ASIA-OCEANIAPAKISTAN: Oblate bishop ordained
On April 29, the Vatican announced the great news that Msgr. Victor Gnanapragasam, OMI would be the first bishop of the newly erected Apostolic Vicariate of Quetta. This news was received by all the Oblates and the people of the vicariate with great happiness and thankfulness to God. Msgr. Victor had already been the Apostolic Prefect of Quetta since April 2002. In the last 8 years, the Prefecture grew and progressed in every way. The Holy See followed closely this expansion and development in the Prefecture. The decision from the Vatican was, therefore, one of encouragement and inspiration for the local church of Baluchistan.
The Episcopal Ordination was glorious and solemn at the Cathedral of St. Patrick at Karachi on July 16, 2010. Presiding at the ritual of ordination was the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Adolfo Yllana. Karachi is about 650 kms south of Quetta. There was some concern about having the ordination in Quetta due to the tensions and conflict in Quetta and in the Province of Baluchistan.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral was filled with faithful from Quetta and Karachi and from many parts of Pakistan. Numerous clergy and religious came from all parts of Pakistan to witness this historic event. The Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan was also present to welcome the new bishop. There were also many Oblates and friends and relatives of Bishop Victor to celebrate with him.
Msgr. Victor was born in Jaffna on November 21, 1940 and was ordained a priest on December 21, 1966. After serving in Sri Lanka, he left for Pakistan as a missionary in 1973. His episcopal ordination coincided with the 98th birthday of his mother; two of his sisters are nuns in the Apostolic Carmelite Order.
He had worked in many parishes and had held a leadership role for many years, helping the Oblate Delegation to grow and expand in many dioceses and many ministries. He worked in the formation of future Oblates in the juniorate and the scholasticate. Now many of the Oblates in the Vicariate are his former students and they love to work with him.
The Oblates arrived in Pakistan in 1971. The mission of Quetta was given to the Oblates in 1983. From one parish (Holy Rosary) in Quetta in 1983, there are now 7 parishes. Three Oblates began ministry in 1983 and now there are 11 Oblates working in parishes and in varied ministries.
On July 25, Bishop Victor was installed as the first Vicar Apostolic of Quetta Vicariate. Quetta was for many years a parish of the Hyderabad Diocese, about 450 kms from the diocesan center. An outdoor Eucharist was organized on St. Joseph’s Convent School grounds. More than 4000 people joined in the thanksgiving celebration where the local Church welcomed with great love and admiration the new Shepherd. It was very moving to see the newly installed Bishop going among the people, giving them his first blessing.
This beautiful and historic event was marred by a sad event. Four Oblates travelling from Quetta for the celebration met with a very serious motor accident. Two of them were in critical condition and were admitted to the Aga Khan Hospital. Most seriously injured was Fr. James Khan GASPER who was in a coma for several days, with a serious head injury and fractured ribs. Another Oblate sustained a broken hand and leg. The other two escaped with minor injury. (Fr. Jeevendra PAUL)
Since early August, torrential rains have caused extensive flooding in parts of Pakistan, especially in the Indus river basin. Some reports say that as many as 1,600 people have lost their lives in the flooding and another two million have had to flee their homes as the waters rose around them. There has been extensive damage to the agricultural crops; the lives of at least 14 million people have been disrupted.
Father Aloysius ROY, the superior of the Oblate Delegation in Pakistan, reports that the Oblates are trying to care for those fleeing for their lives: “The neighboring numerous villages are affected and the people from those villages are coming into our parish (school buildings, halls) and will stay till the flood recedes. Our priests have to look after them and feed them....; many of them have abandoned their cattle and many belongings and ran for life!
“One of our priests Fr. Mukhtar ALAM, of Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine at Derekabad, phoned me few hours ago giving me the above details. There are more than 1500 people are already arrived into our parish for shelter.” (August 12)
On a happier note, Father Roy wrote to Father General on August 11 about the two Oblates who sustained serious injuries while traveling to the ordination of Bishop Victor GNANAPRAGASAM on July 16:
“I want to give you some good news! Fr. (James Kahn) GASPER is shifted to the General Ward from ICU since yesterday. He has improved a lot and hopefully in a week or so he could be returning to our house.
“He still has tube through his throat for better breathing and for oxygen. So, he is still unable to talk, but he understands everything and communicates with signs. He is fed through a tube.
“Fr. Abid (SALEEM) is at the Oblate Scholasticate resting and recuperating. He still has to go to the hospital for ‘check ups’.
“We are looking after all their needs and we hope they will be able to exercise ministry in the near future. We thank you for your prayers and constant support, especially in this difficult time.”
Dear and Rev Father General,
18 August 2010: Peace and Joy of Jesus from Fr. Francis Nallappan OMI and all the Oblates of St. Eugene Province of India!
This is to thank you for your support and prayers for the New Province Day celebrations on 15 August 2010 at St John Baptist Church, Poonamallee, Chennai! We thank God for the manifold gifts and graces from the time of inception to the present moment of Oblate life and mission! On the eve of 15 August, our Independence and the Feast of Assumption of Mary, the threatening rain and thunder slowly cleared the heavens for the songs praise and glory to God!
I, as newly elected Provincial, had the unique privilege of welcoming and thanking the ecclesiastical and Oblate dignitaries along with the extended Oblate Family! Most of the ecclesiastical dignitaries about twenty five of them – the Bishops, the Provincials and Major Superiors of local Church and Religious Congregations -- as expected, had come and were honoured for their contribution to our growth in our life and mission! We also had the full attendance of the Oblate provincials (Fr. Clement WAIDYASEKARA of Colombo, Fr. Paul NADCHITHIRAM of Jaffna), and Major Superiors (Fr. David ULlrich from China-Australia), and their Oblate representatives of the region (Fr. IRUDAYARAJ of Japan-Korea, and Fr Rex KULAS of Bangladesh), and the missionaries (Frs Hilarion Vedanayagam, Joseph SAMARAKONE, ATPUTHARAJA, Bob RODRIGO)! In these Oblates, we remembered all the missionaries and the General and provincial administration who nurtured the seeds of Oblate Charism to grow to this stature of being and becoming a Province under the patronage of St. Eugene, our Founder and Father!
It was a unique experience also to have the Major superiors of the Oblate related Congregations – Sr. Latha, HFB (Holy Family of Bordeaux); Rev. Fr. K P Xavier, CR, Vicar General (Congregation of Rosarians); Fr. ARULRAJ, the Founder of DMI (Daughters of Mary Immaculate) and MMI (Missionaries of Mary Immaculate); Sr. Sasikala, DMI, the Assistant General; Fr. Roland, MMI, the provincial of MMI; Fr. GERARD, the Founder of SDM (Sons of de Mazenod) and DDM (Daughters of de Mazenod); Sr. Flora, OMMI, a councilor (Secular Institute of Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate of the late Fr. Louis Marie PARENT). The presence and active work in preparation and serving of dinner by the members of MAMI (Missionary Association of Mary Immaculate) is another clear sign of their being and belonging to our family and their participation in our life and mission!
The colourful cultural events were duly represented from our missions – Andhra Pradesh, North India, Tamilnadu and Karnataka! The cultural and linguistic variety manifested to the august gathering the spread and spirit of our Oblate Charism and missionary outreach across the vast expanse of India! With the Poonamallee Scholasticate community providing a very homey atmosphere for the dinner, the day was beautifully ended! We certainly thank God and Mary along with everyone related to this day’s event with their body, mind, heart and soul!