- The formation of the laity is "important" as is "their
involvement" in the life of the Church and society in Pakistan. To achieve this goal all available resources must
be employed including "institutes dedicated to pastoral work", says Fr. Joseph
(Joe) Joyce, an Irish priest of the Society of St. Columban for Foreign
Missions. In the Asian country since
September 1982, he summarizes the challenges facing Catholics today and the
answers to promoting the faith and contributing to the growth of the nation. To
this ends he tells AsiaNew that the
role of the media must be exploited within society and in particular the
potential offered by television and radio. "Something
is happening - adds the missionary - but much more can and must do" in
Fr. Joyce, a native of County Offaly, has worked in the past 30 years in parishes in Sheikupura, Matli, houses of formation for nuns and novices, and the minor seminary of St. Mary and St. Francis Xavier. The Irish missionary has also worked in the Philippines in the Colomban monastery for spiritual formation and has acquired experience in South America (Peru and Chile) and the United States.
Despite the growth of Islamic fanaticism, locally and globally, Fr. Joyce explains that "the pastoral work continues," and has led to the emergence of new areas, of parishes as well as ordinations and professions of religious vows. He speaks of a church that works and grows, reserving a special mention to the " Franciscan territories of Lahore that have opened houses and communities in the diocese of Lahore, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi. He therefore calls for a greater effort - and of important realities such as the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) - in the fields of ecology and protection of creation, but also work in favor of interreligious dialogue that must take place not only at a high level with prominent personalities, but at the grass roots level among all levels of the population.
Along with strengthening education and improving the school system, the Irish missionary stresses the essential role - today - covered by the media in particular television and radio, the protagonists of the Christian message, a major factor in meeting and discussion. In this regard, Fr. Joyce remembers the transmission of radio programs that promote cultural exchange and dialogue with Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others, from which "we have had a positive response from listeners and government media." These include programs devoted to education, to rules and laws, women rights, ecology issues and motherhood.
The enormous potential offered by television is also another area to be further explored. In particular, explains the priest of the Society of St. Columban, the Catholic TV broadcasts raises issues similar to those already proposed in the radio and that may contribute to the formation, through the services of priests and nuns: "the structure is being developed - adds Fr. Joyce - and the staff is finalizing training and almost ready for their prime time on stage". But, he concludes, "they can still learn much from the foreign staff" who work within the realities of the media.