More than sixty-four years ago, eight Dominican Sisters of Sparkill sailed from New York to start the Congregation’s first mission in Pakistan. They arrived in Bahawalpur, a southern city in the Punjab province, and began their quest to learn about the culture of the people and the Urdu language, to serve effectively. Through God’s Providence and the faith and commitment of all parties, there is now a thriving native group of twenty-one Sisters who continue to grow this important mission.
While the Community lives and serves in Bahawalpur, Multan, and Loretto, Bahawalpur serves as the main campus. Some would call it the Motherhouse of Pakistan for the Sisters. On this site, the Sisters operate two schools and a girls’ hostel.
The Dominican Convent Higher Secondary School is attended by students who live locally and are relatively close to the school. This school is large with 1,400 plus students, serving children and adolecents in grades K-12. Grades 11-12 offer a college level FSC (Faculty of Science) degree.
Another school, the Dominican Study Center is attended by students who live at a distance and for whom travel is difficult. The Dominican Study Center serves approximately 300 students of all grades who come from rural and/or poor communities. A hostel is maintained for the girls attending this school who remain on campus throughout the school year.
Today, ten native-born members of the Sparkill Dominican Community reside in Bahawalpur. It is these Sisters who continue to uphold the character and quality of these well-respected Dominican schools in Bahawalpur. The group includes Sisters Anna Bakhshi, Zubeda Tarcis, Nazia Shafi, Sumaira Patrick, Philomena Victor, Anna Bashir, Robina Nazir, Sadaf William, Shabnum Francis, and Sadaf Aamir.
What follows is a brief description of each Sister’s contributions to the ministries of education and compassionate child development at the Dominican Convent Higher Secondary School, to the Dominican Study Center, and to the Girls Hostel.
Sister Anna Bakhshi is the community Bursar and the Principal of Dominican Convent Higher Secondary School. Her profound knowledge and wisdom is complemented by her compassion for every person. She works hard for the advancement of each student, and she has not been disappointed. Many of these students have been known to be honest and good workers who contribute their all. They are able to enjoy a good life.
Sister Zubeda Tarcis is the Assistant Principal of Dominican Convent School. She works tirelessly to enable the faculty to reach their full potential for the betterment of the students. Zubeda also has a unique way of helping young women discern their talents to best serve and lead in their communities.
Sister Nazia Shafi is the Principal at the Study Center. Her past experiences have prepared her well for the unique needs of the students who attend the center. She conscientiously works with teachers, supporting them in delivering effective lessons.
Sister Sumaira Patrick serves at the Convent School and Study Center. In addition to her skill as a teacher, she is a strong advocate for those who live at a distance. To enable these girls to complete their studies, she oversees the Hostel, an important function on the campus. The girls are assisted in their studies and encouraged to have a healthy and bright future. Values are practiced that encourage good citizenship and respect for one another.
Every day the young Sisters help the children and young women complete their studies and work. They also encourage them to take time for relaxation and play. Three other younger teachers in the school are teaching first graders. They are Sisters Robina Nazir, Shabnum Francis, and Sadaf William. They teach with love so as to enable the children to likewise love to learn.
Sister Sadaf Aamir has been the Secretary of the school since 2021. She continues to learn new strategies that enable her to work effectively and efficiently. Her organizational skills allow all administrative functions to run smoothly and create an atmosphere of welcome for the students and parents.
In the Dominican tradition, the Sisters have been encouraged to be well-prepared with knowledge and skills that enhance the teaching and learning process. This attitude continues to enrich Sisters’ knowledge and skills that can be passed on to their students. Sister Philomena Victor has worked in the school as a class teacher for 7 years and is now pursuing a (M.A.) Masters of Arts in English at the University for Higher Studies. She is joined at the University by Sister Anna Bashir who is studying Zoology. Sister Anna previously worked as a science teacher for four years and was the lead teacher for grade 1.
All the Sisters are actively involved in church activities. They go to different areas with priests to assist them in prayers and teaching, while also visiting people to witness Christ through their lives.
Today, Sister Zubeda Tarcis works with young women who are interested in discerning their call to religious life. She listens to their concerns and responds with honest kindness that every life is a blessing and sacrifice. She invites them to be rooted in prayer and continue their journey by trusting in God.
And so, the Sparkill Dominican community in Pakistan continues to grow.
We invite you to read several testimonies from graduates of our school in Bahawalpur.
– Sister Sumaira Patrick, OP
Sister Sumaira is a lead teacher at the Dominican Study Center High School, Directress of Girls Hostel, and teacher in Dominican Convent Higher Secondary School.
– Sister Eileen Cunningham, OP
From pre-school teacher to college professor, Sister Eileen Cunningham, OP, has been an educator for more than 50 years. She currently provides support services to retired Sisters in Dominican Convent.