Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - The Catholic community is mourning the death of Sister Alessia (pictured). Known as the 'Mother Teresa of Pakistan, she was born in a small hamlet in Italy's Veneto region and spent 61 years of her life in mission in the Asian country, devoting her time to the marginalised, women, the poor. However, she will be especially remembered for her devotion to the disabled.
Sister Alessia's funeral was held last Monday in Faisalabad's cathedral in the presence of more than 350 priests, nuns, catechists, educators, students, media people, representatives of civil society organisations and ordinary worshippers. During the ceremony, participants paid tribute to her for her services to humanity.
During the Mass, Sister Sosan Buta laid out the main facts about Sister Alessia's life, describing her contributions to the growth of Pakistan's civil society and the Church's missionary work in the world.
Born on 18 November 1923 in Gasperina, in the municipality of Catanzaro (Calabria), Sister Alessia took her final vows with Dominican Sisters.
She arrived in Pakistan for the first time on 13 October 1951 and her first posting was in the Catholic village of Khushpur, Punjab, the birthplace of the late Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's Minority Affairs minister who was assassinated on 2 March 2011.
Four years later, she was transferred to Francisabad, a Christian village near Shortkot, where she spent 26 years serving the local community.
In 1980, she moved again, for the last time, to Faisalabad this time. In the big city, she took charge of the 'Miss Haq Home', a Catholic charitable institution for children with disabilities where she spent the remainder of her life in mission and service.
"The death of Sister Alessia OP is a shock and a great loss to the Church," said Sister Sosan Buta. However, "while we mourn this loss, we promise to the soul of Sister Alessia that we will continue her mission for the poor, the weak and the voiceless."
"Sister Alessia was so kind, philanthropic and gregarious to every human being," said Sister Sabina, an educator at the Sacred Heart School in Faisalabad.
Although born in Italy, "she was more Pakistani than us. She was filled with maternal love for all of us. For this reason, we, her fellow co-workers, used to call her mother. She was a true follower of Saint Catherine. May her soul rest in peace."
"Sister Alessia was the Mother Teresa of Pakistan," said Fr Khalid Rashid Asi, vicar general of Diocese of Faisalabad, "because she devoted her entire life to the downtrodden and oppressed. We are very grateful to her for her social and spiritual service."