19 October 2009

Sunday night,18 October, update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

St Columban's College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland, where Father Sinnott taught from 1966 till 1976 and where he was rector from 1967 tll 1980. Back in the 1960s it housed nearly 200 seminarians. Sadly, there are none there now but there are many retired priests. the nursing home is in the left foreground. The photo was taken from a balloon and is looking east. The main entrance is on the right side, facing south. This is a view I had never seen before. I spent seven years here, from 1961 to 1968. All of the Irish Columbans serving in the Philippines studied here.

Here is the latest message to come from our superior in the Philippines, Fr Pat O'Donghue. It was posted last night, Sunday, at 10:53 Philippine time.

Fr Michael Sinnott - Day 7

It is exactly one week since Fr Mick Sinnott was abducted just meters from where I am writing this. I can still remember my own reactions in Singalong [the Columban HQ is on Singalong St, Manila] on hearing the news there. The staff here are still reliving their memories and their faces show the grief. Indeed the whole city has changed since this happened – his abduction is the focus as disbelief lingers and the longing to have Father Mick back aches more.

It is Mission Sunday and I had hoped that we would have good news on this day. But he is still in captivity and we still have no certainty where he is and how he is. But one thing is certain – he is deeply in the hearts and minds and prayers of many thousands around the world. The ‘quiet and simple man’ as some have called him, who ‘gently lived what so many of us talk about’ (as one Columban put it to me) is now at the focus of world news and in the celebration of this Mission Sunday. As the messages pour in, it is obvious not only how much he is loved by all those who know him and have been touched by his goodness but also how much he has touched a chord in the hearts of people who have never heard of him before last Sunday when news of his abduction broke. As people come to know the ‘person’ of the man behind the ‘name’, the authenticity of his goodness and his commitment to God and the vulnerable ‘little ones’, it touches something deep inside them. They have a spontaneous fondness for him and long for his safety and freedom.

The man himself, of course, would be highly embarrassed by all this!

At 6.30 yesterday morning (Saturday) three classmates (Fr Tommy Murphy [Columban Superior General], who presided, Fr Sean Martin and Fr Pat O’Donoghue) together with Corazon Mendoza (well known to many Columbans for her long service in Columban parishes and a very close friend of Father Mick’s) gathered in the chapel here in the house for Mass. The readings of the day (St Ignatius of Antioch) spoke deeply to all of us and the prayers that we shared revealed that. We three had Father Mick not only as Rector, but also as professor and he was our Pastoral Advisor when we were deacons. The fondness we all have for him says everything.

Later in the morning, Father Tommy and I met with Bishop Cabajar (of Pagadian) in Ozamiz. It was a very good meeting where the bishop outlined for Father Tommy all that was being done to ensure Father Mick’s health and safe release. Bishop Cabajar could not be doing more for Father Mick – it is in a very real sense ‘his daily bread’ as he attends meeting after meeting and sifts through all the many things that people say. We are fortunate to have someone like him at this time, something Father Tommy conveyed to him when he thanked him.

Father Tommy flew to Manila and then to Hong Kong. I want to say a special word of thanks to him for coming to Pagadian as it really meant an awful lot to many people here, not to mention the Columbans.

I flew to Cebu where I had to attend to ‘other things’ including the disposal of contents of the house there. The keys will be handed over on Tuesday. I want here to say thanks to Fr Pat Baker who has been enormously helpful in allowing me to ‘forget’ about that while I am here in Pagadian. I flew back to Ozamiz this morning and am now back in Pagadian.

I had another meeting with the bishop this afternoon when he brought me up to date on what has been happening. There are little seeds of hope and I ask that we continue to water them with our prayers.

This morning there was a prayer rally here in Pagadian. It began at the Hangop Kabataan School (that Father Mick set up) and continued with a procession down the hill to Santa Lucia, the place where he was put on a boat this night last week. It was an interfaith event and very moving. I have asked Auring Luceño [Columban lay missionary from Pagadian], who was at the rally, to write it up as I believe it should be recorded. She is doing that but I will not be able to attach it tonight. I promise to do so tomorrow.

As part of the program in Santa Lucia, Bai Macaumbang Ca Tong (a woman leader in the Muslim community, who would regard her as a princess) spoke very movingly about the Pagadian of old where people lived together more peacefully. Later some of the children from Hangop Kabataan did an ‘interpretative number’ in which they expressing their longing for Father Mick to be released. The pity is that it was not recorded on camera, as far as I know, as it was exceedingly moving. ‘By their fruits you shall know them’. The ‘fruits’ that people saw today – children who, without ‘Hangop’ might otherwise have been ignored, performing so beautifully before the people – reflect who Father Mick is and what mission is. Mission Sunday 2009 will be not easily be forgotten.

It might be helpful if others also would record how Father Mick was remembered this Mission Sunday in other places here in the Philippines and around the world.

And so as we go into the eight night of his captivity, we ask the God of Mission to be with him in a very special way and to ‘enable’ him to feel not only God’s love but the love of all those who gather and pray and actively seek his freedom in so many ways.


Fr Pat O’Donoghue

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