ASIA/PAKISTAN - St. Ignatius' charism attracts young people in Pakistan

Saturday, 23 March 2024 dialogue   education   consecrated life  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - The charism of Saint Ignatius continues to arouse the interest of young people in Pakistan and the Order welcomes young men who want to learn about the religious life of the Jesuits. During Lent 2024, Father Robbie D'Lima SJ professed his first vows at Saint Mary's School, in Lahore, an institute chosen as the site for the ceremony in memory of the presence and mission of the Jesuits in Pakistan.
A few years ago, when he was already a diocesan priest, Robbie D'Lima felt the call of the Lord to enter the Society of Jesus. This began a new chapter in his life. After spending two years as a novice, first in the United Kingdom and then in Pakistan, Father D'Lima was convinced of his vocation to religious life and decided to take vows in the Society of Jesus. The Jesuit religious community, staff and students from the three Jesuit schools, sisters from women's congregations, volunteers and lay people took part in the Eucharistic celebration. The liturgy emphasized the deep meaning of the vows of consecrated life as "a radical commitment to God and the people of God in three ways: to be, to serve and to die."
"First and foremost, the vows are the basis for a new way of life, characterized by the desire to be connected to God through the Spiritual Exercises," said Peruvian Father Juan Carlos Pallardel (SJ), superior of the Jesuit community in Pakistan.
And to symbolize this commitment, Father Robbie received a copy of the “Constitutions” of the Society of Jesus to express commitment to life as a Jesuit in Pakistan.
Second, the focus of the vows, the celebrant said, is service. For Jesuits, the call to serve means a conscious decision-making process in which one must choose between poverty and comfort, humility and pride, universal mission and self-interest. Service is the fundamental principle that should guide all Jesuits and influence all their thoughts and actions, in the certainty that they serve the poor and crucified Jesus in their neighbor.
Like the first Jesuits sent to the Indian subcontinent more than 450 years ago to answer the request of the Mughal Emperor Akbar who wanted to learn more about Christianity, Father D'Lima and the Jesuits today continue to follow the call of Christ to serve in Pakistan, where Christians make up just 1.3% of the country's 240 million population. In this mission, the Jesuits are called to serve the poor, the marginalized and oppressed, and those who suffer from inhumane living conditions.
At the end of the ceremony, Father D'Lima received the vow cross, which symbolizes "kenosis," or "emptying oneself" to make room for others. The grace conferred by the vows serves as motivation to face the realities of life in Pakistan in all its complexities. Faced with these realities, Jesuits are called to continually reflect, engage, and seek ways to witness the love of Christ in this land.
The history of the Jesuit mission in Pakistan is characterized by three different eras. The first Jesuits arrived in the subcontinent in the 16th century during the Mughal Empire (the modern states of India and Pakistan did not exist then), but the mission was temporarily closed during the reign of Shah Jahan. The second period began in 1888 when the religious settled in Karachi, Hyderabad and Balochistan. Finally, in 1961, four Jesuits founded a new mission in Lahore, initiating the current and third phase of the Jesuit presence in Pakistan. The Jesuits began to engage in apostolic activities such as interreligious dialogue and education (in schools and universities). After support from religious provinces in Australia and Sri Lanka, the first local vocations took place, and in 2009 the first Pakistani Jesuit took vows. In Lahore, the Jesuits run two secondary schools and a kindergarten that take in students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. A highlight is the cultural commitment of "Loyola Hall", a study center that also attracts many Muslim scientists for research and seminars.
With Father D'Lima, the number of Jesuits in Lahore increases to a total of four. In addition - with an increasing number of vocations to religious life - there are four young Pakistani candidates, four other "scholastics" studying in Indonesia, two young Jesuits in Sri Lanka and Father Imran John (the first Pakistani Jesuit) who currently lives in Rome. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 23/3/2024)