31 October 2009

Halloween: the Real Story! Fr Augustine Thompson OP

Crossroadsinitiative.com carries an interesting and balanced article by Fr Augustine Thompson OP about the origins of Halloween and the various elements that have come to be part of it. He writes from an American standpoint.

When I was in kindergarten in a school in Stanhope Street School, Dublin, run by the Irish Sisters of Charity we learned the various customs associated with Halloween and I never associated it in any way with the devil or evil in any form. It was fun and , for some, scary. We didn't use the term 'trick or treat' but we went from house to house in our neighborhood wearing masks in the hope of getting candies, nuts or fruit.

We had certain foods associated with Halloween. My mother always served us
colcannon for dinner. It was a dish Inever really cared for. she used to put a small coin in it until one year neither my brother nor I found it and maybe one of us swallowed it! We had dinner at midday in those days.

For tea, as the lighter evening meal was called, we always had a barmbrack in which there was always a cheap wedding ring and sometimes other objects. The one who found the ring was supposed to get married soon. Nobody believed this but for children there was great excitement. After tea, when it was already dark, we'd go out with our ghoulish masks for what is now called 'trick or treat'.

Again, I never associated any of this with the devil or any such thing.

Ancre British Cemetery, France

What I also remember is that on All Souls' Day we would make many visits to the church or cemetery gaining a plenary indulgence for some poor soul in purgatory by praying six Our Fathers, six Hail Marys and Six Glory Bes before going out of the church or cemetery and going back in again, as there was only one indulgence per visit. Some would say this was legalism. I didn't see it that way nor do I now. It was remembering the dead with affection and with care, in the hope that we ourselves would be remembered in the same way eventually.

Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

Halloween: the Real Story!
by Fr Augustine Thompson OP

We’ve all heard the allegations. Halloween is a pagan rite dating back to some pre-Christian festival among the Celtic Druids that escaped Church suppression. Even today modern pagans and witches continue to celebrate this ancient festival. If you let your kids go trick-or-treating, they will be worshiping the devil and pagan gods.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on October 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety.

Full article here.

30 October, Day 19: update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

Our Lady of Ransom

This morning I celebrated the Mass of Our Lady of Ransom, associated with the Mercedarians who were founded in the early part of the 13th century to ransom impoverished Christians held by Muslims. Fr Pat O'Donoghue in one of his reports earlier this week mentioned that the Mecedarians in Argentina were praying for Father Sinnott's safe release. And many Muslims have been praing too for his release. Muslims hold Mary the Mother of Jesus in great esteem. May the prayers of Christians and Muslims, united with those of Mary obtain the release of Father Mick very soon.

30 October 2009, 10:14pm Philippine time, 2:14pm GMT
Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior, Philippines

Today is Father Mick’s 19th Day of captivity. ‘How long O Lord, how long?’

Today’s (Columban) death anniversaries remind us of the long years of dedication to mission of another Columban, Bishop Tommy Stewart, who was in Chunchon, Korea, for over 40 years. But they also remind us again of our vulnerability. Fr Thomas Flynn is also remembered on this day. He had been a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin who joined the Society in 1948 and came to the Philippines. He was abducted from his convento in Labrador parish (Pangasinan, Diocese of Alaminos, and now the only parish in the province with a Columban parish priest, Fr James Sheehy) and killed. This day in 1950 is the day that he is thought to have died. And Fr William O’Flynn, one of the first batch of Columbans to go to China in 1920, died of unknown causes on this day 1929 in Kiangsi. He was 36.

Fr Thomas Flynn kidnapped and killed in Labrador, Pangasinan, Philippines, 30 October 1950

Brother Roger of Taizé said that you don’t see the word ‘success’ in the Bible. What you do see, repeated again and again, is ‘faithfulness’. What the Bible also clearly shows us is the vulnerability of this faithful God to our refusal to accept his coming and his call. God’s overwhelming love, which knows no limits, and his endless thirst for us to be reconciled and in communion with him, is at the heart of Paul’s words today: ‘my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and cut off from Christ if I could help my brothers of Israel’. They are extraordinary words of loving forgiveness and longing for the true good of others. There is a ‘selflessness’ in them that is truly Godlike, but which is, perhaps, beyond our comprehension. But then, as Paul himself tells us, it is Christ who is living in him. And it is in this intimacy with Jesus that Paul is willing to have made up in his life what still needs to be surrendered to God for the sake of mission – bringing about the communion of reconciliation between God and creation.

God reaches out but human stubbornness resists. The Gospel has Jesus showing the Father’s concern, especially for the ‘little ones’, as he heals the man with dropsy. Passive resistance clothes the Pharisees who remain unmoved even when Jesus appeals to their own natural compassion. God’s love for us exceeds even the most heroic love of a parent for a child. Or to put it more accurately, parents’ unquestioning love for their children is a ‘participation’ in and an ‘image’ of God’s love for us his children. Do we allow the truth of who God is to penetrate our minds and hearts? Or is it too demanding, too unsettling, too unmanageable? I ask the question of myself first. And I did this morning as I was led to reflect on the fact that God’s providence, which we believe is watching over and sustaining and consoling Father Mick in these days of uncertainly and suffering, is also reaching out to his captors. God loves them just as much. I had to pause here for a while and examine my own heart. Yes, God longs to have them back in the communion of his heart as much as anyone else. That they have sinned in what they have done to Father Mick and to those who love and depend on him is unquestioned. They have trampled on compassion, goodness and justice. But God still loves them as his children and wants them reconciled. He will not cease speaking his word to their hearts, no matter how much they resist or refuse or ignore. We need to continue to pray that his love will ‘outwit’ them ultimately. Could it be that Father Mick’s surrender to God in these days is part of God’s way of capturing their hearts? As God’s kingdom comes more and more into his life through the events of these days, may it radiate to those around him so that they, too, may have freedom – the freedom of the Kingdom.

Today was a relatively quiet day in which some other concerns of the region took my time and indeed my attention. Not a bad thing at all. We are approaching All Saints’/All Souls’ Days and people are readying themselves to get to their home places. Another typhoon threatens Luzon. Life continues. I have no further information as to what arrangement, if any, has been agreed on cooperation between the government and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) in the effort to have Father Mick released safely. Some more bits of information received would all tend to suggest that he has at least some medication. That relieves some of the worry.

There were reports today coming from the Irish media that there were negotiations going on between his abductors and some intermediary. Gerry Kelly of Sinn Féin (an Irish political party) was the source. (Report in Belfast Telegraph ). The internet is down since early afternoon today (as is the phone line connected with it) and so I have not been able to check out exactly what this is about. Nobody here seems to have picked up the story. A reporter in Rome, whose agency calls me everyday, asked me about it. Nobody here on the ground seems to know anything about it. It is obvious, of course, that we won’t know all that might be going on. If I am not mistaken that was the case when Fr Des Hartford was abducted (for 12 days in 1987 when he was Apostolic Administrator of Marawi). For my own part, I don’t need to know all that is going on. I will be joy-filled and grateful to see Father Mick released and in good health once more. And that will be enough.

Again I thank all those who are continuing their vigil of prayer for Father Mick. And as this day ends and he enters into his 20th night of captivity, may we pray that his vigil bears fruit in the hearts of his captors and in other hearts known to God alone.

Fr Thomas Flynn

He was taken from his parish in Labrador, Luzon, on 30 October 1950 by Huk Communist guerrillas. His body was never found. He was 42 years old. Born on 5 November 1908 in Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, Ireland. Educated Kilkishen N.S. 1912-1920; Ardnacrusha N.S. 1921-1922; Kilkishen N.S. 1922-1923; Sacred Heart College, Limerick, 1924-1926; St. Flannan's College, Ennis, Co. Clare, 1928-1931. Educated for priesthood Clonliffe College, Dublin, 1928-1931; Maynooth 1931-1935. Ordained for Dublin diocese 1935. Served as British Army chaplain during Second World War. Joined the Columbans in 1947. Went to the Philippines in 1948.

29 October 2009

29 October, Day 18: update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

Participants from Hangop Kabataan, the school for children with disabilities founded by Fr Michael Sinnott, at the interfaith rally in Pagadian on Saturday 24 October.

29 October 2009, 11:57pm Philippine time, 3:57pm GMT
Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior, Philippines

The 18th day of Father Mick’s captivity has come to an end. Today is also the death anniversary of Fr John J. O’Sullivan (who spent 33 years in Burma) and Fr Jerome Sweeney (who spent 40 years between Korea and Japan). Two more Columbans dedicated to mission in oftentimes difficult conditions.

God’s faithfulness is at the heart of today’s Liturgy. ‘Awake, O Lord, why do you sleep? Arise, do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face from us and forget our oppression and misery?’ (Psalm 44) It is easy to identify with this lament these days. ‘It is already too long, Father’ (The words of one of Father Mick’s friends that I quoted last night.) God’s continued ‘silence’ or ‘inaction’ in the face of a crescendo of prayer, especially those of the ‘little ones’, challenges our confidence. But it does not submerge it. From the depths of desolation God faithfulness still inspires trust, hope and praise. ‘Truly God is my salvation, I trust, I shall not fear. For the Lord is my strength, my song, he is my salvation’. (Isaiah 12) ‘This I know that God is on my side . . . in God I trust; I shall not fear: what can mortal man do to me?’ (Psalm 56). And in case we are in any doubt Paul emphatically assures us: ‘With God on our side, who can be against? . . . nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked’. This is confidence, a confidence born of experience of the ‘depths’. Our confidence is God’s faithfulness powerfully revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that Paul tirelessly proclaimed. When we build our house on this rock it will not collapse. And so the importance of ‘memory’ – “Do this in memory of me”. We need to nurture our ‘memory of the sacred’, of God’s constant faithfulness, in our celebration of the Eucharist and in prayer – it is this memory that will sustain us in desolation and even there draw us into trust-filled praise. It is this that is now sustaining Father Mick and us.

Deaf students from Hangop Kabataan signing at the rally

Today was another busy day. In the morning I had a long meeting which was helpful to me as I sought to clarify a number of issues. There would appear to be a glimmer of hope. The MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) last week offered to help in securing Father Mick’s release. The Crisis Management Committee (CMC), headed by the Governor, has been in communication with the MILF to try to agree on how best they can enable cooperation between them in a joint effort to free Mick. This is a complex issue. The MILF have denied from the beginning that they were in anyway involved in Father Mick’s abduction. Two weeks ago they set out to do their own ‘investigation’ and they maintain that they have identified the area where he is most likely being held. They then asked the army through the Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (basically a ceasefire committee that monitors the ceasefire agreement) for permission to enter the area they have named and ‘rescue’ Father Mick. It would seem, understandably, that there is reluctance on the government side to allow the MILF forces go in on their own. The army believes that this ‘requires a political decision’ and so have passed the request to the CMC. Communication continues between both sides. We need to pray that there will be agreement soon. While I cannot say that this alone would secure Father Mick’s release, it certainly would seem to make it a greater probability.

Prayer rally in Holy Rosary Parish, Agusan, Cagayan de Oro City, with Columban Fr Dick Pankratz

There seems to have been a great response to the Special Day of Prayer and Fasting. On a humorous note, I was wondering this morning what Father Mick will say when we tell him that he was responsible for getting the whole Society (of St Columban) on its knees, and to fast into the bargain! The generous response of Columbans, and many others, is testimony to the loving concern we have for Father Mick and to our commitment to one another. Fr Pat Raleigh (Vice Director of the Columbans in Ireland) wrote to tell me about the activities in Dalgan (where Fr Sinnott taught from 1966 to 1976), including the Holy Hour last night, which some of Fr Des Hartford’s family attended. (The late Fr Desmond Hartford, then Apostolic Administrator of Marawi, was kidnapped for 12 days in 1987) To quote:

‘At such short notice we had a full Church here tonight in Dalgan. I conducted the Holy Hour. The Hartfords were present. It was almost 12 years to the day since Father Des was kidnapped. For one of the reflections I used extracts from the Far East (Columban magazine in Ireland and Britain) of his account of his kidnapping. For the final reflection I used Karleen's testimony (posted Wednesday and Thursday) and I got Angie Escarsa (a Columban lay missionary from Zambales) to read it. She really did it well. People were very pleased with the whole thing. I also used extracts from some of your reflections. The Columban Sisters in each of their houses were also in solidarity with us. Srs Marie Fay, Mary Nugent and Lucia came down with Fr Gerry French as did Lorelei Ocaya (a Columban lay missionary from Mindanao).

Prayer rally in Holy Rosary Parish

We have our own memories on these occasions. And this is only a reflection of the many gatherings for prayer that went on around the world. In Peru they were planning a ‘14 steps’ reflection using the ‘Song of the Servant’. I’m sure it went very well. If I might make a suggestion. Would it be asking too much for someone in each place to write a short account of what was done in their place and then send that to Fr Derry Healy (Director of the Columbans in Chile) so that he could post it on the web? That way we would all be encouraged by seeing how we were all united in this special day of prayer and fasting. It is just a suggestion and is not meant to put pressure.

And speaking of prayer: Here in Pagadian there are prayers being offered many times a day. The interfaith group have their own agreement. Muslims and Christians have committed to gather each day at 3pm, in their own places of worship, to pray for Father Mick’s safe release. To quote the local media: ‘Catholic parishioners in Pagadian have started to include a petition for Fr Sinnott’s safe release when they recite together the prayer to the Divine Mercy. Muslims are also doing the same when they recite the “Azhar Prayer” in their mosques.”’ Subanens also gather to perform their ‘Sangat Rituals’ each day at 6pm. There is no shortage of prayer.

Father Mick is now in his 19th night of captivity. May all this prayer help to sustain him in the memory of God’s faithfulness. May Paul’s bold assertion resound in his depths and may Jesus’ own words bring peace: ‘No one steals from my Father’.

14-year-old girl with a disability pleads for release of Fr Michael Sinnott

'Please, I beg again, have mercy on us, free Fr. Mick Sinnott.'

I posted this yesterday but am doing so again, as I received a photo of 14-year-old Karleen reading her statement at the interfaith prayer rally for Fr Michael Sinnott in Pagadian City last Saturday.

This is a translation of the testimony given by Karleen B. La Fuente (in photo) at the Prayer Rally held in

Pagadian City on Oct 24, 2009. Karleen is a beneficiary of Hangop Kabataan founded by Fr. Mick Sinnott who was abducted October 11, 2009 in his Columban House in Pagadian City. (The original version is written in the Visayan language.)

My name is Karleen B. La Fuente. I am 14 years old and am a second year high school student and one of the beneficiaries of Hangop Kabataan Foundation founded and headed by Father Mick Sinnott.

I was born a Special Child. My two legs are deformed. From one year old until I reached five, I’m using my knees in order to walk. I was so glad to be enrolled in Hangop Kabataan Foundation. My classmates who are deaf are the ones who will carry me from our house to our school bus, and carry me again until we reached our room. They brought me home after class.

They do that each time my sister, who is also my caretaker, is not available.

I am very very thankful to Fr. Mick Sinnott. If not for him – maybe until now – I still would be walking on my knees. It was Fr. Mick who facilitated my Medical check-up in an Orthopedic Center in Davao City. He wanted me to have artificial legs or prosthesis. The doctors’ recommended having an orthopedic operation to gain equal height for my legs. Fr. Mick unreservedly agreed with the advice and immediately, together with the staff of the foundation, facilitated again for the expenses of operation on my legs. For three months, I stayed at Davao General Hospital and another three months at Davao Jubilee Rehabilitation Hospital who made my prosthesis or my artificial legs.

Fr. Mick helped me without condition and without reservation, so that now I can almost walk normally wearing my artificial legs. As I grow older, my prosthesis has to be re-adjusted and repaired, and as always, Fr. Mick is always at my side, helping me with whatever is needed. My thankfulness to Fr. Mick is very immense. I am very very thankful to Fr. Mick for helping me throughout until now.

And now, from my heart, I beg those who took Fr. Mick Sinnott – please, please have mercy on him. Have mercy on the Special Children, the deaf, the mute, the mentally and physically challenged children under his care – we are hoping that he will come back home to us. Please free Fr. Mick because we love him so much – especially because Fr. Mick is not in good health. Please have mercy on him and have mercy on us, we need him so much! Would there still be somebody like Fr. Mick Sinnott who would love and care for us Special Children? Please, I beg again, have mercy on us, free Fr. Mick Sinnott.

I did not do the translation but I have done some slight editorial changes in order to facilitate a clearer understanding when read in English. I have remained faithful to Karleen’s own expression.

Fr Pat O’Donoghue.

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.

28 October 2009

'Please, I beg again, have mercy on us, free Fr. Mick Sinnott': Karleen B. La Fuente (14)

Please, I beg again, have mercy on us, free Fr. Mick Sinnott.

This is a translation of the testimony given by Karleen B. La Fuente at the Prayer Rally held in Pagadian City on Oct 24, 2009. Karleen is a beneficiary of Hangop Kabataan founded by Fr. Mick Sinnott who was abducted October 11, 2009 in his Columban House in Pagadian City. (The original version is written in the Visayan language.)

My name is Karleen B. La Fuente. I am 14 years old and am a second year high school student and one of the beneficiaries of Hangop Kabataan Foundation founded and headed by Father Mick Sinnott.

I was born a Special Child. My two legs are deformed. From one year old until I reached five, I’m using my knees in order to walk. I was so glad to be enrolled in Hangop Kabataan Foundation. My classmates who are deaf are the ones who will carry me from our house to our school bus, and carry me again until we reached our room. They brought me home after class.

They do that each time my sister, who is also my caretaker, is not available
I am very very thankful to Fr. Mick Sinnott. If not for him – maybe until now – I still would be walking on my knees. It was Fr. Mick who facilitated my Medical check-up in an Orthopedic Center in Davao City. He wanted me to have artificial legs or prosthesis. The doctors’ recommended having an orthopedic operation to gain equal height for my legs. Fr. Mick unreservedly agreed with the advice and immediately, together with the staff of the foundation, facilitated again for the expenses of operation on my legs. For three months, I stayed at Davao General Hospital and another three months at Davao Jubilee Rehabilitation Hospital who made my prosthesis or my artificial legs.

Fr. Mick helped me without condition and without reservation, so that now I can almost walk normally wearing my artificial legs. As I grow older, my prosthesis has to be re-adjusted and repaired, and as always, Fr. Mick is always at my side, helping me with whatever is needed. My thankfulness to Fr. Mick is very immense. I am very very thankful to Fr. Mick for helping me throughout until now.

And now, from my heart, I beg those who took Fr. Mick Sinnott – please, please have mercy on him. Have mercy on the Special Children, the deaf, the mute, the mentally and physically challenged children under his care – we are hoping that he will come back home to us. Please free Fr. Mick because we love him so much – especially because Fr. Mick is not in good health. Please have mercy on him and have mercy on us, we need him so much! Would there still be somebody like Fr. Mick Sinnott who would love and care for us Special Children? Please, I beg again, have mercy on us, free Fr. Mick Sinnott.

I did not do the translation but I have done some slight editorial changes in order to facilitate a clearer understanding when read in English. I have remained faithful to Karleen’s own expression.
Fr Pat O’Donoghue.

Press statement of Columban Superior to CBCP

Press Statement to CBCP (Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines)

Here is a statement for the CBCP issued yesterday by Fr Patrick O'Donoghue, Regional Director of the Columbans in the Philippines. It was emailed to his fellow Columbans at 10:13pm Philippine time, 2:13GMT. It was sent to the CBCP some hours earlier.

"I am not in negotiations with anyone regarding Fr. Sinnott's release. Nor, as far as I am aware, is anybody else in the Church in negotiations. Nor do I know of anyone else being in negotiation with those who are holding Fr. Mick. I am aware of the reports in the media that the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) have offered to help to secure the release of Fr. Mick. If there are 'negotiations' on-going between the government and the MILF with regard to this offer, I am not privy to them. If this kind of negotiation is going on and if it would lead to Fr. Mick's speedy release then it would be welcomed. My continued hope is that whoever is holding Fr. Mick will consider his age, his health and the esteem in which he is held by so many people, and not detain him any longer. To do this would show that their compassion has won out over whatever motives they had for abducting him. I dare to hope that the abductors are capable of this compassion."

27 October 2009, Day 16. Update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

Tuesday 27 October 2009, 10:13pm Philippine time, 2:13 GMT
By Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior in the Phiippines

“Commit your life to the Lord, trust in him and he will act…. Be still before the Lord and wait in patience; do not fret….. Wait for the Lord and keep to his way. It is he who will free you from the wicked. (Psalm 37)….. Lord, you keep your pledge with wonders, O God our saviour! (Psalm 65)” These words of the psalms came bouncing off the page at me this morning as we entered another day not knowing how long more we are to wait. They encourage, they give strength, they give hope. Is it not true that difficult situations seem to bring the Word of God more alive such that it does penetrate to our depths? And then in the first reading at Mass, Paul tells us that all creation is groaning as it awaits its liberation and he goes on: “we, too, groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free”. Paul has more in mind here than physical liberty from captivity, but nonetheless the words resonate. There is much ‘groaning inwardly” – that ardent longing expressed in prayer – in many parts of the world for Father Mick’s release. We wait, we trust. God will act. Indeed God is acting already except we do not know how. The ever-loving God is with us.

It was a quiet enough morning that allowed me once again to catch up on some other work. But rumours continued to surface here and elsewhere. I was asked by one reporter if I had seen the video of Father Mick. I haven’t and I don’t know of anyone else (trustworthy witness) who has. I strongly doubt if it exists. Just before lunch and into the afternoon there have been several bits of information given to me. One person who sent me a piece of information that, if true, would be wonderful, could not understand that I did not react with greater enthusiasm! I simply and gently said that something similar to this had been communicated to us already but proved not to be true. The person was unconvinced because they believed the person who told them – but there was no corroborating evidence. I promised that I would look into it. I now realize, through experience, how difficult it is for any investigation to get quick results when there is no “clear lead” and many bits of information, often contradictory, have to be checked out properly.

As I have said before, we have a sense that we know the area where Father Mick most likely is. But we still don’t know who exactly is holding him and why. The media continue to talk about cooperation between the government forces and the MILF. It is not a simple issue. Without prejudicing the issues involved, whatever would lead to Father Mick’s safe and speedy freedom can only be welcomed. In the later afternoon the media picked up a statement that there were ‘negotiations now begun’ and it was hoped that he would be released within two or three days. When this happens the phones start ringing to get some comment or confirmation. I have been trying since the beginning to avoid any speculation and to focus on Father Mick, on the effects of his abduction on people here and elsewhere and on the calls for him to be released unconditionally. So, at about 6pm I sent a short statement to the CBCP press officer for them to use. I will attach it to this update.

As always, there were a number of visitors today. (Columban) Fr Sean Martin arrived this morning and will stay tonight. It is good to see him. Auring Luceño (Columban lay missionary from Pagadian) is here everyday and is a tremendous help in getting many things done. Beth Sabado (Columban lay missionary, Taiwan) arrived Sunday in Pagadian (her home city also) and it was nice to see her. And Fr. Reno and Fr. Indra (scj) (who are in Dumalinao parish) both visited in the afternoon – they drop in every couple of days and are very supportive. And people continue to send their messages of support. I try now to acknowledge them when they arrive, though many tell me not to bother. Yet, I believe that it is good to let people know that their prayerful good wishes got here. If I have failed to acknowledge, however, it doesn’t mean that they did not arrive – just that I didn’t do what I intended to do! There have been messages from Britain, Myanmar, USA, Australia, Japan and Taiwan among others. Fr Pat O’Beirne (Taiwan) said in his email that the Columbans there are on retreat and are praying for Father Mick. They also have a candle lighting for him. Fr Padhraic O’Loughlin has emailed me a number of times from Rome. And, of course, there are many messages from within the Philippines as well.

I was also told by some of the people, whose apostolate is to visit the Provincial Jail here in Pagadian, that some of the prisoners were inquiring about Father Mick and are concerned for him. They know what it is to be deprived of one’s freedom. And their prayers are added to the many others that are being offered throughout the world even as I write. Someone from the USA pointed out that while we are asleep here in the Philippines they are awake there – and praying. So the prayer vigil goes on around the clock. And, tomorrow October 28th, we as a Society, will fast and pray around the clock.

Father Mick is entering into his 17th night of captivity. His vigil cannot be getting easier. But we watch and pray with him and dare to hope that the abductors compassion will outweigh whatever drove them to take him in the first place and set him free now.

27 October 2009

25-26 October, Days 14-15. Updates on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

As I was unable to post yesterday I'm including the emails of Fr Pat O'Donoghue sent on Sunday night and last night.

A resort in Pagadian City (Eriberta, 39 kms from the city)


Monday 26 October 2009, 10:41pm Philippine time, 2:41 GMT

By Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior in the Philippines

Six Columban students (four Filipino and two Korean) began the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola (30 Days) last night at the Jesuit Retreat House in Novaliches, Quezon City. Fr Mick Mohally and Fr Mike Riordan (from Korea) will be their directors. We wish them well and pray that this very special time will draw them closer to the Lord who calls and confirm them in their vocation to Columban Missionary Priesthood.

I offered the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit this morning. I prayed for the gifts that the Spirit gives so lavishly and so lovingly, especially wisdom, counsel, discernment and perseverance. The reading from Romans 8 (at Mass) is one of my favourite passages and I nearly always use it when preaching or directing retreats. We have not received a spirit that leads us into slavery and fear. No, the Spirit that was poured into our hearts at Baptism and continues to be poured into by love, by God’s free choice. To know who we are – God’s children – and to know the God who loves us into life and calls each of us ‘beloved child’ is freedom. If we allow that truth to arise more and more into our lives, every moment is a Spirit that breathes freedom and joy – we are children of God by grace, and in our consciousness we will find our deepest meaning and identity. And we will, in a very real sense, become ‘like Jesus’ whom we lovingly follow.

I prayed for the students – that through the 30 Days of retreat they will be drawn into the joyful depths of this truth. And they begin knowing that committing oneself to Jesus can lead anywhere as they think of Father Mick and pray for him. And I prayed for him, who has done the 30 Days twice in his life, as he now lives that last phrase of the reading: ‘sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory’. I prayed that the Spirit fill him now with the same strength that enabled Jesus to entrust himself into the Father’s way in his darkness. I prayed, too, for all those who are working for his freedom – that they make wise decisions, and for his captors – that they might open themselves to their own truth and set Father Mick free.

Wexford Harbor. Fr Sinnott is from Wexford, Ireland


Sunday 25 October 2009, 11:42pm Philippine time, 3:42pm GMT

It is exactly two weeks, almost to the minute, since Father Mick was abducted from this house. It has been a long two weeks filled with all kinds of efforts to have him released but he is facing into his 15th night of captivity. And the prayers multiply both in intensity and in number as I will outline below.

Jeremiah (first reading at Mass today) calls us to rejoice! He sees how God’s loving designs will unfold for Israel and this calls for rejoicing. ‘They had left in tears, I will comfort them as I lead them back; I will guide them to streams of water’. I did not feel too much joy, but, yes, there was encouragement in the words. God sees the joy to come. We do not and so can have difficulty entering into it now. But we are called to trust. Father Mick’s journey back home began the night he was forcibly taken from here but it is taking a long time. The waiting is getting harder. And so when Jesus (in the Gospel) asks Bartimaeus ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ I took Bartimaeus’ words and made them my own: ‘Master, let me see Father Mick again’ and soon and well. Then we will rejoice!

But as I further reflected on this I found another – and perhaps deeper – desire finding its voice within: ‘Lord, may I see you in all this’. Somehow that is the more pressing need – to continue to ‘know’, to ‘see’ Jesus in all that is happening. That makes the waiting bearable. So, Gentle God, increase my trust and let me be patient to simply see one step at a time. And as you lead Father Mick home, may you be his comfort and his joy in the waiting of that journey.

Fr Hub Hayward (a Columban from New Zealand) is three years dead today. He is another Columban who experienced waiting, having been imprisoned in Korea by the Japanese in 1942. He was later repatriated to New Zealand as part of a prisoner-exchange. Another advocate for Father Mick and for us these days.

As we face into the third week of Father Mick’s captivity, where are we? There seems to be some agreement as to where he is most likely being held. There is not the same clarity about who is holding him or what exactly their motives might be. General Serapio (who has a leading role in the task force set up to find Father Mick) is quoted in the papers today as outlining what a lot of us here recognise as a strong possibility. There are different groups involved. The group that abducted him would not be the same group that is holding him. And there may well be another group designated to negotiate his release. As of now, we have not been approached by anyone indicating that they are holding him or asking to negotiate. It is reasonable to surmise that money is (at least part of) the motive. But there could be other motives too. This is what makes it so difficult – the lack of clarity as to the motives and possible demands. This leaves everyone guessing. Maybe that is part of the strategy or maybe it is that there is disagreement among those involved. I am beginning to do here what I said I would not do – speculate – but at least it will give you an idea of the complexity.

There have been a number of ‘initiatives’ by the Church to get medicine to Father Mick. Medicines were sent to people who might have had an opportunity to pass them on somehow. This was not a response to contact being made. There was simply the hope that some people might have been able to pass it on and that somehow it would get to Father Mick. The list of his medication was also made available in many places in the hope that those holding him might have their own way of obtaining what was needed. One avenue that was used showed more promise than the others. We can only hope that it was successful. There was also an instance where we asked if we could have ‘proof’ that Mick was in ‘reasonable health’.

We did not get the response that we hoped for. That in itself means nothing. Trust is not in great supply in these matters. One of the things that I have learned is the need to verify and verify again. There are people, who may have nothing to do with his abduction or captivity, but who see an advantage and try to use it for their own gain. They are well capable of pretending that they have information that they don’t have. Their offer to help is a distraction and can obstruct. All of this is what makes it tedious, confusing and frustrating. But it underlines the importance of not speculating or immediately disclosing that there is a ‘lead’ etc. A lot of work is being done even if it sometimes does not seem that way.

I had a couple of reporters on the phone today. One asked me if I ‘approved’ of the reported ‘offer by the MILF to help the army in finding and releasing Fr Sinnott’. I smiled to myself. There had been something in the papers about it. I simply responded that I was not in a position to either approve or disapprove what the MILF chose to do; that that was for the army and the MILF to work out themselves. I added that my concern is that Father Mick would be released safely and as soon as possible and that anything that would facilitate that was welcome. But I also underlined the understanding that we (Church) have with the task force (and which was affirmed yet again recently by General Serapio) – that all peaceful means would be used and that no one’s life would be put at risk.

So that is, more or less, where things are. I remain hopeful.

I had an email the other day from Fr Pat Colgan in Fiji telling me that our students there in the Formation House are saying extra prayers and fasting for Father Mick’s freedom. He also said that prayers are being offered in many parishes in Fiji. Fr Tim Mulroy also emailed to say that all at the International Theologate in Chicago were continuing with their daily prayers. Fr Brian Gore sent word that our students, who are on retreat in Batang, are also joining in the apostolate of prayer for Father Mick’s safe release. Fr Mick Doohan has also emailed a few times letting me know of his prayerful support. Fr Barney Martin (Manila) emailed me last night to inform me that we had heard from friends in his former parish of La Villa, in Chile, who have organised a prayer group for Fr Mick’s safety and freedom. One of these friends is also using the Internet to request prayers for him. Fr Derry Healy has also informed me of his daily prayer for Fr Mick. And Fr Pat Raleigh (Ireland) tells me that Father Mick’s photo is in the main reception area of Dalgan (where Father Sinnott taught from 1966 to 1976) and also in the main Chapel.

Fr Pat Kelly, Scarboro Missionaries (Canada) communicated to say that a woman from Surigao, who had seen Father Pat saying Mass and knew he had served in the Philippines, stopped him on the streets of Toronto and asked about Father Mick! Father Pat added ‘in a real way , because of his life and dedication to the handicapped, and the world wide response to the kidnapping, maybe this is the most effective time of his missionary endeavour’.

There was another email from Regina in São Paolo, Brazil. I hope she won’t mind me using her own words. ‘The whole world seems to hold its breath. And me, too. I continue to be with you all in solidarity. There are some things that only prayer and fasting can "achieve", and that is what I do. May Father Michael be safe. At this stage, the missionaries of the Consolata Fathers, SVD (Divine Word Missionaries), Mercedarians, Scalabrinis, PIMI, Augustinians, and many lay people do pray. We have Fr. Michael´s photo on our notice board, the one where he holds up the host, consecrating it. That gesture, we now do for and with him. We believe, trust and hope with all of you’.

We can only be humbly grateful for this prayerful response to Father Mick’s situation. May we also include others who do not have the same publicity or network and who are in captivity wherever – maybe even without hope.

25 October 2009

No update from me tomorrow

As I will be flying from Melbourne to Manila tomorrow, Monday 26 October, I don't expect to be able to post an update on the situation. Let us keep praying for Father Michael's speedy release.

Solidarity and Prayer for Fr Mick Sinnott's Freedom

Fr Patrick O'Donoghue
Columban Superior in the Philippines

At 9am this morning (October 24) hundreds of people gathered at the Plaza in Pagadian City and walked to the Wharf area, singing and praying as they went. There were dozens of banners and placards all asking the same thing: Freedom for Fr. Mick.

Pagadian City is still trying to come to terms with what has happened to Father Mick. We all are. But here in Pagadian there is a particular sense of loss and confusion. No abduction is acceptable but abducting from his own house, an old man, known for his gentleness and goodness and who has given his life to the people (and especially the most vulnerable) is beyond comprehension. It contradicts every instinct in all of us and it particularly wounds the Filipino heart which has such respect and compassion for older people.

Father Mick is deeply loved here. We, perhaps, all knew that. But the depth and breath of that love has become vividly evident these last two weeks. The photo of Father Mick that they are using on the ‘streamers’, that are in so many parts of the city now, well expresses the man they all know and love – gentleness, kindness and simplicity but also that steely resolve when it comes to issues of justice. And the man they love has been taken from them. And they hurt deeply. A tricycle driver expresses it well: ‘we are lost’. Father Mick had officiated at his marriage years ago and he still remembers the advice he gave when he and his wife have a disagreement.

The rally this morning allowed people to both share and express this ‘loss’ and all the emotions that go with it. And the wide range of groups who were represented shows that this sense of loss and grief goes right across all boundaries. There were, perhaps, as many Muslims as Christians and there were also many Subanens, among them Columban Sr Kathleen Melia and Subanens from Midsalip. (The Subanens – ‘River People’ – are the tribal Filipinos who live in the uplands of western Mindanao. Many are Catholics while others follow their traditional animism). Together they grieved as they looked for a way through their sorrow and confusion.

After a ‘Tri-people Prayer’ (Christian, Muslim and Subanen) Mr Ed Alcachupas, President of Hangop Kabataan Foundation (which Father Mick set up for those with special needs), outlined the history and ministry of Hangop. When he had finished the children and adult students of Hangop did an interpretative song. A choreographer might have had a hard time but it was something beautiful to watch and touched many hearts. As I watched them, and realized that they were being recorded by national television, it struck me how Father Mick’s abduction had given them a rightful prominence that would have been unthinkable years ago. His passion to have their dignity as persons and their right to education respected is finding a wider audience.

Despite the heat and the lack of shade for many, people stood for more than two hours and listened to the representatives of the many groups who have been calling for Father Mick’s unconditional release. They all feel the ‘loss’ – when he was taken, something was taken from them too: security, trust and maybe even hope, to try to name what it might be. There were ten speakers in all – five of them representing Muslim groups. We hear so often about armed groups but here were people from Muslim groups whose concern was the educational and economic needs of all. These groups need more prominence. When Sultan Maguid Maruhan (Interfaith Forum for Solidarity and Peace) spoke he expressed his pain that all Muslims would be identified with those who abducted Father Mick and the fear of how this could damage the efforts of the Interfaith Forum (another ministry very dear to Father Mick’s heart) to build genuine peace and understanding in the city. Speaking on behalf of all the parents of those being helped by Hangop, the father of an autistic child spoke of how he and his wife had gone to other cities in Mindanao looking for some place that could help their child but found none that they could afford. Hangop came to their rescue. And in Hangop, he added, money will never be an obstacle to the wellbeing of any child who is in need. ‘Father Mick is Hangop and Hangop is Father Mick’ he said as be begged the abductors to give back this man so filled with goodness and love for those with special needs.

When I was asked to speak I tried to speak to the pain and hurt that I was feeling and spoke initially of my love for Pagadian which had been my first assignment here in the Philippines. I thanked all present for their love and concern for Father Mick and thanked all those who, in whatever way, were working for his release. I asked them not to see themselves as the ‘City of kidnappers’ (part of their pain connects with a sense of shame that something like this could happen in their midst – as if somehow they had allowed it to happen). I pointed out that they and the city would not be defined by the fact that Father Mick had been abducted here but rather by their response to this crime. Because of their response, people will see that Pagadian is the ‘city of goodness, of love and of concern’. And I urged them to redouble their efforts to ensure that the Interfaith Forum and working for peace and the dignity for those with disabilities would succeed. This would be the greatest tribute they could offer Mick, who would be ever more proud to be a ‘Pagadianon’ when he comes home and sees this resolve.

Bishop Cabajar of Pagadian read his own statement and then, with conviction, called on all present to cleanse their hearts of all that would bring division and strive for peace and all that allows peace to grow.
But for me the most moving moments were when we had three ‘testimonies’. The first was from Carleen La Fuente, who spoke of how, till she was five years old, she had to walk on her knees because she had no proper legs. She is now fourteen and a very eloquent speaker. The story of how Father Mick got her specialist help in Davao and artificial legs (which had to be replaced as she grew up) was deeply touching and allowed many of us to share our tears – gratitude and grief all mixed together. It is my hope to be able to get a copy of what she shared and to share it with you.

The next to share was Juniel Tapitan, who is deaf and cannot speak. He signed his message and another put it into words for us. He, too, has found a new confidence in himself since Father Mick helped not only to have him learn sign language but to train as a teacher. He is now an assistant teacher at Hangop. It was a joy to watch him. When he was finished he came over to me and gave me a hug – for Father Mick. More tears.

The last to speak was Ferrer Marcaban, a Muslim who is chairman of ‘Darussalem Urban Poor’ – a project to try to create a model community for all faiths. His home and those of others were burned a while back. Fr Dan O’Malley (a Columban who lives with Father Mick and who is on home vacation at the moment) came to their help and Father Mick – who brought the issues surrounding their relocation to the Interfaith Forum and to government. The two priests were always there for them when there were needs, especially when children were sick. In between his tears, Ferrer highlighted Father Mick’s commitment to processing the issues in the right places. Those of us who know Father Mick’s determination well understood. He was always persistent when it came to justice and people’s rights. May that persistence help him now when his own rights have been so abused.

We all stood and prayed the ‘Prayer for Mick Sinnott’ – the deaf signed it. And then we sang ‘Let there be peace on earth’. Yes, Lord, may Your peace come into our lives anew and may we be peace to others whoever they may be.


There is a report on the rally in Sun*Star Online here.

24 October, Day 13. Update on kidnapped Fr Michael Sinnott

From Fr Patrick O'Donoghue, Columban Superior in the Philippines'
Saturday 24 October, 11:15pm Philippine time, 3:15pm GMT,

Mabaet Beach, Pagadian City

Today was Prayer Rally Day and I attach my own account of it (separate post). In other respects it was a quiet day as there was little fresh news on Father Mick’s situation. It continues to worry me that we seem to have no communication from those holding him telling us what they are looking for. Maybe they are communicating with others and we don’t know.

I put Father Mick’s photo (the one we have placed with the candle in the window) in the Chapel during Mass this morning. It was a different kind of ‘concelebration’. I had this sense of Father Mick, as other Columbans have done when deprived of the Eucharist during their captivity, praying the prayers of the Mass wherever he is. And I wanted to unite him with me in the Mass in ‘his’ chapel here in the house. As if he were then telling me something, I saw the list where he records the dates on which he changes the Blessed Sacrament. I was a day late! But I did change the Blessed Sacrament.

It was after midday when I got back from the rally and I felt tired. I rested – the heavy rain lulling me into sleep. I had two calls from the Irish press looking for updates. I also had a call from a researcher on the ‘Marian Finnucane’ program on RTE Radio (Ireland) asking if I would go on the program. I agreed. I had hoped to be able to say more about the rally here but Father Mick’s situation was what dominated. Marian asked me straight out if I was convinced that he was alive and I said ‘yes, I am convinced’ (interview starts 1 hour and 31 minutes into the clip). And I am. But as the days go on I wonder how much longer his health can hold up. That is the question without answers that we all have to live with for now.

Fr Jim McCauley, a Maryknoll Missioner, phoned me tonight to say that during the ordinations today in Ipil, the bishop prayed for Father Mick and also read out the statement of the Bishops’ Conference that I attached last night (posted yesterday). I will leave other messages of support for tomorrow as it is already late.

And so, as Father Mick enters his 14th night of captivity, may God’s strength be his.

24 October 2009

Statement of support for Fr Sinnott by CBCP

Rev. Patrick O'Donoghue, MSSC
Regional Director
Missionary Society of St Columban
1857 Singalong
1004 Manila

October 22, 2009

Dear Father O’Donoghue

Peace and hope in Jesus Christ!

It is with much pain that the Church in the Philippines continues to wait for updates on the whereabouts of Rev. Fr. Michael Sinnott, MSSC.

On behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philipines, I wish to assure the Columban Family here and abroad of our prayers for his safety, stable health and speedy and peaceful release. The abduction of him by unidentified men two weekends ago reminds each one of us again of the need to continue working and praying for peace and harmony based on respect and care for one another.

I likewise wish to underline the hardships and sacrifices that Fr. Sinnott could be presently undergoing are a shining manifestation of the faithful and courageous love of the foreign missionaries for the Filipinos, a reality that we Bishops and priests can deeply thank you all and the likes of Fr. Sinnott only in prayer.

I join every concerned Filipino in addressing to the abductors our earnest appeal for the release of Fr. Sinnott, for the sake of love and peace.

With my fraternal regards and continued prayers,


+ Angel N. Lagdameo
Archbishop of Jaro
President, CBCP

Statement of support for Fr Sinnott by Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests

The Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests is a worldwide movement of priests, mostly diocesan, who have adapted the spirituality of Blessed Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916, in photo above) to their way of life. It came to the Philippinies 30 years ago, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, now Archbishop of Manila, being one of those who introduced it. I have highlighted parts of the message. Among the Columbans involved with Jesus Caritas in Mindanao were Fr Rufus Halley (photo below), murdered in Lanao del Sur on 28 August 2001 and the late Fr Desmond Hartford who served from 1991 to 2001 as Apostolic Administrator of Marawi and who was kidnapped for twelve days in 1997 before being released unharmed.He died in Ireland in 2004.

1857 Singalong St.

Dear Fr. Pat,

Peace be with you and your fellow Columbans.

This week, October 19 to 23, 2009 we the members of Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests are meeting for our annual national gathering. Together with Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and Archbishops Angel Lagdameo and Jose Palma we are twenty eight priests from Fraternities throughout the country. We are very conscious of the prayers being offered, and the efforts being made, for the release of Fr. Michael Sinnott. We too have been praying for his release and are very concerned for his health and safety.

As members Jesus Caritas Fraternity we know the long association of many Columban missionaries with us since we begun 30 years ago in the Philippines – particularly the Columbans who ministered in Ozamiz, Iligan, Marawi and Pagadian. So we feel one with you, and the clergy and the people of Pagadian and many other places, who are watching and praying for Fr. Sinnott. We pray that God will give him strength to carry this cross and that his ordeal will soon come to an end. God grant that soon he can be re-united with so many people who know him and love him.

The theme of our gathering this year as Fraternity is: “In the likeness of Christ, called to be a priest forever.” The example of Fr. Mick Sinnott in his faithful service for so many years, and his committed ministry until his 80th year is an inspiration to us all.

May God in his grace strengthen Fr. Sinnott as he carries this cross, and support you in your efforts to secure his release.

Sincerely in Jesus Caritas,

Attachment: Signatures of Participants

23 October, Dat 12. Update on kidnapped Fr Michael Sinnott

Friday 23 October 2009, 11:12pm Philippine time, 2:12pm GMT
Fr Patrick O’Donoghue
Regional Director of the Columbans in the Philippines

Church of the Immaculate Conception, Wexford, where Fr Sinnott is from

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.

23 October 2009

'What do you want me to do for you?' 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Christ healing the blind, El Greco, 1570s
30th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year B. 25 October 2009.


New American Bible (Philippines, USA)

Jerusalem Bible (Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, Scotland)

What do you want me to do for you?

My American Columban colleague, Fr John Burger, now on our General Council in Hong Kong, told a story on a video, which I can't locate now, about a blind man in his parish before in Japan. This man was a member of a prayer group that met once a week to listen to a particular passage from the Gospel, reflect on it, share and pray. This Sunday's gospel was the passage chosen one week and Father John was worried about his blind parishioner: what would he think or have to say?

He needn't have worried. Instead, he was moved by what the blind man said: 'I am quite happy with my life. I have my own place to live. I know where everything is. What strikes me about this passage is that Jesus doesn't presume to know what Bartimaeus wanted but asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" So many people, with good will, think they know what I want or need. Jesus didn't do that.
If Jesus were to ask me now what I needed I would tell him about areas of my life where I keep him out.'

Do we ever let Jesus really ask us what we want him to do for us? And do we presume to know what others need, as we try to be kind? I remember on a pilgrimage from Ireland to Lourdes in 1991 sharing a room with two men with different disabilities and a man who, like myself, was able-bodied. We had to help our two companions in some areas but I learned very quickly not to do for the other what he could do for himself. Years ago I saw a movie called 'Cactus Jack' which starred Kirk Douglas. It was a spoof Western, but done in the style of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons that featured such characters as Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner and so on. But in this movie the actors were all real. In one scene Kirk Douglas helps an old lady cross the street. She then hits him with her umbrella - because she didn't want to cross the street!
Often enough we can be like that, making choices for others we perceive to be weak, eg, young children, old people, persons with various disabilities. Our actions are well meant but may not be helpful at all.

Father Burger's blind friend saw in Jesus' question to Bartimaeus a sensitivity he didn't always experience with others, even while recognising their good intentions.
But perhaps the most encouraging thing of all is that Jesus is inviting us through this gospel to let him ask what he asked Bartimaeus: 'What do you want me to do for you?'

Healing of the Blind Man, Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-11

Master, I Want to See!

Biblical Reflection for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB

TORONTO, OCT. 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Mark's healing stories of the blind man of Bethsaida (8:22-26) and the healing of Bartimaeus, the blind man on the road to Jericho (10:46-52) were undoubtedly popular stories in the early Church and they remain very significant stories for the contemporary Church.

These miracles have always fascinated me because I grew up with my father who was an eye doctor. How frequently we spoke about sight impairments, eye diseases, stigmatisms, cataracts and 20/20 vision! My father was also a member of a charitable society that assisted the blind, and I remember vividly volunteering as a child with my father and his doctor colleagues who hosted memorable Christmas parties for blind people.

Full text here.

A Prayer for Sight
Origen (185-253)

May the Lord Jesus touch our eyes,

As he did those of the blind.

Then we shall begin to see in visible things

Those which are invisible.

May He open our eyes to gaze not on present realities,

But on the blessings to come.

May he open the eyes of our heart to contemplate God in Spirit,

Through Jesus Christ the Lord,

To whom belong power and glory through all eternity. Amen.

[The readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time B are Jeremiah 31:7-9; Hebrew 5:1-6; and Mark 10:46-52]

* * *

Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and Television Network in Canada, is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He can be reached at: rosica@saltandlighttv.org .

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.

22 October 2009

21 October, Day 10. Update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

Father Michael Sinnott with friends at a celebration

Fr Michael Sinnott - Day 10
21 October, 10:16pm Philippine time, 2:16pm GMT
by Fr Patrick O'Donoghue
Regional Director of the Columbans in the Philippines

We are coming to the end of Day 10 and Father Mick is entering into his 11th night in captivity. And we have no confirmed news of where he might be or how he may be. The waiting goes on. I found myself many times today wondering what he might be thinking and feeling. I’m sure he knows that we would be doing all we can to get him home, but it is a lonely vigil for him. May God fill him with peace and with hope and with trust.

As I was preparing for Mass this morning I got the inspiration to use the prayers for ‘Those Unjustly Deprived of Liberty’. And it wasn’t just Father Mick who I thought of but the countless thousands who are in similar situations. But Father Mick was very much ‘present’ to me and I hope that he experienced the presence of Jesus with him. By coincidence - or should we acknowledge the working of the Spirit? - I had an email from Fr John Burger (a member of the Columban General Council in Hong Kong) a little while ago to say that the Columbans on their annual retreat in Tagaytay also used this Mass this evening. The sustaining power of God is very much pervading this whole experience.

The prayer of Esther (Office of Readings) also permeated my day: ‘O God whose strength prevails over all, listen to the voice of the desperate, save us from the hand of the wicked, and free me from my fear’. It is the prayer of the vulnerable, a prayer of deep trust in the face of the disvalues of those who worship power and who seem to have the advantage. The vulnerable unite themselves to the One who chose the Way of Incarnation and choose to walk with him – in truth, in love, in trust.

For now I have chosen not to give anymore interviews. I did speak with some reporters. I understand their impatience when there is nothing to report, nothing new to add to the story and they are asked to write or say something on air! I try to get them to share what they feel and how they see the situation and I encourage them to keep the focus on Father Mick and on the effects his abduction has had on others, especially the people here in Pagadian. I urge them not to speculate or to give undue publicity to any of the groups who are suspected of taking him but to keep the pleas of so many people and groups for his release to the forefront.

I also met with Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar CSsR of Pagadian and some other priests as we sought to find some ‘clue’ to light the way forward. Rumours abound and some can even be humourous. But the elusive hard evidence is not there, as yet.

I had some visitors for supper tonight. People are kind and supportive. Fr Jim Mulroney (an Australian Columban who edits the Sunday Examiner) phoned from Hong Kong to tell me about their prayer vigil last Sunday night and to let me know that the messages of encouragement and goodwill, which were written by some of those who attended the Vigil in Hong Kong, are now on their way here. We hope to use them on Sunday when there will be another Interfaith Rally – a very lovely way of uniting the people of Hong Kong and Pagadian in prayer for Father Mick. What joy it would be if Sunday’s Rally were to one of thanksgiving for his safe release. May God watch over you this night, Father Mick, and bring you safely home soon!

21 October 2009

Clarification by Columban Superior in the Philippines

[19 October 2009] There are reports in some media outlets that the Columban Missionaries in the Philippine Region have requested the help of the US Government to secure the safe release of Fr. Michael Sinnott [in photo]. I would like to clarify that the Columban Missionaries here in the Philippine Region did not in any way make such a request. Nor did we ask the Columbans in the US Region to make it for us.

The Columbans in the US Region, upon hearing of Fr. Mick’s abduction and on their own initiative, did send a letter to the Philippine Ambassador to the USA, Mr. Willy C. Gaa, to express their concern at the abduction of Fr. Mick and to respectfully convey this concern to the Philippine Government together with their request that “all peaceful measures be taken to locate Fr. Sinnott and negotiate his release”. Their letter to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton conveyed the same concern and request. This kind of concern is similar to what many others around the world have done and is something that we deeply appreciate.

As we, here in the Philippines, know, before any of these requests were made, the Philippine Government had not only expressed those same concerns but had acted swiftly on them. The task force that was set up immediately and chaired by Governor Cerilles is clear evidence of this. And I am very much aware of how, in a very short time, all possible resources of government were made available to ensure the good health of Fr. Mick and to obtain his safe release. I want to express again my sincere gratitude to all those involved and, indeed, to all those others who are doing everything possible to help. It is very heartening to me and to all Columbans to know this level of commitment to ensure Fr. Mick’s welfare.

I would be very concerned if people were to misinterpret what the Columbans in the US intended by their request. It is one of fraternal concern for their brother priest and should be seen as that and that alone. It would be most unfair to the Philippine Government and to the Columbans in the US if it were to be construed as anything else, especially a lack of interest or effort on the part of the government or government agencies here.

Rev. Patrick O’Donoghue
Regional Director
Philippine Region
Missionary Society of St. Columban