Sangla Hill (Agenzia Fides) - One is the church of Saint John Mary of Vianney, named after the Curé of Ars, a figure dear to the priests and faithful of Lahore; the second is the Church of Saint Clarence, Bishop of Vienne, France..These are the two new chapels and mission stations that the Archbishop of Lahore, Sebastian Francis Shaw OFM, inaugurated and blessed during a pastoral visit to the parish of the Holy Spirit, in the town of Sangla Hill, in the Pakistani province of Punjab. The parish of the Holy Spirit in Sangla Hill, founded by Belgian Capuchin missionaries in 1911, was entrusted to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in 2009. In recent years, the missionaries have dedicated themselves with apostolic zeal to the pastoral care of the faithful and to the evangelization in that rural area, where about 7,000 Catholic faithful now live. The Pakistani Oblate missionaries, in their pastoral activity, always remember the figure of their founder, Saint Eugène de Mazenod, and have also spread devotion to other French saints, such as St John Mary and Vianney and St Clarence of Vienne.
The new chapels, named after these saints, constitute two "mission stations" that arise in small rural villages, where the number of Catholic families has continued to grow: that of the Curé of Ars is in the village of Chathy Chak, while the church of St. Clarence is in the center of Clarence Colony, a settlement formerly named after the same saint. The blessing ceremony was attended by Fr. Khan Paulus OMI, Superior of the Delegation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Pakistan, along with numerous priests, religious, nuns and faithful who attend the parish of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, on the occasion of the Archbishop's visit - an event which, given the vastness of the diocese, rarely occurs - in the Catholic church of Saint John Mary of Vianney, more than eighty young people and adults received the Sacrament of Confirmation.
The Archbishop expressed his deep gratitude to the OMI missionaries who have been involved in the pastoral mission in that area for about 15 years; on the other hand Fr. Akmal Patras OMI, the local parish priest, thanked Msgr. Shaw for his presence that "always represents an encouragement, a sign of attention and hope for all the faithful".
The OMI Congregation of Pakistan has also celebrated another event in recent days: the priestly ordination of two missionaries, Father Adeel Amir OMI and Father Tasneem Nawaz OMI, who received the sacrament of Holy Orders at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Lahore on April 21, through the laying on of hands by Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw. Expressing the joy of the entire diocesan community, the Archbishop thanked God "for the gift of two new priests", exhorting them with the words of the Gospel: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). And he continued: "If you remain firm in your faith in Christ, there will be no worries or thoughts that can shake you. Take up your cross every day and follow Jesus on the path of perfection. May God be always with you".
The Archdiocese of Lahore has 582 thousand Catholics, out of a population of about 33 million inhabitants, mostly Muslims, and 30 parishes.
The first Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) missionaries, three young Oblate priests from Sri Lanka, arrived in Pakistan at the invitation of Msgr. Francis Benedict Cialeo OP, then Bishop of the Diocese of Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) in 1971. Their presence then extended to other Pakistani dioceses such as Islamabad, Multan, Karachi, Lahore and in the territory of Baluchistan in the current Apostolic Vicariate of Quetta. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 8/5/2023)