20 October 2009

Monday night, 19 October, update on kidnapped Fr Michael Sinnott

Fr Michael Sinnott - Day 8

by Fr Patrick O'Donoghue

Regional Director of the Columbans in the Philippines

It is 8pm Monday and we are entering into Father Mick’s ninth day of captivity. It was a quiet day here at the house and that reflected the sense of ‘quiet’ in terms of news also. I felt that kind of ‘quiet’ when you wonder what might be going on. I got updates from a number of sources throughout the day but little fresh news. Some names of places keep recurring but what is lacking is any ‘sound’ confirmation.

The efforts to get people to give whatever information they have continue and over 10,000 new ‘flyers’ with special cell-phone numbers were distributed especially in coastal areas. The immediate purpose of this is to try to make sure that Father Mick has access to his medication. And the list of that medication is easily available. Other efforts of course continue but I have begun to ‘settle down’ to wait. Today is the 39th anniversary of Fr Martin Dempsey’s death in Balabagan. I prayed to him this morning at Mass asking him to intercede
in a special way today for Fr Mick’s freedom. (Columban Fr Dempsey, in photo, was shot dead by a student in the Catholic high school in the parish in Mindanao where he served) It would have had appropriateness in my own scheme of things if Father Mick were to be freed today. But my scheme – that drive in all of us to have predictability and control! – is not necessarily that of God’s. And so we wait on God’s time.

The focus of the day for me began to emerge around 9am when I got the first of a number of phone calls from the media asking me about the Columban request for US ‘intervention’, ‘help’ or ‘involvement’ (the various words used) in the search for Father Mick. The Philippine Daily Inquirer yesterday (Sunday) had an accurate account of what was asked by the Columbans in the US Region. It was a balanced piece and also reported on the calls from Muslim leaders in both Lanao provinces for the immediate release of Father Mick and asking their people to help in freeing him. But other reports had it that it was the Columbans here in the Philippines that had asked for assistance from the US Government. And it was this point that kept recurring in the questions that I was getting: why did we ask for this kind of help? So I thought it best to issue a clarification. I did a draft and put it by a few people for comment and then I did the final version, which I hope captures the intention and the actual request of what was being asked and by whom. The issue is solidarity, for which we are grateful, and not ‘intervention”’ I sent it first to the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) [read their report here] news desk and also to UCANews. I also gave it to the Information Officer for the Governor who is dealing with the media here in Pagadian. I have attached a copy so that you can see what I wrote.

GMA7 (TV Station) also came to see me but I declined to be interviewed for TV. I did, however, have a long conversation with the team who came and was able to give them background on the long Columban association with this whole area, our ability to deal with the conflicts that swept the area in years past, especially during Martial Law (we somehow knew what we were dealing with then and could manage risk accordingly) and why we could never have envisaged that one of our priests would be taken from his own house. And the effects of this now.

There were some callers to the house and many phone calls. There were many more emails, too. One of them, forwarded to my by Fr Shay Cullen, was from Bishop Romolo De La Cruz of Kidapawan. I am not sure if I mentioned that Archbishop Capalla of Davao sent a fax early last week. And many Columban Sisters and Lay Missionaries have been in touch. My continued thanks go to all. Some day when we will, God willing, be celebrating Father Mick’s freedom I will try to have all these collated and acknowledged.

There was one email from a fellow Columban, who shall be nameless, which I found particularly insightful and (without asking his permission!) I am quoting from it here.

‘He doesn't have his daily Mass, but he is living it. He will see that whole experience as an encounter with the Suffering Jesus. I wouldn't be able for that. Mick is away ahead of us all spiritually. But he won't like all the publicity. That's part of what the Lord is asking him.’

How true! I am also attaching what Auring Luceño wrote about the Rally yesterday here in Pagadian and there is another account of this with pictures at UCANEWS.COM. (I have posted the UCAN report already but will post Auring’s article separately). There was a prayer vigil in Hong Kong, which I know will feature in the Sunday Examiner there this week. There were prayers all over Ireland too. It was only today that I heard that the Irish GOAL worker and her companion held in the Sudan had been released. May we soon be celebrating his release too.

May the God of peace continue to sustain Father Mick and us.

Fr Martin Dempsey

Killed in Balabagan, Mindanao, Philippines, on 19 October 1970. Father Martin had reprimanded a 14 year old student in the parish high school for a breach of discipline in the morning. The student, accompanied by his 17-year-old brother, returned in the afternoon, armed with a revolver and a carbine. They shot Father Martin dead. He was 35 years old. Father Martin was born in Dublin on 18 August 1934. Educated Dominican convent School, Muckross, Donnybrook, Dublin, 1940-1943; Xavier College, Donnybrook 1944-1946; Ring College, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, 1947; Presentation College, Bray, 1948-1952; Kevin Street Institute of Science and Technology, Dublin, 1953. Came to Dalgan (St Columban's seminary in Ireland) 1954 and ordained there 1961. Went to Philippines in 1962.

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