JOURNEY WITH ACN is our weekly newsletter regularly posted to our website and designed to acquaint you with the needs of the Catholic Church around the world and introducing you to various projects we have helped to bring into being together with our partners and ACN benefactors.
This week: Pakistan
Success story – “The Bible Sisters”
– this is the name many Christians in Pakistan have for the Sisters of Saint Paul. And the Sisters are proud of their name! They not only run bookstores, but also go out into the parishes and villages and into the Catholic schools, where they distribute Bibles and other religious books as they have devoted themselves entirely to the Bible and media apostolate. The Sisters publish books and audiovisual teaching materials, among others, for catechesis.
Unfortunately, there exists a very real danger around this type of work. In fact, in June 2005 the bookshop run by the Saint Paul’s Sisters in Karachi was raided by police when some newspapers claimed there were Christian videos which disparaged the life of the Prophet Mohammed. The police confiscated a number of films and CDs and arrested one of the sellers. The man was held for 24 hours, the sisters were intimidated and terrorized.
On another occasion the bookstore, which has been at its location since 1948, was forced to close after a shooting incident just outside its doors. In Lahore, the bookstore run by the Sisters was almost completely destroyed on March 11, 2008, by a devastating bomb blast outside a nearby police station – which also severely damaged the Cathedral of Lahore and several other Church buildings on the same site – 30 people were killed and almost 250 left wounded.
Sister Timothy Villaram recalled how “one sister had just stooped down at that moment to pick something up off the floor. At the very same moment the glass from the shattered shop window flew through the room. Had she been standing up, her head would surely have been blown off.” The whole shop was destroyed, and the roof and ceiling fell in. The walls collapsed and even the foundation of the building was destroyed by the force of the explosion. The pictures of the saints were the only things left undamaged. “That was what convinced our Sisters once again that they are under the protection of our special patrons. We ask everyone to give thanks to the Lord for having shown his loving presence among us,” Sister Timothy wrote. ACN helped rebuild the bookstore with funds.
The Sisters are in no way discouraged by these experiences. They continue their work as they did before and, with ACN’s help, they published a series of books including daily readings for each liturgical year, in Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. Our benefactors contributed $26, 460 to this project. “This was in response to the wish of our poor Christians, who wanted to know how they could meditate on and practice the Word of God,” writes Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of Lahore. “The priests, catechists and parents are all happy to be able to use it for the Lectio Divina and will use it above all to instruct the young apostles in how to respect the word of God and pray with it,” he continues.
Together with the Sisters and all the Catholic faithful, the Archbishop sends his heartfelt thanks to all the benefactors of ACN for their generous help.
1 To know more about this story and especially about the Sister responsible for the project – Soeur Daniela Baronchelli – we invite you to read the book God’s Initiative – Stories of Exceptional Sisters, which is scheduled to be launched on Thursday May 14.
United through prayer for the poor and persecuted Church!