23 October 2009

22 October, Day 11. Update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

Deaf students from Hangop Kabataan, the centre for young persons with disabilities established by Fr Sinnott in 1998, at the inter-faith prayer rally last Sunday in Pagadian City.

Fr Patrick O’Donoghue
Regional Director of the Columbans in the Philippines
Thursday 22 October 2009, 11pm Philippine time, 3pm GMT

The Columban (death) anniversaries today gave me pause for thought. Fr John C. Healey (from Massachusetts, USA) went to Hangyang in 1939 and spent over four years under house arrest in Zikawei. Fr Hugh Sands (from Ireland) had preceded him to Hangyang in 1927. ‘In 1931 he was captured by bandits and held for nine months’. It struck me that we have been through this before and more than once. What also stood out as if high-lighted was the ‘nine months’ of captivity. Father Hugh was 35 at the time. He lived another 50 years after this experience honed him.

The Gospel didn’t raise my spirits: ‘Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?’ The coming of the kingdom will inevitably breed resistance from those who oppose the reality that we are created. They then seek power in their own right. They fail to see the wonder of the gift of life given by the All-Compassionate God. But we are called to proclaim this gift of life in Jesus ‘in season and out of season’. And there will be times when that proclamation leads to the ‘witness of captivity’. I prayed to Father Hugh and to Father John this morning that Father Mick would continue to be strengthened in his ordeal and that his would not be a long captivity. It seems long already.

There were rumours this morning that contact had been made. I waited to see if I would hear anything from official sources. I did not. And I began to get restless. My willingness to wait began a struggle with my need to get out and do something. And then the internet did not work and my calls were not returned and . . . ! It was a frustrating morning.

The committee who are organizing the follow-up Prayer Rally met during the morning. My choice to stay ‘in the background’ was being tested again when someone suggested that I go to the committee meeting. But I opted to let those who do it best do it unhindered, and simply sent one request. The Rally will be on Saturday to allow more parishes to join and the hope is that it will be bigger. The smaller prayer groups continue, and at different times of the day convenient to different people.

The afternoon proved to be busy and I eventually got in contact with a number of people. The news was the same. Reasonable certainty but no concrete evidence, particularly as to who were the people holding him. Several people asked me: ‘Father, are you not surprised that it is taking this long? What do you think?’ The waiting is getting to many. And the rumours gain credence.

Before lunch I heard the first of the rumors that Father Mick ‘had had a heart attack’ or that he was dead. They shook me but as no one seemed to know their source and no one was contacting me, I decided to ignore them. But they persisted and I grew more anxious as they were not totally improbable. And I feared for Father Mick’s family in Ireland if they heard these – the anguish of distance and helplessness and pain. I started calling again and this time got some answers. People I trust had no evidence whatsoever that they were true. I contacted other sources and the same answer. So when a reporter, whom I trust, from one of the national papers called me I allowed myself to be quoted. I simply said that there was no evidence to suggest to me that these rumours were true, that I didn’t know where they were coming from, that I chose to believe that Father Mick was alive and that he was being cared for by his captors and that I also chose to believe that they would be compassionate and free him. And that is what I do believe and will continue to say. Just before I sat down to write this someone, who would be in a good position to know, told me that there was no basis whatsoever for these rumors and that Father Mick was alive. To be honest I don’t know how this person knows but I accept the assurance. You don’t always have to know the ‘how’.

Messages continue to come in. I had a phone call from Peru, from Columban Sr Anne Carbon (in photo, from Cagayan de Oro), who knows Father Mick so well. And I had a second email from Sr Regina Reinhart MMM (whom some of us know from the Missionary Institute in Kimmage, Dublin) who is now in Brazil, telling me of a Mass offered for Father Mick in the city center of São Paolo (photos below). Students from the Theological Institute there are also praying for him. We are seeing the ‘universality’ and the ‘unity’ of the Church in new ways. My thanks to the many others who continue to email and send their messages of support – and these messages are supporting us in the waiting.

Archbishop Dosado (Ozamiz) phoned me from Dipolog tonight to express the concern and support of the bishops and all at the DOPIM meeting. (DOPIM is the ecclesiastical province that includes the jurisdictions of Dipolog, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Iligan and Marawi).

We are entering the 12th night of Father Mick’s captivity. May the Lord who has come to cast fire on the earth and wishes it to be blazing already hold him in the peace that conquers all conflict and division.

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