31 July 2010

'One's life does not consist of possessions'. 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, 1 August 2010

Christ as Saviour, El Greco, c.1600

Gospel (RSV, Catholic Edition) Lk 12:13-21

One of the multitude said to Jesus, "Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?" And he said to them, "Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."


One thing that the gospel says to me is that I should be constantly thanking God for everything. There is nothing I have that isn't a gift from God, life itself, faith, my vocation to be a priest, my family, my friends, my daily bread.

When I was growing up in Ireland people constantly said 'Thank God', especially in the context of hearing of the recovery, for example, of someone who had been ill, or someone rescued from a dangerous situation. A more emphatic expression, especially when it comes from the heart, is 'Thanks be to God!' When people asked 'How are you?' we'd often reply 'I'm fine, thank God'.

Filipinos do the same. I remember twenty years ago giving enough money to buy a meal to a woman and her daughter of about 13 who clearly were tired and hungry. The girl looked at me with the most beautiful smile I've ever seen and said 'Salamat sa Ginoo!' 'Thanks to the Lord!' She didn't thank me but rather invited me to join her and her mother in thanking God for being blessed with enough to buy their next meal.

The man in the parable didn't see things as that young girl did.

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.

26 July 2010

In Canada for a Silver Wedding

I arrived in Smithville, Ontario, from Dublin yesterday I wasn't quite over my jet-lag from my flight from Manila to Dublin via Abu Dhabi last Tuesday. Dublin is seven hours behind Manil at this time of year and Smithville is a further five hours behind. I also picked up a cold on the way home but that seems to be on the way out now.

I'm staying with Douglas and Maeve Devlin, both originally from Dublin, whom I met shortly after I wetnt to New York to study in 1969 when I was a young priest. They sold me their old car the following year for $1 when they went back to Dublin. However, they moved to Canada the following year and have been here ever since.

Maeve and Doug Devlin (left) at a parish function.

I attended the wedding of their elder daughter Jacqueline to Guy Lupien in 1985 and on Sunday will celebrate the parish Mass here at which they will renew their marriage vows.

The parish priest of St Martin of Tours is a Nigerian, Fr Obioma Anyanwu.

Father Obioma with Bishop James Wingle of the Diocese of St Catharines whose resignation was accepted in April.

There is an hour of adoration with Benediction every weekday before Mass. This is the result of Father Obioma asking for suggestions from the parishioners when he took over as pastor.

20 July 2010

Pray for Father Patrick Hurley

I'm flying home to Dublin tonight from Manila. Father Patrick Hurley (second from the left in the photo above taken 23 November last year at the new San Columbano Center in the Diocese of Kabankalan, Philippines,) was supposed to travel with me. He recently turned 86.

However, yesterday morning he had a fall and fractured his left hip. It's not a serious fracture but he will need surgery. He's in good spirits. The accident happened on the 60th anniversary of his arrival in Negros as one of the pioneers in the then new Columban mission in the Diocese of Bacolod. The territory we were given is now the Diocese of Kabankalan, covering the southern part of the province of Negros Occidental. He is the only member of that first group still based in Negros.

Please keep him in your prayers.

18 July 2010

Off to Dublin!

Bus in Dublin

I'll be flying to Dublin, my home town, on Tuesday night, God willing, and will probably be using buses like the one above quite often. I'll be coming back to the Philippines in mid-October but will be fying to Toronto on 25 July to spend some time with friends who live not far from there. I studied in Toronto for a year in 1981-82.

River Liffey in centre of Dublin

This photo was taken from the Ha'penny Bridge, a pedestrian bridge, looking east towards O'Connell Bridge at the southern end of O'Connell Street, the city's main thoroughfare. The Luas (Irish for 'speed') is heading west from Abbey Street, the first street north of the Liffey, crossing O'Connell Street. The statue is of Sir John Gray (or Grey), a prominent figure in Dublin in the 19th century.

Dublin city centre, Luas

I found the photo at the top on http://www.irishbuses.com/  and the other two on http://www.trekearth.com/.

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

09 July 2010

China: Martyrs and Missionaries

10 July 1970 is not a date that is etched on my memory, not even the year. I had to research online to check it. This morning at Mass I told the people it was 1976. But I distinctly remember the gospel at Mass the following day, Mt 10:16-23, and what I spoke about in my homily in a church somewhere in the Diocese of Rockville Center, New York. Verses 18 -20 read: You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Bishop James E. Walsh, a Maryknoll Missioner, was quietly released by the Chinese Communist authorities on 10 July 1970 after having served almost twelve years of a twenty-year sentence for the 'crime' of being a Catholic missionary. He never spoke a word of bitterness or anger about those who had jailed him and lived the rest of his life prayerfully and quietly in Maryknoll, New York. I cannot imagine a more appropriate gospel text than that read after the bishop's release.

This great missionary priest, who became a bishop at the age of 36, once said, Missionaries go where they are needed but not wanted, and stay until they are wanted, but no longer needed.

You can read more about Bishop Walsh here and here.

That same gospel reading happily coincided today with the memorial of St Augustine Zhao Rung and compnions, 120 martyrs of China, both Chinese and foreign, canonized in 200. They were killed in various persecutions down the years. St Augustine, a diocesan priest and former soldier, was martyred in 1815.

In his homily at the canonizations on 1 October 2000 Pope John Paull II reminded us, Young Ann Wang, a 14-year-old, withstood the threats of the torturers who invited her to apostatize. Ready for her beheading, she declared with a radiant face: 'The door of heaven is open to all', three times murmuring: 'Jesus'. And 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, cried out fearlessly to those who had just cut off his right arm and were preparing to flay him alive: 'Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian'.

Pray for the Church in China which is still suffering.

04 July 2010

A Happy Fourth of July!

The most wonderful prolonged experience in my life was six weeks I spent in St William Parish, Lancaster, Kentucky, in the summer of 1969. I was sent to study music in New Work in 1969 after finishing my studies at St Columban's College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland, in 1968. We were ordained on 21 December 1967.

Before I went to the USA in September 1968 I thought I knew it, from movies, TV, novels and so on. But I found myself in a strange country, with a great variety of sub-cultures, something I enjoyed. It was also a time of turmoil in the USA because of the war in Vietnam and a time of turmoil in the Church after Vatican II. I was green from Ireland in every sense of the world and at times found things difficult.

But my three years in the USA were quite wonderful and the most significant experience of all was the time I spent working with Father Ralph Beiting, a priest who is still serving in his 80s and who had a great gift for organising and inspiring young people from all over the USA to spent time as volunteers in his parish during their vacations.

Cliffview, now a retreat and conference centre, was then used as a summer camp for children, black and white, nearly all of whom were poor. They would come on Monday morning and go home on Friday afternoon. I spent most of my six weeks at Cliffview and spent many hours on the pontoon boat in the photo at the top taking the children around.

I made lifelong friendships with some of the college students whom I was working with that summer.

Father Beiting had many programmes going, including door-to-door visitation in pairs just to let the people know that the Catholics were there. There were still very few in the area and also the remnants of prejuicd against Catholics based simply on ignorance. But I found the people in the area to be deeply spiritual and familiar with the Bible and, for the most part, welcoming.

There were also Bible schools during the summer to teach children the basics of our faith. Father Beiting himself use to travel all over easter Kentucky preaching at street corners and at gasoline stations. He would tak seminarians with him. On one occasion he was driven out at gunpoint. He returned next day, not to preach but simply to show himself. Gradually the people began to accept and even welcome him because he stressed the basic truths that all genuine Christians believe, even if they have deep differences about many doctrines.

Our Lady of Mount Vernon Catholic Church, Mount Vernon, Kentucky

I virst went to Lancaster for Easter Week 1969 with students from the college where I was studying. I spent Holy Week and Easter Week the following year in Mount Vernon, one of four towns in the sprawling rural parish that Father Beiting was in charge of. And I spent part of the summer of 1970 in another of the towns, Berea. There I worked with Monsignor Arthur Bukowski, who had once been president of Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and had worked as a missionary in a South American country.

Monsignor Arthur Bukowski

Father Art, a diocesan priest, was also an associate priest of Madonna House, founded in Combermere, Ontario, Canada, by Catherine Doherty.
I learned the truth of that from being with Monsignor Arthur Bukowski who lived his priesthood with joy and zeal and who had a wonderully dry sense of humour. Father Ralph Beiting is a very different person but equally full of zeal for bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the poor in the rural USA.

On the Fourth of July, a number of which I have spent in the USA, I thank God for the many graces he gave me during my three years there before I came to the Philippines and on subsequent visits.

In the words that Irving Berlin used in writing a song that has become an unofficial anthem of Americans, God Bless America!

God Bless America, sung by Kate Smith

The USA has welcomed many to its shores. Among those were some of the very first members of the Missionary Society of St Columban, formally established on 29 June 1918, the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul. The bishop who invited us was Archbishop Jeremiah James Harty of Omaha, Nebraska. He had been the first post-Spanish Archbishop of Manila, from 1904 to 1016 when he was appointed Bishop of Omaha and succeeded in Manila by the Irish Archbishop Michael O'Doherty who not only welcomed the Columbans to the Philippines in 1929 but persuaded us to come here.

The USA is a place where God is actively present. May he continue to bless its people. I am grateful to God for the time I have spent there and especially for priests like Father Ralph Beiting and Father Art Bukowski who were great examples to me in the early days of my priesthood.