26 May 2010

Funeral of Fr Pat McCaffrey in Lahore, Pakistan

Fr Pat McCaffrey, 1944-2010. Photo by Fr Gary Walker, April 2010

This account of the funeral of Fr Pat McCaffrey is by Fr Tomás King, ordained in Ireland in 1992 and the current Coordinator of the Columban Mission Unit, Pakistan.

The funeral Mass took place in Sacred Heart, Cathedral, Lahore, on Thursday, 20 May at 3.00pm. Concurrently, a Mass was being celebrated in his home parish of Tempo, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, his classmate Fr Pat Raleigh being the main celebrant. The body arrived in the cathedral from the morgue at 2.30 for viewing. The 'Last Look' is an important custom in Pakistani culture. While people were filing past the coffin the rosary was recited.
Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lahore

Archbishop Lawrence Saldana of Lahore was the main celebrant assisted by Auxiliary Bishop Sebastian Shah OFM and Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, formerly of Hyderabad, and a friend of Father Pat and of the Columbans since their arrival in Pakistan in 1979. More than 50 priests from the diocese and beyond attended.
Interior of Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lahore

In the introduction to the Mass Aquif Shazad from the Columban JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) team gave a brief biography of Father Pat's life, after which symbols from the various countries that he had lived and worked in were placed on the coffin. The choir sang some of his favorite Urdu and Punjabi hymns. I gave the homily. The cathedral was packed. It was a moving liturgy and many tears were shed.

Bishop Joseph Coutts

Afterwards the body was taken to St Columban's Parish, Greentown, on the outskirts of Lahore city. Here he was welcomed by roughly 2,000 people from all corners of the parish who were unable to make it to the cathedral. The body was placed in the small church and people lined up and filed past for the 'Last Look.' Again, many tears were shed and prayers said. The graveyard is just at the back of the church and high school. The grave itself is literally a minute’s walk from the church through the church compound entrance. But the people preferred to carry the coffin the long route around to the main entrance, giving as many men as possible an opportunity to carry the coffin.

The grave chosen was under a mature 'people' tree. Prayers at the graveside were led by Fr Joe Joyce, a classmate from Ireland, and Fr Gabriel Rojas, a Columban from Peru. After it was laid in the grave, as is the custom, all present threw a fistful of clay over the coffin. As many women as men were present. While it is changing in Christian circles, it's still uncommon for women to go to cemeteries for burials. Darkness had fallen by the time the grave had been covered in, after which it was covered in rose petals and flowers. Incense sticks and candles were lit.

English Columban Father Denis Carter with friends in Pakistan

Father Pat had been laid to rest under the Lahore sky as the light from the many candles pushed back the darkness and the smoke from the incense sticks carried the prayers of those present, prayers that expressed a hope and belief that he continues to be among us. It was very difficult to walk away.

Rest in peace good and faithful servant.

All proceedings were recorded at the request of Father Pat's family. It was also recorded by a new Catholic TV station which broadcasts within certain parts of Lahore city.

Father Patrick McCaffrey is the second Columban missionary to die in Pakistan. Pilar Tilos, a public school teacher from Hinoba-an, Negros Occidental, Philippines, on her second three-year term as a Columban lay missionary, died suddenly there on 4 January 1996 at the age of 55. She too is buried in Pakistan. We opened our mission there in 1979.

Pilar Tilos (right) with Emma Pabera from Candoni, Negros Occidental (in blue) and Gloria Canama from Tangub City, Misamis Occidental (in white) in Pakistan in the early 1990s. These three were the first group of Filipino Columban Lay Missionaries to be assigned overseas and were known as 'RP1', 'RP' meaning 'Republic of the Philippines'. Gloria is still in Pakistan while Emma was a staff member of the formation team for our lay missionaries in the Philippines for many years after leaving Pakistan.

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