the girls should be given the right to choose – and a vote should be taken from them. The four girls unanimously decided to become Sisters of the Presentation Congregation in Pakistan. They were immediately admitted as candidates. On 22nd August 1954 Srs. Claver Sharif and Stephen Diwan (2 Pakistani Sisters) made their First Profession in the Church in Murree. They were the first of a long line of Pakistani Sisters, who continue to join the Congregation.
Front Row: Four Novices due for First Profession on 12 April 2013
Back Row: Five Novices due for First Profession on 8 December 2013
Two groups of Junior Professed Sisters
Front Row L. to R.: Srs. Shumaila Barkat, Sandra John, Sumaira Pervaiz
For more information about our story in Pakistan, see Pakistan Continued.