Friday 23 October 2009, 11:12pm Philippine time, 2:12pm GMT
Fr Patrick O’Donoghue
Regional Director of the Columbans in the Philippines
Today is the death anniversary of Bishop Patrick Cleary, (one of the very first Columbans and the bishop who ordained your editor) who was bishop of Nancheng, China, until his expulsion in 1952. Another Columban who knew the pain of being ‘taken’ from those he loved and served for 21 years. He died in Dalgan Park (St Columban’s seminary in Ireland) on this day 1970. I remember the announcement of his death just at the end of our morning Mass.
What caught my interest was that he was sent to Nancheng in 1931 to replace Fr Cornelius Tierney, the first Columban superior in Nancheng, who died on February 28, in that year. His obituary states: ‘He died from the hardship of captivity while a prisoner of Communist bandits’. Our history continues to walk with us in the present moment; the vulnerability of mission unchanged. Given the rumors yesterday of Father Mick’s death I spent time pondering and praying to Bishop Cleary and Fr Corny Tierney for his safety and freedom. The concluding prayer at Morning Prayer was my prayer throughout the day: ‘Strengthen in our hearts the faith that you have given us, so that no trials may quench the fire your Spirit has kindled within us’. We can be grateful for so many Columbans, many of whom now dead, who have shown us the fulfillment of that prayer. I prayed that that same resilient faith be mine.
There is little change in the news. We continue to wait and to hope. The word that I did get was that there was every reason to believe that Father Mick was alive, though how well he is I have not been able to ascertain. If he is where many people surmise he most likely is, then the conditions can’t be good. But what has encouraged me from early last week is what I have heard from those connected with two previous abductions and what another kidnap victim told me: that those who hold them do try to care for those they are holding. It is somewhat gratifying to know that – that they will try to do what they can to make him as comfortable as possible. Of course, the obvious question arises. If they do care why would they not release him immediately? Logic does not easily fit on this one. I concentrate on the positive – may they take care of him while they hold him and may they care enough to free him soon.
I needed to attend to some Regional business and that helped fill the ‘waiting’. In fact there were many things that needed some attention and, thank God, I got much of it done. Thanks to all those in Manila who help to keep ‘daily regional business’ in order.
Messages continue to pour in from all kinds of places. Fr Jim Sheehy told me about the chain rosary in the school in Labrador, despite much of Pangasinan still trying to recover from the floods and mudslides. There were a number of messages from Columbans in Myanmar. Father Neil Magill emailed to say that the students in Mandalay were praying each day. Kevin O’Neill told me about prayers in Wuhan and Fr Eamonn O’Brien emailed to say that Columbans in Solihull, England, were praying daily for Mick. Serafina Ranadi (from Fiji, the international coordinator of the Columban Lay Missionaries) emailed to say that there is a candle lighting in Donaghmede (Dublin). What I realize is that far from ‘wearying’ as the time drags on, people are intensifying their prayers and their desire to express solidarity with Father Mick and with the people of Pagadian as much as with the Columbans.
There were letters today from the Catholic Bishops Conference in the Philippines signed by its president Archbishop Lagdameo of Jaro. It is a very lovely letter and I have attached a copy. (Editor: I am posting it separately). There was also a very nice letter from the Jesus Caritas Fraternity who were meeting this week and signed by all participants, including Cardinal Rosales, Archbishop Lagdameo and Archbishop Jose Palma. I have also attached a copy of this but not the list of names. (Will post separately)
Fr Eamon Sheridan (Columban HQ in Hong Kong) emailed me a piece from The Irish Times in which President Mary McAleese spoke of her prayers for Father Mick. But what also caught my attention was the report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the Secretary of the Dept. of Labor here in the Philippines (DOLE), Marianito Roque, joined his voice to those asking for Father Mick’s release. He said that his abduction set back programs for disabled people and that DOLE agencies and personnel, particularly those in Pagadian City, were extremely disheartened by his abduction. ‘In behalf of the PWDs (persons with disabilities), especially the wards of Hangop Kabataan, we in the DOLE appeal to the abductors of Father Sinnott to free and spare him from further inconveniences of captivity that can lead to a deterioration of his health, putting his life at great risk’. All I can say is ‘Amen to that’.
Tomorrow (ie today, Saturday) we will have a Prayer Rally for ‘Solidarity for Peace and Fr Mick Sinnott’. I am hoping to attend it and to use the occasion to thank the people of Pagadian and all the groups who have been working so hard for Father Mick’s welfare.
The days mount up but so do the pleas to God and to his captors. May our prayers continue to water the ‘seed of Divine Goodness’ in the hearts of his captors and may those seeds blossom into compassion and Father Mick’s speedy release.