1999-02-01 00:00:00

Pakistan desperately needs positive social forces like Doctor H.M.A. Drago, said the homilist at the funeral Mass in Karachi for the late Catholic doctor who was revered across communal lines.

A recipient of many awards, Doctor Drago -- whose service ranged from assisting refugees to the cure and prevention of major diseases to education and youth animation -- passed away Jan. 16 in Mirpurkhas, about 250 kilometers northeast of Karachi, just shy of turning 92.

His land papers were more often than not with the government, since he stood bail for a number of poor people all through his life, noted Franciscan Father Sigfried Bergmann, provincial for the Order of Friars Minor in Pakistan.

Retired Franciscan Bishop Bonaventure Paul, the main celebrant at the Mass Jan. 18 at St. Lawrence´s Church, praised Drago´s love for the poor and his outreach to Hindus and Muslims.

"We have lost one of the most dedicated and humble Catholics of Pakistan. He was a selfless person," the bishop told UCA News.

According to Sister Therese Dion, "He started every institution in Mirpurkhas and its surroundings -- leprosy work, tuberculosis cure and prevention, scholarship for school drop outs -- name it and he began it."

"He worked with Hindus, Muslims, Christians, the poor and the rich, villagers and town people. He loved all of them," said Sister Dion, provincial of the Medical Mission Sisters, who run St. Teresa´s Hospital in Mirpurkhas and Holy Family Hospital in Karachi.

The deputy commissioner of Mirpurkhas has called a meeting to ensure that there will be a fitting tribute to the late doctor.

Born in Goa, now in India, on Feb. 28, 1907, Hermanegild Marcos Antonio Drago graduated from St. Xavier´s College in then Bombay and Grant Medical College. In 1933 he went to Mirpurkhas in what is now southern Pakistan.

When in 1947, in the wake of the partition of the subcontinent, trains loaded with refugees arrived in the town, Drago would be waiting at the train station with volunteers to tend to the injured and the ill.

For this service he was honored by Pope Pius XII in 1950 as a knight in the Order of St. Gregory the Great. Now deceased Archbishop Alcuin van Miltenburg had to persuade him to accept the knighthood, reportedly saying, "We know our business, and you may kindly accept it."

Other honors came his way including three gold medals for his work in tuberculosis.

Drago´s dedication and devotion to the sick and suffering led him to start the Tuberculosis Association and the Ante-Natal Clinic, which grew into the Mother and Child Welfare Association for the benefit of the many women affected by anemia and related problems.

With the help of Doctor Ruth Pfau, he also started a leprosy center in a room of his clinic for patients who would otherwise go to Karachi for treatment, where their families would have to stay in slums or under bridges.

In 1981 he joined a government committee for rehabilitation in order to come to the aid of polio-affected children.

Taking special interest in functional literacy, he organized 15 centers at which children aged 5 to 12 are taught to read, write and do simple arithmetic. For those who wanted to study further, he built a functional literacy school, his last major initiative.

Through the organization "United Youth for a United World" that he started, Drago brought the youth of different communities to work together on small projects so that they could get to know one another and as adults be more able reach out beyond their own community.

He saw hope for the unity of the country only in the unity of youth.

The doctor kept up a busy daily schedule until his death -- seeing about 20 patients in the morning and dividing his evening among numerous social organizations for which he wrote minutes and letters and kept accounts.

Drago left behind a wife and six children. All four of his daughters are doctors and his two sons hold important posts.

Although the people of Mirpurkhas wanted him to be buried in their own town, his wife chose Karachi so that people could more easily visit his grave.


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