Former cabinet minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has proposed the government of Pakistan to offer honorary Pakistani citizen to Irish Nun Sr Berchmans in recognition of her life-long services in the field of education, along with promoting interreligious ties in Pakistan.
St Mary’s University has announced to award Sr Berchmans the Benedict Medal next week in recognition of her services for the people of Pakistan. Sayeeda Warsi, former senior British foreign minister and a visiting professor at St Mary’s University, said the government of Pakistan should also recognise her efforts, as she selflessly devoted her time and energy to serve the people of Pakistan.
The medal, which is the University’s highest honour, will be presented to Sr Berchmans by the Westminster Archbishop and St Mary’s Chancellor of Cardinal Vincent Nichols during a St Mary’s Summer Graduation Ceremony, next week.
Warsi said, “Sr Berchmans dedicated 70 years of her life to teaching and spent most of her time in service of Pakistan. She taught Muslim, Christian, Parsi and Hindu children at the Convents of Jesus and Mary in Lahore, Murree and Karachi to promote education, empowerment and interfaith harmony. She deserves recognition at all levels.”
Warsi added, “I had the privilege of visiting Sr Berchmans in Karachi and I saw at first-hand how her work and presence has created a lifetime of interfaith understanding. Like her students, colleagues and peers I am delighted that Sr Berchmans is receiving the Benedict Medal from St Mary’s University as part of their summer graduation ceremony at Westminster Cathedral. It will be a fitting occasion for someone, who has given their life to education and to helping young people achieve their dreams.”
Sr Berchmans was born in 1930 at Ireland, Country Clare and joined the Convent of Jesus and Mary in 1951 in Willesden, London. The award is being presented to her in recognition of her 70 years of teaching, majority of which was spent in Pakistan, where she taught Muslim, Christian, Parsi and Hindu children at the Convents of Jesus and Mary in Lahore, Murree and Karachi. Sr Berchmans was awarded the Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam, one of the highest civil awards given by the President of Pakistan. The award citation celebrated her “constant adherence to the call of duty over 59 years, which has made Sister Berchmans a living example to emulate.”
Sr Berchmans’ students include Benazir Bhutto, Asma Jehangir, Hina Gilani, Nergis Mavalvala, Sharmeen Obaid, Shireen Mazari, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Tehmina Janjua, Sana Bucha, Nasim Zehra, Atiqa Odho, Jugnu Mohsin and many others.
Sr Berchmans will now become the fifth recipient, and the first woman, to be presented with the Benedict Medal, joining the prestigious list of previous recipients including the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all-Ireland Dr Richard Clarke, former Archbishop of Canterbury Baron Williams of Oystermouth former Chief Executive of Ofsted and alumnus of St Mary’s Sir Michael Wilshaw.
Speaking of the award, Bishop Richard Moth, St Mary’s Chair of the Governing Body said: “Sr Berchmans’ dedication and commitment to the thousands of students, she has taught is an inspiration to anyone committed to the vocation of teaching. We are honoured that we will be able to present her with the Benedict Medal during our institute of education’s graduation ceremony. Her examples of inclusivity and respect will guide our graduates as they embark on their teaching journeys and continue to inspire future generations.”