29 October 2009

28 October, Day 17. Update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott


Wednesday 26 October 2009, 10pm Philippine time, 2pm GMT

Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior, Philippines

Interfaith procession and rally, Pagadian, Sunday 18 October 2009

Today is the Feast of Sts Simon and Jude. It is the first death anniversary of Fr Joe Bradley and Fr Paul O’Rourke, both of whom served here in the Philippines. It is also the Special Day of Prayer and Fasting for Fr Mick Sinnott throughout the Society of St Columban.

In the Gospel for today’s Mass, Luke tells us that Jesus ‘went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God’. All I could think of was Father Mick – most likely ‘out in the hills’ (if he is where he is believed to be). And I am sure that he, too, is spending his time ‘in prayer’. Like Jesus, he will look to the Father to draw strength as he surrenders to the mystery of what is now being asked of him. After this night of prayer Jesus chose the twelve apostles. It is Mark’s Gospel that tells us that he chose them 'to be with him and to be sent’. They are called to share life with him and to enter into his mission. Like Jesus they will learn how to ‘listen’ to the voice of Abba and allow themselves be led in the often mysterious ways of mission. Mission is not about being ‘successful’. It is the trustful following of Jesus into the vulnerability of the ‘Father’s Way’ and allowing the Spirit to bear fruit in the most expected ways and places.

Waiting is part of mission – trustful waiting on God’s time. The waiting bears its own fruit. I am very struck by the way God’s Spirit has ‘formed’ a worldwide community of prayer these weeks. This itself is a fruit of mission – God drawing us all into prayerful trust and waiting on his faithfulness. Throughout the world today Columbans and many others will spend the day in ‘prayer and fasting’ for Father Mick’s freedom and welfare. And people are entering into this with fervor and hope. I have had a veritable deluge of emails today from people wanting to assure us here that they are joining in this. The genuine concern and longing for Father Mick to be free is palpable. And so is God’s presence within this. As we pray for him are we aware how our prayer is also drawing us deeper into God’s heart and closer to one another? This is the ‘other side’ of our prayer and hopefully it will last long after he is released. One ‘fruit’ that I have seen already is the ‘little’ reconciliations between people who, until they found themselves united in concern for Father Mick, were trapped in their differences.

It has been a tough day. I woke early as Primetime (a news program on RTÉ TV – Ireland’s national radio and TV service) were doing a piece on Father Mick. (Link here. There are two items from the show. The first contains footage from an interview with Fr Sinnott some time ago.) Ireland is eight hours behind us here in the Philippines. They interviewed Fr Donal Hogan (Columban Superior in Ireland and former Superior in the Philippines) in Dalgan (Irish HQ) but they wanted to have me ‘live’. I didn’t get as long as I thought!! But I hope I was able to offer some encouragement to all those concerned about Mick in Ireland. RTÉ have been good since Father Mick’s abduction.
I was feeling ‘positive’ after Mass but it didn’t last long. I got a text saying that Father Mick was critically ill. Then I got a call saying something similar. It took me a while to realize that both were relying on a report in the Philippine Star which said that FatherMick was suffering from diarrhea and those holding him did not have the rehydration salts to help him. The report was not unrealistic as given the conditions he has most likely been in, this was all too possible. I remembered the number of non-factual reports in the media in the past week or more and in that way lessened my worry. I also tried to find out if there was truth in these rumours but was unsuccessful.

Then they were more rumours that they were moving him around to various places. This again was part of the Star report which quoted a MILF Moro Islamic Liberation Front) spokesperson as saying that those holding Father Mick were preoccupied with finding a secure place to keep him and that this could be the reason why they had not started negotiations. Again not unrealistic. But unsubstantiated. I tried not to worry too much but when it started to rain heavily here I found myself wondering how good was his shelter and I began to feel impatient, hearing within the echoes of what many people had said to me: ‘It is too long already, Father’. Yes, indeed it is but that is part of the ‘powerlessness’. I blamed my impatience on the fasting!!! And decided to go and pray instead! These rumours unsettle a lot of people who love Father Mick and fear for him. I am glad that I am here to try to reassure them and in the process try to reassure myself. Hope is the virtue that allows peace to reign.

It was good to have Fr Sean Martin here. Fr Gilbert M. Hingone (Vicar General of the Diocese of Pagadian) came in the later afternoon. It was good to talk with him too. Father Gilbert, like Bishop Cabajar, is doing everything possible to help. And there are other priests here in the diocese who are also doing an awful lot to help.

Since last week there have been a number of emails forwarded to me by Fr Tommy Murphy (Columban Superior General, based in Hong Kong) offering prayers and support for Father Mick and for us. Last week the Secretary General of the Union of Superiors General sent an email. There were also messages from Fr Ed Dougherty, Superior General of Maryknoll, Sr Bríd Ryan, Congregational Leader of the St John of God Sisters, and Fr Seamus O’Neill of St Patrick’s Missionary Society (Kiltegan). There have also been emails from a number of former Columbans and people associated with the Columbans.

Our thanks to all of them for taking the time to write but, more importantly, for their pledge of prayerful support for Father Mick’s safe and speedy release.

Father Mick is entering his 18th night in captivity. When I went to the chapel earlier tonight, I took the picture of Father Mick with me and set it near the tabernacle. He and Jesus are together ‘in the hills’ this night. I wanted to try to be with both of them. I asked Jesus if he could bring him down in the morning and home to us. What a joy that would be.

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