18 July 2018

'Without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live.' Sunday Reflections, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Cattle and Sheep in a Stormy Landscape, Paulus Potter 

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Mark 6:30-34 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni 

(20 January 1972 - 3 June 2007)
I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord (Jeremiah 23:4. First Reading).

On at least six occasions during his nine-day pastoral visit to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay in 2015, Pope Francis asked the people to pray for him, as he did when he addressed the people in St Peter's Square for the first time as pope in 2013. Perhaps he has constantly in mind two statements in today's First Reading from the Prophet Jeremiah: 'Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord . . .  I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.'

Jesus shows his concern for the apostles when they returned from the mission on which he had sent them as shepherds when 'He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”'

Ballachulish, Scotland
'Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.'

Perhaps we can pray in a special way for our priests as we take part in Mass this Sunday. We have countless models of priests who have been worthy shepherds, evening to laying down their lives for the flock they were called to serve. One such shepherd is an Iraqi priest with Irish connections, Fr Ragheed Ganni, assassinated along with three subdeacons, his cousin Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed, after celebrating Mass in Mosul, Iraq, on Trinity Sunday, 3 June 2007. (The wife of Gassan Isam Bidawed was with them but was not shot).

Apse of Chapel, Irish College, Rome
St Columban second from left, Fr Ragheed far right.
[Details at source]

An engineer by profession, Ragheed answered God's call to become a priest and studied theology in Rome, before and after his ordination in 2003. While there he stayed at the Pontifical Irish College where he became known as 'Paddy the Iraqi', 'Paddy' being a common nickname for men named Patrick, after Ireland's national patron, and a humorous generic name for any Irishman. As a priest still studying in Rome he spent part of his summers as a member of the staff at Lough Derg, known as St Patrick's Purgatory, a place of penitential pilgrimage in Ireland.

Mosaic of Fr Ragheed Ganni with palms of martyrdom, Chapel of Irish College, Rome [Source]

Yet this young Iraqi who, according to the statement of one friend after the priests' murder, 'knew where the best pizza in Rome was', chose to go back to his own country, knowing that his life might be in danger. He spoke of this at a Eucharistic Congress in Bari, Italy, two years before his death. The theme of the Congress was Without Sunday We Cannot Live, 'Sunday' meaning most especially the celebration of Holy Mass.

Basilica of St Nicholas, Bari [Wikipedia]

Fr Ragheed Ganni's Testimony

Mosul Christians are not theologians; some are even illiterate. And yet inside of us for many generations one truth has become embedded: without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live.
This is true today when evil has reached the point of destroying churches and killing Christians, something unheard of in Iraq till now. In June 2004, a group of young women were cleaning the church to get it ready for Sunday service. My sister Raghad, who is nineteen, was among them. As she was carrying a pale of water to wash the floor, two men drove up and threw a grenade that blew up just a few yards away from her.
She was wounded but miraculously, survived. And on that Sunday, we still celebrated the Eucharist. My shaken parents were also there. For me and my community, my sister’s wounds were a source of strength so that we, too, may bear our cross.
Last August in St Paul’s Church, a car bomb exploded after the 6 pm Mass. The blast killed two Christians and wounded many others. But that, too, was another miracle – the car was full of bombs but only one exploded. Had they all gone off together, the dead would have been in the hundreds since 400 faithful had come on that day.
People could not believe what had happened. The terrorists might think they can kill our bodies or our spirit by frightening us, but, on Sundays, churches are always full. They may try to take our life, but the Eucharist gives it back.
On 7 December, the eve of the Immaculate Conception, a group of terrorists tried to destroy the Chaldean Bishop’s Residence, which is near Our Lady of the Tigris Shrine, a place venerated by both Christians and Muslims. They placed explosives everywhere, and a few minutes later blew the place up. This and fundamentalist violence against young Christians has forced many families to flee. Yet the churches have remained open and people continue to go to Mass, even among the ruins.
It is among such difficulties that we understand the real value of Sunday, the day when we meet the Risen Christ, the day of our unity and love, of our (mutual) support and help. There are days when I feel frail and full of fear. But when, holding the Eucharist, I say ‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’, I feel His strength in me. When I hold the Host in my hands, it is really He who is holding me and all of us, challenging the terrorists and keeping us united in His boundless love.
In normal times, everything is taken for granted and we forget the greatest gift that is made to us. Ironically, it is thanks to terrorist violence that we have truly learnt that it is the Eucharist, the Christ who died and is risen, that gives us life. And this allows us to resist and hope. 
[This appeared in The Sacred Heart Messenger (April 2008), a publication of the Irish Jesuits.]

(20 November 1942 - kidnapped 29 February, body found 13 March 2008) [Photo: The Path to Peace Foundation]

Father Ragheed was secretary to Archbishop Rahho, The Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul. Most Catholics in Iraq and Syria belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church, in full communion with Rome. 'The Eucharist, the Christ who died and risen, that gives us life' was celebrated every Sunday in Mosul for 1,600 years - until June 2014 when the ISIS forces drove out the remaining Christians. Mass was celebrated again on 30 October 2016 after the ISIS forces left.

The words of Jeremiah, 'I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them', have surely been fulfilled in the lives and deaths of such priests as Fr Ragheed Ganni and Archbishop Rahho and in the lives and deaths of Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed (described in some reports as 'deacons' and in others as 'subdeacons'). As we thank God for them and for countless other faithful priest-shepherds, let us continue to pray for all our priests and for Christians who are being persecuted for their faith. On 7 July this year on a pastoral visit to Bari Pope Francis appealed for peace in the Middle East. He met there with 19 heads of Christian churches in that region.

In a document signed last March the Congregation for the Causes of Saints gave permission for the process of the canonisation of Fr Ragheed Gannis and his three companions, his cousin Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed, to begin.

John Rutter's setting of The Lord is my shepherd, Psalm 22[23], which is used as today's Responsorial Psalm.

17 July 2018

Columban Fr Paul F. O'Malley RIP

Fr Paul F. O'Malley
11 April 1927 - 7 July 2018

Paul O'Malley was born in the Germantown neighborhood of Clinton, Massachusetts, the second son of Walter and Lillian (Kappel) O’Malley. His mother was a member of the German Congregationalist Church while his father’s background was that of Irish Catholicism. Paul’s home parish was St John the Evangelist, though he attended local public schools and graduated from Clinton High School in 1944. 

Central Park Foster Fountain, Clinton [Wikipedia]

Paul then completed two semesters at Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts, before being drafted into the US Navy during World War II. During the following two years he served in the South Pacific - Okinawa, Guam and Pearl Harbor – until he was honorably discharged in 1946.

Paul returned to Holy Cross College and graduated in 1949 with a Bachelor of Science degree in History. He then entered State Teachers College in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where he graduated in June of 1950 with a Master of Education degree. From 1950 – ’52 he taught in the Boston Public Schools. During his college years and later when teaching, Paul served as a counsellor at Camp Cedar Crest in Green Harbor, Massachusetts. It was there that he first encountered Columban seminarians, whose pleasant personalities and sense of humour made a deep impression on him. These encounters awakened his interest in studying for the priesthood.

St Joseph Memorial Chapel, Holy Cross College [Wikipedia]

As a first step, he attended the School of St Philip Neri, which provided a one year program in Latin and other courses to prepare late vocations for entering seminaries. Then, in September 1953, he entered the Columban Spiritual Year program at Bristol, Rhode Island. Having already studied philosophy at Holy Cross College, the following year he began his studies in theology in Milton, Massachusetts. Father Paul was ordained on 21 December 1957 at St Columban Major Seminary by Bishop Jeremiah Minihan.

In the autumn of 1958 he was assigned to the Philippines, where he spent the next thirteen years in the Prelature of Iba, Zambales. His first assignment was to St James Parish, Subic (1958 – 1961). He then moved to Olongapo City where he was the first Pastor of St. Columban Parish as well as the Assistant Director of Columban College (1962 - 1964).
Following that, he was an associate to Fr Kieran Heneghan at St Michael the Archangel Parish, Santa Cruz (1965 - 1967). During the next two years he was pastor at Holy Infant Parish, San Antonio. Father Paul’s last assignment in Zambales was as pastor of St James Parish, Subic (1970 - 1971).

Santa Cruz, Zambales [Wikipedia]

A stint in vocation ministry in the US Region (1969 – 1970) led Father Paul to be assigned back home a short time later (1971). From 1972 – 1974 he was engaged in mission education and promotion work at St. Columban’s Retreat House, Derby, New York.

From 1974, Father Paul began a series of renewal programs, starting with Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Boston City Hospital, and continuing with studies at St John Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts and later at Weston School of Theology in Cambridge Massachusetts. He then returned to the Philippines where he was engaged – alongside his classmate, Fr Vic Gaboury – in pastoral education at Makati Medical Center in Makati City.

Makati Medical Center [Wikipedia]

In 1977 Father Paul returned to the United States, where he joined Columbans, Fr Bob Conley and Fr Jim O’Brien, in team ministry at Sts Peter and Paul Parish in Norwich, Connecticut. There, he relished the opportunity to minister to parishioners from a wide variety of ethnic, religious and socio- economic backgrounds. He also put his CPE training to use in the development of a parish programme for the sick and elderly, as well as in his regular ministry at nearby hospitals, including Uncas-on-Thames Hospital for the terminally ill.  Upon leaving that parish in 1983, Father Paul became pastor to the Filipino community at St Columban Church in Los Angeles, where he remained until March 1987.

St Columban Church, LA [Parish website]

Participation in a three month Columban renewal course in Baguio City, Philippines, led Paul to express an interest in going to the new Columban mission in Jamaica, West Indies. In April 1987 he took up an appointment in the Diocese of Montego Bay, ministering for the first five years in Holy Name Parish in Bamboo, St Ann, and the following two years at Sts Philip and James Parish, Lucea, Hanover. 

Montego Bay [Wikipedia]

Rheumatoid arthritis led Father Paul to receive treatment in Los Angeles in 1992, and to his re-assignment back to the US Region in 1994, where he assisted Columban Fr Bob Conley, at St Columban Church in Los Angeles for a year. From there he moved to senior housing in his hometown of Clinton, Massachusetts, where he was close to his brother, Walter, as well as relatives and friends. During the years that followed, he assisted with parish ministry, did Columban mission appeals, and engaged in outreach to benefactors, including the LAOH. He was also a frequent visitor to the Columban Retirement Home in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Statue of St Columban
St Columban's, Bristol, Rhode Island

Then, around his eightieth birthday, Father Paul moved into the Columban Retirement Home, though he continued to maintain close contact with the people of Clinton. Indeed, throughout his life, he nurtured and sustained friendships with many people in all the places he lived. His warm and caring nature as well as his sense of humour endeared him to all who crossed his path, and he found great joy in facilitating others in putting their gifts at the service of God and their community.

Father Paul is mourned by his brother and sister-in-law, Walter ‘Miz' O’Malley and Teresa, his niece Maureen Banks, nephew, Kevin O’Malley, the Columban community, as well as a large circle of long-time and newly-made friends.

Columban Fr Mark Mengel was the homilist at the funeral Mass on Thursday, 12 July in St John the Evangelist Church, Clinton. Burial followed in the family plot at St John Cemetery, Lancaster, Massachusetts.

May Father Paul rest now in the peace of Christ to whom he devoted his life.

The hymn Eternal Father, Strong to Save is traditionally associated with seafarers, both civilian and in armed services, in a number of countries. In the USA it is usually referred to as The Navy Hymn.

11 July 2018

'So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.' Sunday Reflections, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Christ as Saviour, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Mark 6:7-13 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Green Drove, Pewsey, with the Pewsey White Horse, south of the village [Wikipedia]

Today's gospel reminds me of experiences as a seminarian while on Peregrinatio pro Christo with the Legion of Mary, in St Anne's Parish, Edge Hill, Liverpool, in 1963, in St Fergus' Parish, Paisley, Scotland in 1965 and in Holy Family Parish, Pewsey, Wiltshire, England, in 1966. Peregrinatio pro Christo, or PPC, is a programme of the Legion of Mary that began in 1958 or 1959. Legionaries give up a week or two of their summer vacation to do full-time Legion work in another country. The name comes from the motto that inspired St Columban and many Irish missionary monks, Peregrinari pro Christo, 'to be a pilgrim for Christ'. Saint Pope John XXIII quoted this in a letter to the Irish Hierarchy in 1961 on the occasion of the Patrician Year, commemorating 1,500 years of the Catholic faith in Ireland. In the same letter he specifically referred to the involvement in this spirit of the Society of St Columban in Latin America. (Thanks to Shane for the link). 

Many of us in the seminary, including some of the priests, used to go for a week or two during our summer break. Like the apostles, we depended on the hospitality of parishioners for board and lodging. In my three experiences I was in parishes and the main work was going from house-to-house in pairs, rather like what the Apostles were sent by Jesus to do in today's gospel. Legionaries never work alone. Occasionally people would close their door once we announced who we were but very few were impolite. Some would give us a warm welcome.   

I remember one family we visited in Liverpool. They were lapsed Catholics and the parish records showed they were rather hostile to the Church. However, when the man who opened the door heard our Irish accents he began to tell us about his pleasant experiences on visits to Ireland. I spoke of this as an expression of our faith. We had a very friendly conversation with hi and when we leaving seemed to have let go of his hostility to the Church.

Garrard County Courthouse, Lancaster, Kentucky [Wikipedia]

As a young priest studying in the USA I had similar experiences in Lancaster, Kentucky, during the summers of 1969 and 1970. The parish priest, Fr Ralph Beiting, had college students from other parts of the USA work on various projects in his parish that covered nearly four counties and that had very few Catholics. There was still lingering prejudice against Catholics. One of the projects was to visit each home, in pairs, just as the Legion does, and introduce ourselves as being from the Catholic Church, and telling the people about our programmes. Again, the response was generally positive. In some rural homes we'd meet older people sitting on their rocking chairs on the veranda. They'd invite us to sit down and relax and would sometimes share a bit about their Bible-based faith. As we'd leave we'd hear the friendly farewell so common in the area, 'Y'all come back!'

Fr Ralph Beiting [Source]

Some of the programmes we invited children to were summer Bible schools and five-day vacations for poor children in a summer camp, boys one week and girls another week. Black and white children would be together at a time when this was rare in that part of the USA.

Only God knows what can result from going from house to house as a way of carrying the mission that Jesus gave to the Twelve and that he gives to us. He doesn't guarantee 'success' but simply sends us out in trust.

One of Father Beiting's summer apostolates for many years was street-preaching, very often with seminarians. On one occasion years ago he was driven out of one town at gunpoint but returned the next day, not to preach but simply to show himself. He was eventually not only accepted but welcomed. He, a Catholic priest, was continuing an old tradition in the area, that of the travelling preacher. He was one of the very few left. Fr Beiting, born on 1 January 1924,  was ordained in 1949 and up to his late 80s he was still going strong. Here he is preaching during the summer of 2011. He died the following summer on 9 August 2012. What a wonderful example he was as a disciple of Jesus and as a Catholic priest!

04 July 2018

Columban Fr Daniel Canniffe RIP

Fr Daniel Canniffe
3 July 1928 - 28 June 2018

Fr Daniel 'Dan' Canniffe was born on 3 July 1928 in Bandon, County Cork, Ireland. He was an only child as were each of his parents. Educated at Bandon Naotional School, Hamilton High School, Bandon, and St Finbarr's College, Farrenferris, County Cork, he entered St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Navan, in September 1945.

Immaculate Conception Church, Bandon [Parish FB]

Ordained priest on 21 December 1951 Father Dan was appointed to Japan. He spent seven years there. After language school he was involved in pastoral work in Yakatamachi, Wakayama City. There he was involved in using all the usual techniques to make the Church known. This included posters, street collections for the poor, film shows, lectures by invited speakers, promotion of the Legion of Mary, the Society of St Vincent de Paul and the Young Christian Workers. Those were the years of plenty in post-war Japan when many people entered the Church.

Church of the Assumption, Yakatamachi [Source]

After his first home vacation Father Dan was appointed to Mission Promotion work in Ireland for the following five years. In 1965, when the first 'Retirement Wing' was establsihed in St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Father Dan was appointed as its first superior and was known to his Columban confreres as 'The Wing Commander'.

After ten years in this position Father Dan was appointed to pastoral work in St John's Parish, Tralee, County Kerry, where he spent seven happy years. He was once again recalled to Dalgan Park as House Superior from 1982 to 1986.

St John's Church, Tralee [Wikipedia]

Following this Father Dan returned again to pastoral work in Tralee, this time to the parish of Our Lady and St Brendan, from 1986 to 1989. He was widely known and loved in Tralee: his bantering style concealed a deep pastoral concern and he related well to both young and old.

Racehorses in Longchamps, Edgar Degas [Web Gallery of Art]

Father Dan's health began to deteriorate around this time and he retired to St Columban's Retirement Home where he remained until his final illness. He loved to bet on the horses and for years he willingly place bets for any other interested 'punters' in the retirement home as part of his morning schedule. His final illness was the result of a fall. He lost consciousness, was briefly treated at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin before returning to die in Dalgan Park on the morning of 28 June.

May he rest in peace.

Corpus Christi Procession, Bandon, June 1941

The young Dan Canniffe would have been just short of 13 when this took place and almost certainly was part of it.