Mullingar Presentation Sisters with strong links with Pakistan
Sister Martha and Sister Assumpta know Pakistan very well, having served there for 21 years and 5 years respectively. They are deeply committed to the current aid efforts in responding to the flood disaster which has killed 1,600 people and affected up to 20 million across the country. People in Mullingar have already been very generous in donating money through the Cathedral Trocaire box and some of these donations is being sent directly to the Presentation Sisters who are still working in the region.
Several other religious and missionaries from the Diocese of Meath are serving in Pakistan. Fr Tom Rafferty was ordained in his home parish of Donoghmore in 1970 and he has worked for 40 years in Pakistan with the Mill Hill Fathers.
He describes the present catastrophe as "another disaster in a long series of disasters in Pakistan", most of which he has witnessed himself. He was in the country during the refugee crisis from Afghanistan following the 1980s Russian invasions, the 2005 earthquake which killed 80,000 and the Taliban takeover in recent years.
Fr Rafferty has been staying with his brother and sister in law, Arthur and Eilis Rafferty, in Ashbourne since June but he is due to return to Pakistan next month. "In many ways, I've been more useful being than on the ground in the Swat Valley since the floods as I've been able to co-ordinate some of the fundraising from home as soon as the disaster struck" he explains.
In his parish, which is "almost the size of Ireland", he works with a Pakistani priest Fr Amer, the Missionary Sisters of Saint Thomas and the Presentation Sisters. The local church school in Nowshera is now an emergency compound for families who have lost their homes. "The army will feed the people with rice but there is a huge amount of work to be done. Babies can't eat rice; we have to provide food and medicine for children, as well as clothing for adults and clean water for everyone. This is only the immediate response. In the longer term, our parish will have to help people to rebuild houses that have been washed away and get school books again for children whenever the schools reopen."
Fr Rafferty is confident that his parish can help to deal with some of these problems, not least of all because of the generous response from people he has already received. "In Pakistan, we are used to dealing with problems and picking up the pieces. There will be Christmas and New Year - I hope we will have done a good deal of work for the people by then." He asks people to remember the people of Pakistan in their prayers, as well as the aid agencies, religious and missionary communities working in the country. Fr Rafferty is returning to his parish on 2 September.
If parishioners wish to make a contribution to support the work of these religious and missionaries, they can also send donations to Cathedral House.