Former Pakistani missionaries hold reunion


Ordinarily at this time of year when one is more likely to encounter high school or college reunions, three enthusiastic Dominicans banded together to make their common wish come alive. Capturing the spirit of the season, so to speak, the organizing committee, Sisters Peggy McGirl, OP and Margaret Theresa Oettinger, OP (Sparkill) and Brother Thomas Aquinas Dolan, OP (Province of St. Joseph) began the yeomen task of contacting their fellow former missionaries, now spread throughout the country. The group gathered in Sparkill April 20–22.

Responding to the Holy Father’s request in the late 1950s that more labourers be sent into the vineyard, the Pakistan Mission was entrusted into the care of the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph in 1956. Two short years later, in 1958, the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill enthusiastically responded to an invitation from the friars to join and collaborate with them in this work of evangelization. Witnessing the tireless dedication of the sisters, the friars quickly realized the wisdom of their request for the sisters’ skilled assistance. Thus began a loyal collaboration and friendship that has only deepened over time.

It was this friendship and collaboration that was revisited and celebrated during this reunion through the sharing of memories and stories, memories that travelled back more than 55 years. Reminisces of a mission shared with trusted and loyal friends is what reunions are made of.

In their own words…

“After many months of planning for this very special gathering of our Pakistani Community Reunion, we united for a glorious weekend at Dominican Convent in Sparkill, New York. It was not only exciting but we were filled with emotion as we greeted each other. The event began on a Friday evening with supper, followed by sharing our personal stories. We shared our stories from Loreto, Bahawalpur and Multan, stories that brought back so many joyous memories.

“The following day began with our morning prayer. After breakfast, via a Skype video call, we were able to ‘travel’ halfway across the world to Pakistan to speak with our Dominican sisters in Bahawalpur and then back to the U.S.A. to speak with our Dominican brothers in Ohio and Washington. In the afternoon we walked the grounds of Sparkill, visiting Sacred Heart Chapel and the cemetery where our deceased Sparkill missionaries are buried.

“After Vespers and supper we viewed a film from 1963 which featured some of the friars and sisters in the early days of the mission, as well as a DVD of the Pakistani celebration of the mission’s 50th anniversary. These viewings brought back so many memories for all of us—the memories of our ministry, our Dominican friends and many people whom we still hold so close in our hearts.

“On Sunday, April 22, Bishop Bertrand Boland, OP, our brother missionary, presided over a community Mass at our Lady of the Rosary Chapel, in memory of the deceased members of our Pakistani family. Many of the Sparkill sisters who had visited Pakistan over the years were also present for the Liturgy and dinner. During this wonderful weekend we discussed so many subjects—not only about Pakistan, but also about our lives since then. It was glorious to be together.

“None of this would have been possible but for the gracious hospitality and magnanimous spirit of the Sparkill sisters at their motherhouse. It was a truly blessed weekend that brought us together and allowed us to share so many wonderful memories. We continue to ask for God’s blessings ‘to give success to the work of our hands’ in Pakistan, today and into the future.”

Story and photo submitted by Dominican Sisters of Sparkill, New York