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.

Keiko Uemura, a spring flower in the desert. Sunday Reflections, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Keiko Uemura on her First Communion Day, December 1971
Keiko died 27 April 1972, aged 14

Readings(New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Mark 6:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Jesus left that place and came to his home town, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offence at him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour, except in their home town, and among their own kin, and in their own house.’ And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Cherry Blossoms in Fukushima [Wikipedia]
Both the New American Bible and the Jerusalem Bible lectionaries read, He was amazed at their lack of faith. Jesus was among his own people, in the town where his brothers and sisters, ie, his cousins, lived. Perhaps his amazement was a form of frustration. Missionaries are men and women who are often 'amazed' at what seems to be their lack of 'success' in changing the situation, whether it is leading people to faith in Jesus Christ or working among baptised people for the justice that the Gospel demands but evidently isn't there.

Yet Jesus laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. In other words, he found some who responded in faith.

One Columban priest who found faith in Keiko, a very sick 14-year-old girl in Japan, was Fr James Norris, a New Zealander who died on 6 October 2007. Japan is still a country where fewer than one in two hundred are Catholics. He wrote about his experience in Far East, the magazine of the Columbans in Ireland and Britain, in 1973. Father Jim's article made a profound impact on me and I reprinted it in Misyon in March-April 2008. our last printed edition. It is a story that moves me each time I think about it. Maybe the few who believed and were healed consoled Jesus in his humanity. Maybe he felt something of what Father Norris describes in the closing paragraph of his article.

The story of Keiko and her parents shows us that our Catholic Christian faith is a gift from God, a gift for which we should thank him every day.

A Spring Flower
by Fr James Norris 

Cherry Blossoms at the Tokyo Imperial Palace [Wikipedia]

There is a high school in our parish for nearly 2,000 girls conducted by the Sisters of the Infant of Jesus. Very few of these girls are baptized Christians. As a means of contact, I teach English to the junior high school pupils three times a week. My classes are very informal and I am afraid the young ladies don’t take me very seriously, possibly because I give them no homework or exams. My specialty is supposed to be pronunciation and intonation.

One day, early in November 1971, I received a summons from one of my little pupils, Keiko Uemura, aged 14. She was very sick in the hospital and wished to be baptized. I hadn’t noticed her absence at school. The nuns were full of apologies for not letting me know, but they hadn’t thought her illness was serious; moreover, she had never shown any real interest in religion but on the contrary, during religious classes seemed to take a delight in trying to tie the Sister up in knots with embarrassing questions.

When I visited her she seemed in good spirits. After ascertaining that she really did believe and had sufficient knowledge to realize what she was doing, I baptized her. A few days later I returned to the hospital with several books that explained the faith simply and would help her to pray. She began to prepare for her first Holy Communion. I discovered that despite her seemingly frivolous behavior during religion classes, she had retained quite a lot and what was more, in her present crisis could believe, simply and totally, with no reservations. 

In December she was moved to the University hospital, the largest in town and the best equipped. Keiko herself was not aware of it, but she was suffering from a rare type of bone cancer that sometimes afflicted children. The doctor gave her three months to live. Her parents were wonderful. One of them was always near her, day and night. In her case this devoted warm parental love was an actual grace that served to open out and expand her soul to receive the grace of God’s love. As Keiko responded to God’s love, the change in her thinking and outlook, her values, could not fail to impress her parents who in turn were drawn along by the girl towards God.

About Christmas time she made her first Holy Communion. She was radiantly happy that day, as is evident from the photo. Present for the occasion were her parents and some of the Sisters from the school. I made a tape recording for future use. Each week I took her Holy Communion. Her mother prepared the altar and with Keiko read the book on doctrine explaining the faith.

Home for the New Year
The girl was permitted to return home for three days over the New Year. As a result of an operation she had recovered so well that she could walk about slowly with the aid of crutches. She believed she was on the way to complete recovery; she was full of roseate plans for her future, a trip to Lourdes followed by a life of service as a nurse to crippled children. Her father hoped against hope for a miracle, but on the quiet he assured me that it was only a question of time.

Spiritual progress
During the next three months she made tremendous spiritual progress. Her mother told me that she herself was sometimes concerned by the flood of visitors, who often outstayed their welcome, even when Keiko was in pain. But the girl never showed it; she always put on a cheerful front and showed her gratitude to all-comers. Later when her mother grumbled about the inconsiderateness of some people, the girl stopped her with: ‘Mother, it may be alright for you to complain because you are not a Christian, but I am one now and must love everybody. Besides, the visitors come because they are interested in me and I am grateful for this.’ Apart from the occasional sigh or moan that escaped her lips, she never complained of the pain.

Shirakawa River [Wikipedia]

As the long winter faded, the cherry blossom trees along the Shirakawa River responded to the warm April sun and flooded the banks with a soft pink mist. I could see the blossoms from the window of her room, but the girl was too young to appreciate the pathos of their beauty – those petals whose destiny was to diffuse their delicate beauty for a brief span, only to be caught by the slightest breeze and flutter to the earth from which they sprang. Keiko never saw her own life and destiny in those blossoms.

About the middle of April she began to weaken. Within a week, she had lost consciousness and was given oxygen. She died peacefully on 27 April. The church was filled at her funeral. Her classmates were heartbroken and inconsolable, far more emotionally upset than her family. Indeed, I was surprised at how calmly her parents bore their great loss. I discovered it was because they had received the grace of the faith through the girl’s influence, even before they had begun any formal instructions. They were convinced that she still lived on in God and that they would meet her again.

Whole family converted
A week after the funeral her parents and her brother began their study of the doctrine. They were model catechumens. Every night before the family altar, united to Keiko in spirit, they said the rosary and read a chapter from the Scriptures. I baptized them on 6 November, the anniversary of Keiko’s baptism. There were tears of joy in their eyes that day as they realized they were united to their daughter by grace within the bosom of God the Father.

One of Keiko’s closest friends who was shattered by her death but very impressed by the spiritual change in the girl before her death, has resolved to follow in her footsteps and pursue the ideal of service Keiko set for herself had she lived. She is now under instructions and intends to become a nurse.

Fr James Norris after officiating at the joint wedding ceremony of three brothers in Japan

Testimony of her faith
There was nothing sensational about this girl’s short life. She did nothing that would merit notice in the mass media; her life created no more of a stir in society than a petal falling to the ground. But I am convinced her story is real news and a genuine success story. In these days of superficial sensationalism, even we Christians tend to forget that the real battles of life are won or lost within the depths of the heart where a man meets his God and says yes or no.

Moreover, in a country like Japan, a missioner seldom sees the grace of God’s action working so powerfully and swiftly in a soul. Such tangible evidence of God’s presence is almost a physical sign of His love which bolsters one’s hope no end, enabling the missioner to keep going. This slip of a girl was a candle in the darkness, a spring flower in the desert.

Mater Dei, Mother of God, Japan
Unknown artist, c.1900-05, painting on silk

Ave Maria in Japanese
Composer: Saburo Takada; singer: Atsuko Azuma