31 July 2009

Final profession of Sister Juliet Mantos TC

Last Saturday, 25 July, Sr Juliet Mantos TC (left in photo with Sr Maria Elena S. Echavarren TC) made her final profession as a member of the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family in Cagayan de Oro City, located in northern Mindanao.

As Sister Juliet offered her life for ever to God two of her companions, Sr Neri Rama TC and Sr Wennie Puyco TC, shower petals on her in St Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral.

Sister Juliet makes her vows in the presence of Sr Maria Elena, the superior of the Vice Province that includes the Philippines along with a community in India and another in Korea. Sister Elena is a former Superior General of the congregation and is from Spain. Also in the phots is Sr Luz Maria Buitrago from Colombia.

Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma SJ of Cagayan de Oro places the ring on Sister Juliet's finger.

The Sisters sing their Congregational Hymn during the ceremony.

Sister Juliet with her parents and other members of her family after Mass.

Taken on 8 February at Mater Dolorosa Formation House, Talisay City, Negros Occidental after the first profession of Sr Antonieta Napone TC . She is the shortest Sister in the middle row and, at 57, became the oldest Filipino Sister. She is an inspiration to the young women, some of them from China, preparing to follow in her footsteps and those of Sister Juliet.
God has been blessing the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters abundantly since they came to the Philippines in 1982.

I had my first assignment in the Philippines, even if only for Holy Week in 1972 while I was still studying the Cebuano language in Ozamiz City, in St Augustine's Cathedral. Archbishop Patrick Cronin, a Columban, was the second archbishop, serving from 1970 until 1988. For 15 years before going to Cagayan de Oro he had been the first bishop of Ozamiz. He was one of the first batch of Columbans to go to Mindanao in 1938.

Archbishop Cronin was truly loved by priests, religious and people. He spent the years of the Second World War in the mountains, sharing the hardships of the people and had a wonderful memory for names.

When I arrived in the Philippines in 1971 the Columbans had quite a few parishes in the archdiocese, most of them taken over from the Jesuits, as far as I know, in the early 1950s. We have only one parish now, in the city itself.

Thanks to Sr Alma Alovera TC for the photos.

27 July 2009

A martyr for the seal of confession?

Today is the anniversary of the death of a remarkable Columban missionary, Fr Francis Vernon Douglas, a New Zealander who was killed by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1943, quite possibly because he refused to break the seal of confession.

You can read an excellent synopsis of his life from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography here. This doesn’t mention the detail that he was tied to one of the pillars of the church in Paete, where nobody knew him, and scourged there, just like Jesus.

I came across the account below by Fr John Keenan, an Irish Columban based in Manila, on The Bataan Banner. Many Columbans have died violently but I don’t know of any whose martyrdom – and I think that that is the correct term – resembled so much the sufferings of Jesus himself.

Our Holy Father in proclaiming the Year for Priests, has highlighted the part that hearing confessions played in the life of St John Vianney. Father Frank Douglas was, it seems, a martyr for that sacrament.
I have highlighted some parts of Father Keenan's article.

Church of St James the Apostle, Paete, Laguna, where Father Douglas was scourged.


by Father John Keenan

As one century and a new millennium begins, Pope John Paul II is anxious that the lives and deaths of those who suffered and died heroically in the service of others be recorded and documented. The sufferings and death of Fr Francis Vernon Douglas at the hands of the Japanese Military Police in World War II is one story that must not be forgotten. He was tortured and is thought to have died near Paete, Laguna, in July, 1943. Reprinted from Columban Reader, March 2000.

Paete is a quiet country town nestled between the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains and Laguna de Bay, about 70 miles from Manila. Founded as a Christian settlement around 1580, its inhabitants are famous for their wood-carving skills.

As usual, the people were eagerly looking forward to their annual fiesta in honor of St James, the Apostle, on July 25, 1943. However, the peace and tranquility of the town, crowded with visitors, was abruptly interrupted when the Japanese Imperial Army decided to zone off the area. It was cordoned off and no one was allowed to leave. All males from fourteen upwards were rounded up and incarcerated in the centuries-old parish church, famous for its beautiful wood carvings and paintings.

The Japanese were seeking out guerrillas and their collaborators who were carrying on resistance in the woods of the nearby hills. For several days, more than 250 men were interrogated and tortured, deprived of sleep and mercilessly beaten until they gave information or died.

On July 24th, Japanese soldiers arrived in a truck with a tall, unknown Caucasian—dressed in a white cassock—in custody. He was tied to a lamp post and made to endure the hot tropical sun throughout the day. No one knew who he was, or where he came from. He was, in fact, Fr Francis Vernon Douglas, parish priest of Pililla, some 20 miles away. Hours earlier he had been abducted from his convento and taken over the mountains to Paete.

Frank, or Vernon (to his friends), was born in Johnsonville, Wellington, New Zealand, on May 22, 1910. In his youth he excelled at rugby and cricket, and later studied for the priesthood. He was ordained on October 29, 1934. After an enjoyable and successful year as a curate in New Plymouth, NZ, he felt that God wanted him to become a missionary. He joined the Society of St Columban and arrived in Manila in 1938. His first assignment was as parish priest of Pililla, where he struggled with Tagalog language and tried to remain neutral between the Kem-pei-tai, Japanese military police, and the Filipino-American guerrillas hiding in the hills around Pililla.

In Paete, the local chief of Police, Basilio Y. Agbay, told one of his captors that the man was a priest, but he replied, 'the man is a spy'. Exhausted after a day in the sun, he was taken inside the church, by now a torrid dungeon. He was first taken to the sacristy where the terrorized people could hear the moans as he was being tortured. Later, he was dragged to the baptistery where he was tied to the baptismal font, and again severely beaten until blood splashed on the font and surroundings. Stripped to the waist, clad only in white slacks with his torso and arms black and blue and oozing with blood, he was tied to the left post under the choir loft. All the torture and pain seemed concentrated on him while the 250 looked on.

His bleeding and battered body immediately reminded the religious Filipinos of the scourging of Jesus at the pillar. 'Yet ours were the sufferings he endured… He was harshly treated, but unresisting and silent, and he humbly submitted…' (Isaiah 53:4-7). For three days and three nights, he was forced to stand. One of the soldiers hit him on the forehead with the butt of his sword and immediately blood gushed out all over his face.

The others were allowed to lie down and sleep. Throughout all this, he uttered not a word. Instead, he kept his eyes on the altar and continued to recite the Rosary. A bowl of rice was placed at his feet, which he did not touch. His blood-stained cassock lay on the floor beside him. Finally, perhaps fearing that his end was near, he asked for the local parish priest to hear his confession. This was done in the presence of his torturers, lest they later force his confessor to break the seal of confession. Shortly afterwards, bloodied and bruised, he was bundled into a truck that sped away in the direction of Santa Cruz and Los Baños, where there were many prisoners of war, including priests and religious. He was never seen again.

Why was Vernon singled out for such horrible torture? Did he refuse to talk in order to preserve the seal of confession, or information held in confidence? As he was being interrogated in Pillila before being abducted, neighbors heard him remonstrate with the military police, 'You have no right to ask me that question, and I cannot, in conscience, answer it'. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain, here was a strong man who suffered in silence rather than betray his friends.

As an early report published in The Far East, December 1945 stated: 'What Father Douglas suffered in Paete made a deep impression on the people of that town. The Filipinos say that he seemed to be like our Lord Himself, as he stood there, tied to the post in the Church, constantly beaten and ill-treated, but always with unquestionable patience. They expressed the belief that he suffered made him a kind of savior to the town.

'From the time he was brought there, no Filipino received any ill treatment. On him were concentrated all the anger and hatred of the Japanese soldiers.'


In 1998 the Columbans published a biography of Father Douglas, With No Regrets, written by Patricia Brooks.

I have comes across a reference to a video on the life of Father Douglas but can’t locate it at present.

Francis Douglas Memorial College, a school in New Zealand run by the De La Salle Brothers, is named after this brave priest.

16 July 2009

Going on retreat

I'm off to Cebu tonight for the national board meeting of Worldwide Marriage Encounter, which runs from tomorrow morning until early Sunday afternoon. Then I'll head for the retreat house of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary for a retreat that will end early on Saturday morning, 25 July, before flying back to Bacolod. It takes 25 to 30 minutes to fly between the two cities.

Please keep me in your prayers.

Confession and the Year for Priests

When I was growing up in Ireland in the 1950s jokes about confession were part of the staple not only of professional comedians but of Redemptorists, Passionists, Jesuits and other groups who gave parish missions or retreat every year during Lent. There used to be a week for women and a week for men. Every weekday night there would be Rosary, sermon and Benediction. The churches were usually filled for morning Mass - there were no afternoon Masses then. The priests were available for long hours for those who wished to go to confession.

There were inevitably some who had been away from confession for years. When the priest told a joke about the sacrament it was both an expression of a shared faith and fear or nervousness and also a way of touching the hearts of those who were hesitant.

A friend of mine, whom I'll call 'B', sent me the joke below recently. I hadn't heard it before and it made me laugh out loud. 'B' is 100 percent Irish-American and his wife 'G' 100 percent Italian-American. The family has suffered in many ways over the years and 'G' has very bad Ms (multiple sclerosis). Please remember them both in your prayers.

A Catholic guy goes into the confessional box. He notices on one wall a fully equipped bar with Guinness on tap. On the other wall is a dazzling array of the finest Cuban cigars.Then the priest comes in. ‘Father, forgive me, for it's been a very long time since I've been to confession, but I must first admit that the confessional box is much more inviting these days.’

‘Get out’, the priest replies. ‘You're on my side.’

Here is a short article I wrote on the Year for Priests for a newsletter of Worldwide Marriage Encounter in the Philippines. I focused on the sacrament of confession, which Pope Benedict emphasised in his letter proclaiming the year, which was prompted by the 150th death anniversary of the death of St John Mary Vianney, who spent so many hours in the confessional.

Confession and the Year for Priests

On Saturday night, June 27, during the (Worldwide Marriage Encounter) weekend in Cebu, I spent about 50 minutes in the confessional. I think that two came for confession. When I went to join the team meeting it was over and so I went to bed. I had just switched off the light when one of the team knocked on the door and told me that someone wanted to go to confession.

I’m afraid that I went beyond thinking that feelings are neither right nor wrong and didn’t make the right choice in expressing myself. (In WWME we emphasise that feelings in themselves are neither right nor wrong). However, I dressed and headed for the chapel. On the way I met the person who had knocked on the door and apologized for my words. Very graciously he accepted them and told me that he had informed the participants that I was very tired. However, I arranged to be available for confession for a short while after lunch on Sunday, the only possible time, and nearly everyone came.

Pope Benedict in his proclamation of a Year for Priest on the occasion of the 150th death anniversary of St John Mary Vianney, drew attention, among other things, to the saint’s devotion to the sacrament of reconciliation, spending many hours in the confessional. Another saint with a similar devotion was St Pio of Pietrelcina, better known as ‘Padre Pio’. In both cases people came from distant places to confess their sins to these holy priests. I knew three Columban priests who, in their latter years, spent hours in the confessional almost every weekday in St Augustine’s Cathedral, Cagayan de Oro, Fr James Moynihan from New Zealand, Fr Frank Chapman from Australia and Fr John Meaney from Ireland, all now gone to their reward. They were always busy in the “box”, with penitents coming from as far away as Bohol. The word had gone out, as it had from Ars and from San Giovanni Rotondo, where Padre Pio spent most of his life as a priest.

Pope Benedict, acknowledged to be one of the greatest intellects of our time, quotes St John Mary Vianney, who barely managed to get through his studies: “And if this soul should happen to die [as a result of sin], who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest . . . After God, the priest is everything.”

The Pope wrote, “The Curé of Ars was very humble, yet as a priest he was conscious of being an immense gift to his people: ‘A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy’”.

I still haven’t figured out what the best time for confession is on the weekend. I seldom now make myself available on Friday night, sometimes because we start too late but also because couples haven’t really got into the weekend yet. On Saturday night it is quite impossible to be present at the team meeting and in the confessional at the same time. But the meeting can go ahead without the priest.

I also emphasize that confession on the weekend is neither a substitute for dialogue nor a time for counseling, but a moment to acknowledge our own sins – not those of our spouse! – and to ask God’s forgiveness. I recall one occasion as a child when my Uncle Mick, a brother of my mother, said to my lola as she announced that she was going to confessions: “Don’t be telling the family history, mother!” There are times when it is appropriate to ask for advice when we confess but I think that on the weekend it is best to focus simply on confessing our sins as honestly as we can and receiving God’s forgiveness through the priest.

Though I didn’t feel like or behave as a good shepherd on the Saturday night in Cebu, I recognized God’s call in the knock on the door and I thank God that, despite my negative reaction at the time, more availed of the grace of the sacrament the following day than is usual on a weekend.

12 July 2009

Marriage: the Heart of the Church

Fr Chuck Gallagher SJ developed Worldwide Marriage Encounter in New York 40 years ago from the Marriage Encounter started by Spanish priest, Fr Gabriel Calvo. Last Friday Father Gallagher underwent serious surgery in New York City. Please pray for his full recovery.

Here is an article he wrote on the sacrament of Matrimony which, with the sacrament of Holy Orders, is emphasised in the Worldwide Marriage Encounter weekend. I have highlighted some parts and made some (comments).

By Fr Chuck Gallagher SJ

The secret of the success of any parish is the quality of the love our husbands and wives have for one another and their children. Their love is the foundation on which the Lord Jesus builds the Body of Christ. This is why Jesus made Marriage in the Church one of the only ways in which hemakes himself visibly present to his Chosen Ones, the people of God.

When Catholics are asked what makes us different from other religions, the answers are likely to be along the lines of the Pope, Mary and the Mass. All make sense. But you never hear mentioned as a significant mark of what it means to be a Catholic is that we treasure our couples as a sacrament - that their devotion and commitment to one another is an essential and unique element of our very identity as Catholics. We would not be who we are as Catholics without our Sacramental Couples.

Sometimes we think that the prime reason that the Church declares that marriage is a Sacrament is to help the husband and wife through the ups and downs of their life together. Without doubt, there are powerful graces that the couple receives through their Sacrament that empower them to accomplish the love to which they have pledged themselves. But Matrimony, like all other sacraments, is not solely or even primarily for the welfare of the individual recipient. All Sacraments are focused on the grace-filled growth and empowerment of the whole Body of Christ.

There are two special prophetic roles that the Sacrament of Matrimony calls our husbands and wives to fulfill for the sake of the whole Community of the faithful. Married couples have the awesome mission of revealing the inner nature of the Trinity to us. As St John reminds us, ‘God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.’ There are two types of love -the love of benevolence (doing good thing for others) and the love of intimacy (belonging to one another). Divine love is the love of intimacy. Father, Son and Holy Spirit don't need anything so they don't need the love of benevolence toward one another. They are one with one another by making themselves completely present to one another.

Husbands and wives, because they are human, practice the love of benevolence but the essence of their marriage is their intimacy, their making themselves permanently present to one another. Marital love is the closest thing we have in human terms of divine love. No other human love, no matter how powerful and good compares with the total presence that loving Sacramental couples can achieve with one another. They model to all of us in the Church the very inner being of God. (Fr Gallagher is emphasising that the basic vocation of a married couple is to be husband and wife. Being parents is a consequence of this.)

So we, the people of God, need our couples to love each other tenderly, passionately and completely not just because it is good for their well being and happiness but so that we can have a taste of how Father, Son and Holy Spirit love one another. Sacramental couples are prophets in the Church revealing the mystery of the Trinity.

Secondly, St Paul tells us that then Sacrament of Matrimony is a mystery. ‘Husbands should love their wives just as Christ loved the Church. In the same way husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies, for a man never hates his own body but feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body - and we are its living parts. For this reason a man must leave his father and mother and be joined with his wife,and the two shall become one body.’

What an awesome responsibility Jesus has placed upon the shoulders of our Sacramental couples. Our husbands and wives are to show all of us in the Body of Christ how Jesus loves us by the way they love one another. Sometimes couples, even great couples with a grand love for one another, believe they are ordinary.

Our Lord himself has granted to then the mission to reveal to the people of God their essential nature. Just as a husband reveals to his wife who he is by the quality of his love for her so too we are who we are as a Church because we are the beloved of Jesus. It is not what we do that makes us Catholic. We don't make ourselves Catholic; Jesus does. He has chosen us. A man does not become a husband because he does married things. It is his wife who makes who makes him a husband by choosing him as her own. (and vice versa!)

The home is known as the Domestic Church. So every Catholic family is a vibrant source of love and grace. As a matter of fact, the quality of life in the big church is more dependent on the success of the little churches than on any other single factor. When husbands and wives give themselves completely to one another and are devoted to one another, then the Gospel lessons of generosity, self-sacrifice and openness to God's presence in our lives become meaningful andacceptable. When couples fail with one another, Sunday becomes a ritual to be done rather than a revelation and empowerment.

What a glorious vocation the Sacrament of Matrimony is!

Couples in the Church are the prime witnesses and prophets of two of the core mysteries of our faith - the Trinity and the very identity of the Church itself. The first Sacramental life that our children experience is that of the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is through that experience that they are led to all the other sacraments. It is the primary catechist. In a real sense we can call the sacrament of matrimony the foundation Sacrament. (This is a point I hadn't reflected on before. Most children, of course, are baptised when infants but what they experience in the years until their First Holy Communion is the sacrament of matrimony of their parents. Whether that is a good or bad experience depends on how the parents accept, as husband and wife, the graces of the sacrament of matrimony). It is the responsibility of all of us in the church to treasure our couples, to revere and honor them. Without them we would not be the Catholic Church just as we would not be Catholic without our priests.

09 July 2009

Martyrs of China

Today the Church honours 120 martyrs of China who died for the faith in persecutions between 1648 and 1930 . Pope John Paul II canonized them on 1 October 2000. St Augustine Zhao Rong, whose name heads the group, was a diocesan priest who had been a soldier. The brief biographical note at the canonization reads: Blessed Augustine Zhao Rong, a Chinese diocesan priest. Having first been one of the soldiers who had escorted Monsignor Dufresse from Chengdu to Beijing, he was moved by his patience and had then asked to be numbered among the neophytes. Once baptised, he was sent to the seminary and then ordained a priest. Arrested, he had to suffer the most cruel tortures and then died in 1815.

Among those martyred in July 1900 during the ‘Boxer’ Uprising was St Anna Wang, 14. Her father and stepmother both apostatized, though Anna had pleaded with them not to. The ‘Boxers’ tried everything possible to dissuade Anna but in the end they beheaded her. Fr Francis X. Clark SJ in his book Asian Saints says that ‘witnesses reported that, even after her head had fallen, she kept in the same kneeling position until one of the guards pushed her to the floor’. Anna’s stepmother repented and became a fervent Catholic.

I came across a homily given by Deacon Greg Kandra of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, on this feast last year. It’s on his blog, The Deacon’s Bench. He highlights the fact that these 120 persons were individuals, 87 of them Chinese, 33 European missionaries. He drew the attention of the congregation to a number by U2, Where the Streets Have No Name at a Super Bowl in New Orleans on February 3 2002, a few months after the September 11 killings in the USA. The names of the victims were highlighted.

On 11 May this year at the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem Pope Benedict focused on the fact that every victim of the Holocaust had a name.

The phenomenon of martyrs down through the ages since the time of St Stephen is, for me, one of the greatest proofs that Jesus the Risen Lord is with his people. And when you read about the witness of St Anna Wang you see how we often despise the young people of today by expecting so little from them and encouraging them to turn away from any kind of sacrifice in their lives, from following Jesus.

Please pray for the Catholics of China who are still going through a very difficult time, in some areas more than in others. And pray that the efforts of Pope John Paul II and of Pope Benedict XVI to reach out to the Chinese authorities will bear fruit.

08 July 2009

Misyononline offline (temporarily)

We uploaded the July-August Misyon on the first of this month. Yesterday afternoon we suddenly went offline. I've been in contact with the people we pay to pay the server. The fault is with the latter but I hope we'll be back as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, you can access most of the material from the current issue here, thanks to Joy Rile, my editorial assistant.

When I was doing mission appeals in the Archdiocese of Westminster and the Diocese of Nottingham in England during the summer of 2005, I think, I saw the young Filipino seaman in the photo above on the posters of the Apostleship of the Sea. They were having their annual fundraising at the same time. His name, as I recall, is Vicente.

In a parish in London I mentioned the poster and seafarers in a homily. After Mass a young member of the Royal Navy, who was from the West Indies, if my memory serves me right, thanked me for speaking about those who work at sea.

06 July 2009

St Maria Teresa Goretti

I remember when I was seven my mother bringing me to the Capuchin church, Our Lady of the Angels, in Church St, Dublin, way back in 1950. It was the day that St Maria Goretti was canonised. In those days there were no afternoon or evening Masses, so the ceremony, as I recall it, ended with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. But what I remember most vividly, because I did not appreicate it at the time, was the recitation of the 15 mysteries of the rosary, the first time I had experienced that. Now there are 20, with the addition of the Mysteries of Light.

There were two extraordinary things about the canonisation of Maria. One was the presence of her mother, the first time this had ever happened at such a ceremony. The other was the presence of Alessandro Serenelli, the man who had tried to rape her and who then murdered her. He repented some years after the incident and asked for and received the forgiveness of Maria's mother. In his latter years he was a member of the Capuchin Third Order and lived with a community of friars. He died in 1970.

I have many friends who have found themselves in a situation similar to that of Maria Teresa, to give her her two baptismal names. She was born on 16 October 1890 and died on 6 July 1902. So she was a few months short of 12. Despite her lack of formal education she was well formed in the Catholic faith at home. Some of my young friends who have been violated, some of them small children, have had very little schooling.

In June 2007 a 13-year-old namesake of the saint, Maria Teresa Medrano, was raped and murdered in Bago City, just south of Bacolod City where I live. A few weeks later Mary Joy Mayo, 16, was brutally raped and slain in Talisay City, just north of Bacolod.

My Columban colleague in Olongapo City, Fr Shay Cullen, is dealing with situations like this all the time.

Today's gospel happened to be St Matthew's account of the cure of the woman with the haemorrhage and the raising from the dead of the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus. (I much prefer St Mark's far more vivid account which we had two Sundays ago). One of the characteristics of Jesus was that he gave importance to children in a society where they were 'seen and not heard'. I often heard when I was young that 'children should be seen and not heard', something I have never fully accepted. Indeed, one of the most gratifying things I was told by a friend of mine, now with her own large family, who told me when she was a young woman that she always appreciated the fact that when she was a child I took her seriously.

It is striking that God often chooses young people who are poor to remind us of his love for us. St Bernadette of Lourdes is a prime example, and the three children in Fatima.

There is a desperate need today to emphasise the importance of chastity and purity. These are virtues that are mocked and undermined, especially in Western societies. They are virtues that people have always had to struggle with but were recognised before, at least in Christian societies, as desirable. Today they are not. I believe that this has increased the level of unhappiness and violence in the world. The number of abortions, both legal and illegal, has soared. And when deaths related to pregnancy are cited there is usually no inclusion of the children who have been killed. The number of marriages and families breaking up has soared.

Yesterday I came across the website of Pure in Heart, 'an Irish youth community dedicated to living the true beauty of sexuality'. Thanks to Father Gerard Dunne OP for the link on his Irish Dominican Vocations. Young people are attracted to what is good, not to what is bad. They may be seduced by the latter but what touches their hearts and their idealism is what is from God. Pope John Paul II recognised that on the centennial of the death of the saint. And it's not only young people. One of the most awful aspects of the abuse of children by adults, especially priests and religious, is the destruction of trust, the destruction of innocence.

May St Maria Teresa Goretti - it has just struck me now that she must have been given the name 'Teresa' because she was born the day after the feast of the great Carmelite saint of Avila - obtain for our young people, boys and girls, the grace of a deep appreciation of who they are and of the importance of self-respect and of respect for others.

03 July 2009

25th Anniversary of 'Negros Nine'

Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of the 'Negros Nine'. The Nine included three priests and six laymen, leaders in their mga Kristianong Katilingban, Basic Christian Communities. They were falsely charged with the murder of Mayor Pablo Sola of Kabankalan, a murder for which the New People’s Army (NPA) announced they were guilty. Father Vicente Dangan, now deceased, was a priest of the Diocese of Bacolod. The area where the Columbans worked at the time is now the Diocese of Kabankalan and it was in St Francis Xavier Cathedral that we had a special Mass yesterday. The main celebrant was Columban Father Brian Gore. Bishop Patrick A. Buzon SDB of Kabankalan presided.

The Negros Nine episode made a household name of Father Brian Gore in his native Australia as it did of the late Fr Niall O’Brien in Ireland. He later became the founding editor of Misyon in 1988. I took over from him in 2002. Father Niall died in 2004.

The July-August issue of Misyon contains a number of articles to mark the occasion. Father Gore tells us how the legacy of the Negros Nine continues in The Negros Nine Live On.

Mrs Nomy Muhal, whose husband Conrado was one of the six laymen, shares her memories of the event in Faith of a Woman. There are photos above and below of Nomy visiting her husband in jail, their eldest daughter Cecille still a toddler. There is also a recent photo of Nomy.

Cecille, one of the two daughters of Conrado and Nomy at the time, recalls her visits to her father in jail when she was a toddler in A ‘Negros Nine Baby’. Cecille acquired two more sisters after her father’s release. Sadly, he never lived to see his four lovely daughters grow up. Cecille, now a nurse, is on the left in the photo below.