Pioneer Oblate Ordained in Pakistan
First Ordination in Baluchistan Province
Father Gulshan Barkat, O.M.I. makes history every day.
On April 21, 2012 Fr. Barkat became the first Catholic priest ever ordained in the province of Baluchistan, Pakistan. The historic nature of the event was not lost on the 32-year-old priest.
“This (ordination) has a high symbolic value for us and gives a powerful Christian witness,” said Fr. Barkat. Photo: First ordination in Baluchistan Province“I pray it will also promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life in this province.”
Photo: Father Gulshan Barkat, OMIThe ordination ceremony was celebrated at the Chapel of St. Joseph Convent School of the Vicariate Apostolic of Quetta, a Christian outpost in Baluchistan. Archbishop Victor Gnanapragasam, O.M.I. presided at the ordination of his brother Oblate.
Bishop Gnanapragasam, who was chosen by Pope Benedict XVI to lead the Vicariate of Quetta in 2010, said he hopes the ordination of Fr. Barkat is another step in the acceptance and respect of the Catholic population in a region where Christians are less than one percent of the population.
Baluchistan is the largest province in Pakistan, covering about half the country. It is bordered by Iran to the west and Afghanistan to the north, making it a place where residents are exposed to radical Islamic and Taliban propaganda.
Father Barkat was born in Rahim Yar Khan, a Pakistani city near the border with India. After high school he began to pursue his calling to the priesthood. Because Catholic formation programs are nearly nonexistent in Pakistan, Fr. Barkat spent several years overseas studying for the priesthood, including time at the prestigious Pontifical Gregorian Photo: Father Gulshan Barkat, OMI at MassUniversity in Rome.
Father Barkat now joins a team of Oblates who have been working in Pakistan since 1971. In addition to Bishop Gnanapragasam, there are 23 Oblate priests and 13 scholastics in Pakistan.
In 1982 the Oblates began their mission in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan. There were almost no signs of Christianity in the area when they arrived. Today the Oblates in the Quetta mission serve 50,000 Catholics and another 50,000 Christians of other denominations. The Oblates also operate schools, pastoral activities and catechesis programs in villages throughout the province.
Bishop Gnanapragasam said that people of different faiths are finding they can live and work in harmony to improve the lives of everyone in the region.
As an example he noted that in 2010, when massive flooding hit the area, more than 1,500 refugees received food, shelter and basic medical care at the Oblates’ Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in Derekabad. Nearly all of the refugees were believed to be Muslims.
Photo: Father Barkat speaks during MassDespite some improvements in religious tolerance, there is still tremendous tension between the Muslim majority and Christian minority in the area. Just a few days before Fr. Barkat’s ordination a Christian, Hyrak Maseeh, was murdered by people the Oblates believed were Islamic extremists.
“People live in fear and we are subjected to the risks of attacks by terrorist groups, including those with Taliban background,” said Fr. Barkat. “But we are here to help build peace in Pakistan. We will do our part, by praying and social commitment.”