by Sister Margaret Palliser, OP
Feb. 16, 2014, was a joyful day of celebration for the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill as the community in Pakistan gathered to witness the first profession of Sister Philomena Victor and the final professions of Sisters Sumaira Sadaf Siddique, Nazia Shafi, and Shahnaz Nazir. Families and friends were in attendance as well as many priests who were educated by the Sparkill Dominicans in Multan, Bahawalpur, and various villages of the diocese.
Bishop Andrew Francis, Bishop of the Diocese of Multan, celebrated the Mass of Profession in Most Holy Redeemer Cathedral. The Pakistani Regional, Sister Anna Bakhshi, accepted these commitments in the name of the congregation. At the end of the Mass, Bishop Andrew spoke graciously about the service given by the Sparkill Dominicans to the Multan Diocese for more than 50 years. He also thanked the congregation its continuing commitment to this mission as evidenced by the arrival that week of two Sisters from the United States. Sisters Eileen Cunningham and Eileen Sullivan will minister in Pakistan for the next year and possibly longer, dependent upon their receiving extensions of their visas.
n keeping with the congregation’s commitment to the education of Christian youth in Pakistan, Sister Philomena will be involved in the ministry of education in Multan, and Sister Sumaira will continue to minister at the Dominican Convent School in Bahawalpur, while Sisters Nazia and Shahnaz will minister at the Ibn-E-Mariam school in Loreto Village.
History of Dominican Sisters of Sparkill in Pakistan
On Oct. 12, 1958, eight Dominican Sisters of Sparkill arrived in Bahawalpur from New York for mission in the Multan diocese, joining their U.S. Dominican brothers from the Province of St. Joseph. Five sisters remained in Bahawalpur, while three served in the village of Loreto. Over the years, 22 more Sparkill Dominicans have followed in the footsteps of these first eight missionaries, sharing the good news of the gospel with the Pakistani people and sowing the seeds of Dominican life for women there. The congregation accepted their first postulants in 1965. At present, there are 14 Pakistani sisters in the community.
The mission to Pakistan was the first foreign missionary venture for the Sparkill Dominicans. Although they began their ministry in Bahawalpur and Loreto, the arrival of many more sister volunteers allowed the congregation to take up the challenge of work in Rahimyar Khan, Fatimapur, Khanewal, and later, in Multan. While these areas are mostly desert, they also still afforded many opportunities for apostolic ministry. The sisters were open to the Spirit, and, in spite of all the challenges of culture, climate, diet and language, their apostolic efforts were very effective and bore much fruit.
Originally, the main ministries offered to the congregation were education and dispensary work. As time went on, the sisters became involved in social work, midwifery and health care, the training of teachers, and caring for the very poor in the desert areas. Today, the primary ministry of the sisters is education as they continue to serve in Bahawalpur, Loreto, and Multan.