The following series of texts has an objective to introduce you to the many kinds of assistance needed by various organizations, parishes or Catholic communities throughout the world. We invite you to travel with us to all the continents that you may see how very important your support is to them.
Enjoy the read !
By ACN International
Adapted by AB Griffin, ACN Canada
The parish of Saint-Paul resting approximately 25 km south-west of Faisalabad, conveys an atmosphere of peace. The school’s students have painted an outside enclosure wall within which stand a church, a presbytery and school, with colourful images depicting a peaceful world. One of these depicts a lamb, snuggling up trustingly against a lion. The priest has planted fruit trees, and inside the inner courtyard canaries twitter and pigeons coo, while the children play football.
This parish, which was only recently established in February 2010, serves 30 different villages. The parish priest, Father Emmanuel Parvez, certainly has his hands full. “In many villages the people do know that they are Catholics, but they have never seen a priest before,” he writes. “The catechists are a great help to me. They go into the villages, invite the people to pray and come to Holy Mass, visit the sick and prepare the faithful for the reception of the Sacraments. But we urgently need to have a second priest here.”
ACN has already helped with the construction of a new presbytery, since the old one only had one room which served the priest as a bedroom, a dining room, a sitting room and a workroom combined and was already too small, even for one priest.
Improving living conditions
Father Emmanuel has many plans. Above all, he wants to improve the living conditions of all the locals. Even the children have to work in one of the 25 local brickworks that are scattered all along the roadside in this area. The children make the bricks with their bare hands and leave them to dry in the sun. If it rains before the clay bricks have been fired in the kilns, whose tall chimneys dot the countryside, then all their work is wasted. The factory owner simply says, “How can I help the fact that it has started to rain?” And he refuses to pay them.
The people are trapped in near-slavery conditions and live with their families in unhygienic environments in near-destitution. They can lose their jobs from one day to the next, and then forced to wander seeking shelter somewhere. Worst of all, if they must borrow money from the factory owner, for example, in the case of someone in the family falling ill who needs medical treatment – this can result in the family becoming still more indebted and dependent on the employer. It takes generations to obtain freedom from this kind of slavery debt, because they can never manage to pay back the initial loan at the horrendous interest rates which have been tacked on to the initial loan.
Now Father Emmanuel Parvez is assisting families like these to escape slavery. He wants to build a small settlement, and begin sheltering families, initially 80 or son. Each will have their own little house, and there will be a school, a small medical aid post and a chapel. Father Pavez requested help from ACN for the construction of this little chapel.
A special gift
In fact, he has already been given a rather special gift for this chapel – a 2-foot-high statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. This copy of the miraculous replica came directly from the famous shrine in Prague. It is sure to be a source of consolation and of blessings for these Christians in Pakistan. For weeks, hundreds of children awaited the Child Jesus’ arrival to their village and prepared themselves for it through prayer. When the statue finally arrived, they welcomed it with a celebration of song and dance.
These children, who have experienced poverty and slavery since their earliest years, are overjoyed that the Child Jesus himself has come to them. He will be given a place of honour in the chapel of the new village, where these former wage slaves are now able to live a life of genuine human dignity for the first time. He will be invoked above all for the protection of the children, who are so terribly threatened in Pakistan, and will also be a great attraction for Catholics from other parishes. Very soon a Holy Mass will be celebrated in Pansara in honour of the Child Jesus, and priests and faithful from the entire diocese of Faisalabad will be invited, as this replica of the renowned image of Prague is carried in solemn procession to its place of honour in the chapel.
Father Emmanuel is particularly concerned for the children who face many and continuing threats here in Pakistan, from the likes of poverty, child labour, terrorism and violence. He would like to help them enjoy a better future and protect them from harm. He has set up numerous different activities for children that are open to Muslim children as well. By playing and reflecting together, he believes they will come to a good and peaceful understanding in life. He is loved by many Muslim families as well, because he helps them too.
Family ties with Shahbaz Bhatti
Not only is Father Emmanuel tirelessly active in his own parish, but he also lectures at the seminary in Faisalabad – for he is a biblical scholar too. He also writes books for children and young people, based on the parables and miracles of Jesus. The students can perform these stories as plays, for example, and so come to appreciate them more deeply. He has written many other books besides, aimed at deepening faith.
Aged 62, he is in fact a cousin of the Minorities’ Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who was brutally gunned down by machine guns by extremists in March 2011, for having opposed Pakistan’s iniquitous blasphemy laws. Just three weeks after Bhatti’s murder, the Pakistani Bishops’ Conference made an official request to the Vatican to have his name included in the list of Martyrs of the Universal Church. Already in his last interview, the Catholic minister had described his commitment as a “witness for Christ.” Several of Shahbaz Bhatti’s family members have since left Pakistan because they fear for their lives. Father Emmanuel himself has also received threatening phone calls. But he is staying, for he says, “It is better to be a martyr than a refugee.” There are many others who need his priestly ministry, his help and his intrepid witness.There is still a great deal that he wants to do for the people in Pansara.
Father Emmanuel Parvez has asked our help to build a chapel in his village of former slaves. We would like to support his project with a contribution of $17,650.
Will you help us?
If you wish to make a donation, please call us: (514) 932-0552 or 1 800 585 6333