12 July 2010

Columban priest martyred in Korea commemorated in Louth, Ireland

This report appeared on CiNews, a Catholic online news service in Ireland. (H/T to Clerical Whispers for drawing it to my attention.) County Louth is one of Ireland's 32 counties. Father Collier had a brother, Father Kieran, who served as a Columban in Burma for many years. Their nephew, Father Ray, also a Columban, now in Britain, spent some years after his ordination working in Mindanao.

In the 1960s the Columbans made a movie called, I think, Path to Glory, which depicted the history of the Church in Korea. The 'narrator' was Fr Anthony Collier but the voice was that of Gregory Peck. I remember showing it to a group of sixth grade kids in Immaculate Conception parish, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, some time in 1970-71 when I was residing there while studying. At least one student was alert as he asked me at the end, 'How could Father Collier be narrating when he was dead?'

I hope that the Columbans will reissue this movie. I hope too that all of us will feel inspired by the witness of such priests as Fr Tony Collier.

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

A memorial seat has been unveiled in Clogherhead, Co. Louth, to honour Fr Tony Collier, a missionary from the village who was summarily executed by communist North Korean forces during the Korean Civil War sixty years ago. (I've never heard this war referred to before as a civil war. It was at one level but it was also an international war involving the United Nations and the People's Republic of China but fought on the Korean peninsula).

The seat was carved form stone from the farm at Cruicetown outside Clogherhead where Fr Collier grew up. It was unveiled by parish priest, Fr Paul Clayton-Lea, a relative of the priest, Fr Raymond Collier and other representatives of the Columban missionaries.

Fr Collier was educated in Drogheda CBS (Christian Brothers' School) and St Patrick's College, Armagh, and in 1931, joined the Columban Fathers. He was ordained at Dalgan Park in 1938 and a year afterwards, went to work in Korea.

He was in charge of the second Columban parish in Chunchon city when civil war broke out.

Fr Collier lost his life on June 27, 1950, two days after North Korean soldiers had crossed the so-called 39th Parallel, which divided North and South Korea.

He and three colleagues had been advised by an American army officer to leave Chunchon but they decided to stay. When the North Koreans overran the city, he was taken into custody, briefly interrogated and then shot dead.

Ironically, Fr Collier, who was then only 37, had survived unscathed through the brutal World War II occupation of Korea by Japanese imperial forces.

He is buried close to the Jungnim-dong Cathedral in Chunchon, along with Irish Bishop Thomas Quinlan and other missionaries who refused to leave in the face of the communist invasion.

Fr Collier’s three colleagues were also taken into custody and were forced to take part in the notorious Death March to the far north of Korea.

by Fintan Deere


grotto said...

great priest. my son same age 37 years old just died and he served the poor

Fr Seán Coyle said...

'Grotto', be assured of my prayers for the repose of the soul of your son. May he rest in peace.

lawnguylander said...

Thank you for this post, Father. I was very interested to read it as Bishop Quinlan was my father's uncle. I did not know of the existence of the movie mentioned in the post but I'm greatly interested to see if I can find more information about it. I've had no luck so far but will keep trying. Thanks again.

And to grotto, should you return here, you and your son are in my prayers as well. May he rest in peace.

Allison Collier said...

fr collier was my fathers uncle i live just a two min walk from that church and where he and my father grew up. i would also like to see the film mentioned.

Allison Collier said...

that`s my great uncle , he was my father uncle still talked about alot in the family,i live just mins from the church.. i would love to find the film mentioned to show my father.