28 July 2010

Columbans leave the Diocese of Pagadian, Philippines

UCANews carries a report by Faye Reyes dated 27 July on the Columbans leaving the Diocese of Pagadian. The same report is carried by CathNews Philippines, a service of UCANews.

The Diocese of Pagadian was established on 12 November 1971, just over a month after I arrived in the Philippines but didn't acquire its first bishop until Fr Jesus B. Tuquib of the Diocese of Dipolog was ordained bishop on 29 May 1973. All the priests in the diocese when it was established were Columbans, though Jesuits had worked in the area before them. Now most parishes are staffed by diocesan priests. A eyar or two ago the Spiritans took over the last Columban parish, Midsalip.

When the Diocse of Pagadian came into being there were 260 Columban priests in the Philippines, all of them foreign. We were by far the largest group of foreign missionaries in the country. Today there are 47, four fo them Filipinos who have served overseas, and 19 students for the priesthood who have been aggregated to the Society. Aggregation is the equivalent of first profession in religious life. We are a society of apostolic life, whose members are secular priests.

Fr Michael Sinnott giving Holy Communion

Kidnapping ‘did not cause’ mission closure

Published Date: July 27, 2010

By Faye Reyes, Pagadian City

Fathers Michael Sinnott (extreme left), Daniel O’Malley (center) and Paul Finlayson (extreme right) greet friends from Pagadian diocese during the July 26 Mass.

The 2009 kidnapping of Irish Columban Father Michael Sinnott was not the cause of a decision by the missioners to pull out of a southern Philippines diocese.

Father Daniel O’Malley explained that the decision by the Missionary Society of St. Columban (MSSC) to leave Pagadian diocese after 62 years was the result of a shortage of priests to administer the parish of Malate.

“They are asking me to go” to a downtown Manila parish where the other Columbans are all over 70 years old, Father O’Malley said.

He said the decision had “nothing to do with the kidnapping” of Father Sinnott from the Columban house in Pagadian City.

Father Sinnott was held in captivity for a month after armed men seized him on Oct. 11, 2009.

Father O’Malley, 62, said leaving was a “difficult” decision for 80-year old Father Sinnott, who decided “he would not stay in Pagadian without me because of his health.”

Philippine Columbans began discussing closing the Pagadian mission in 2008 and finally decided last April.

“All this could have happened without the kidnapping,” the missioner said.

Father O’Malley said that Filipino Columban priests could be assigned to the diocese for missionary service among indigenous people and other work.

He and Father Sinnott joined another Columban, Father Paul Finlayson, at a thanksgiving Mass at Santo Nino Cathedral on July 26.

Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar of Pagadian expressed his “deep gratitude” for the work of the Columbans, whose “missionary zeal” inspired so many young Filipinos to become diocesan priests.

Jasmine Sabino, 19, whose studies are funded by the Columbans, said she will always remember Fathers O’Malley and Sinnott.

The two priests have been “like a father to me,” she said.

Founded in Ireland in 1916, the Missionary Society of St Columban has 66 members in the Philippines, 47 of them priests.

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