27 October 2016

‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ Sunday Reflections, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Zacchaeus's sycamore tree, Jericho [Wikipedia]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax-collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycomore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, ‘He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.’ Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’

The Brothers in Black who produced Exclusive Interview with Zacchaeus, the video above, are seminarians from the USA studying in Rome.

'Zacchaeus' recounting his meeting with Jesus in the 'Exclusive Interview' above recalls, And he looked me right in the eyes. He goes on to repeat that.

In 2009, in a preface to a book on St Augustine, the then Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, now Pope Francis, wroteThe most striking image for me of how one becomes a Christian, as it emerges in this book, is the way in which Augustine recounts and comments on Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus is small, and wants to see the Lord pass, and so he climbs a sycamore. Augustine says: 'Et vidit Dominus ipsum Zacchaeum. Visus est, et vidit.' [And the Lord looked at Zacchaeus himself. He was seen, and saw.]

The then Cardinal Bergoglio comments [emphasis added here and below]: Some believe that faith and salvation come with our effort to look for, to seek the Lord. Whereas it’s the opposite: you are saved when the Lord looks for you, when He looks at you and you let yourself be looked at and sought for. The Lord will look for you first. And when you find Him, you understand that He was waiting there looking at you, He was expecting you from beforehand. 

That is salvation: He loves you beforehand. And you let yourself be loved. Salvation is precisely this meeting where He works first. If this meeting does not take place, we are not saved. We can talk about salvation. Invent reassuring theological systems that turn God into a notary and His gratuitous love into a due deed to which He is supposed to be forced by His nature. But we never enter into the People of God. Whereas, when you look at the Lord and you realize with gratitude that you are looking at Him because He is looking at you, all intellectual prejudices go away, that elitism of the spirit that is characteristic of intellectuals without talent and is ethicism without goodness.

God's mercy has been one of the main themes of Pope Francis since he became Bishop of Rome. And when you find Him, you understand that He was waiting there looking at you, He was expecting you from beforehand. These words of his while still in Buenos Aires recall the story of the Prodigal Son. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20).

Zacchaeus receives Jesus
Church of the Good Shepherd, Jericho [Wikipedia]

I've often used today's gospel in retreats with young people in the context of preparing them for the sacrament of confession. Zacchaeus publicly acknowledges that he has cheated but is ready to give back fourfold what he has cheated people of. He has a joyful face-to-face meeting with Jesus that includes a celebratory meeting.

In his homily on 25 October 2013 in St Martha's, Vatican City, Pope Francis spoke once again about confession. He reminded those present that the sacrament is not like going to a psychiatrist or to a torture chamber. He also reminds us how far too easy it is to say I confess to GodThat's like confessing by email, he comments. I say things and there's no face-to-face contact. He then goes on to speak of how concrete children are when they confess their sins.

The meeting of Jesus and Zacchaeus was a deeply personal experience for both. In all his meetings with individuals Jesus gave of himself. We see that starkly in the story of the healing of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and who was cured when she touched his garment: Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ (Mark 5:30).

Homily of Pope Francis, 25 October 2013

Pope Francis then went on to speak of the grace of being ashamedBut if there is one thing that is beautiful, it is when we confess our sins in the presence of God just as they are. We always feel the grace of being ashamedTo feel ashamed before God is a graceIt is a grace to say: 'I am ashamed'. Let us think about St Peter after Jesus' miracle on the lake: 'Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinner'. He was ashamed of his sin in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Going to confession, the Pope said, is 'going to an encounter with the Lord who forgives us, who loves us. And our shame is what we offer him: 'Lord, I am a sinner, but I am not so bad, I am capable of feeling ashamed'.

The Holy Father concluded: 'let us ask for the grace to live in the truth without hiding anything from the Lord and without hiding anything from ourselves'.

I remember an Irish Christian Brother who taught me in my last two years of secondary school, Brother Mícheál S. Ó Flaitile. We all revered him as a saintly man. The worst 'punishment' you could get from him was a stare when you did something wrong. It made you feel the kind of shame that Pope Francis speaks about. It didn't humiliate you. It was a face-to-face encounter that made you want to be better, to be true to the reality that you were made in God's image.

Jesus is saying to each of us today by name: hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today. May each of us hurry and come down, and be happy to welcome him. 

Antiphona ad introitum
Entrance Antiphon Cf Psalm 37[38]:22-23

Ne derelinquas me, Domine Deus meus, ne discedas a me;
Forsake me not, O Lord, my God; be not far from me!
intende in adiutorium meum, Domine, virtus salutis meae.
Make hast and come to my help, O Lord, my strong salvation!

Ravensburg Madonna of Mercy, Michael Erhart, 1480s
Staatliche Museen, Berlin [Web Gallery of Art]

First Reading    Wisdom 11:22 - 12:2

The whole world before you is like a speck that tips the scales, and like a drop of morning dew that falls on the ground.

But you are merciful to all, for you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent.

For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it.

How would anything have endured if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved?

You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living. For your immortal spirit is in all things.

Therefore you correct little by little those who trespass, and you remind and warn them of the things through which they sin, so that they may be freed from wickedness and put their trust in you, O Lord.

20 October 2016

'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' Sunday Reflections, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

From The Bible, a TV miniseries

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:  ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector.  The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector.  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.”  But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”  I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’

World Mission Day

This Sunday is World Mission Day. The message of Pope Francis for the occasion, with the theme Missionary Church, Witness of Mercy, is here.

The Pharisee and the Publican
Ottobueren Abbey, Germany [Wikipedia]

I remember when I was around 14 one of my father's fellow foremen on a building (construction) site came to visit us one evening. I'll call him Tom. My father went to Mass every morning, something he did until the day he died. At the time I was trying to emulate him. During the course of the evening Tom mentioned that he 'religiously received Holy Communion twice a year, at Christmas and at Easter'. 

Some days later I remarked somewhat disapprovingly to my parents that Tom went to Holy Communion only twice a year. Both of them spoke to me very sharply and I realised that I was out of line, something like the Pharisee in today's gospel. And I did indeed feel a chastening sense of shame, something I still feel whenever I recall that moment.

Tom was an honest, hardworking family man, a man of faith who was still following the custom that prevailed until St Pius X (1903-1914) encouraged frequent Holy Communion. St Thérèse of Lisieux, who died six years before the election of that pope, wrote with gratitude in her Story of a Soul about the occasions when her confessor allowed her to go to Holy Communion. She understood what a great gift receiving the Lord in Holy Communion was. I wonder if most of us today have that same understanding. Indeed, surveys indicate that many Catholics don't believe that they are receiving the 'Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity' of the Risen Lord, as people of my generation learned from the catechism.

What blocked the Pharisee from receiving God's blessing, from going down to his home justified wasn't his telling God the good things he had done - St Paul doesn't hesitate to say to Timothy in today's Second Reading, 
 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2Timothy 4:7) - but his self-righteous contempt for others whose inner struggles he seemed to be totally unaware of.

However, from my early days as a priest I have often thought that this parable should be slightly changed, with the tax-collector saying, 
God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this Pharisee. I don't think I've ever heard anyone condemning a sinner who has acknowledged his sins. But many times I've heard or read about individuals giving as an excuse for not going to Mass or even leaving the Church that there are 'too many hypocrites' there. 

Ntarama Catholic Church, Rwanda
Over 5,000 people seeking refuge here were killed by grenade, machete, rifle, or burnt alive during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. [Wikipedia]

A religious sister from Rwanda, Sr Genevieve Umawariya, speaking during the Synod on Africa held in Rome in 2009, the theme of which was The Church in Africa at the Service of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace, spoke of an incident that parallels today's gospelHere is what she said:

I am a survivor of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda 1994.

A large part of my family was killed while in our parish church. The sight of this building used to fill me with horror and turned my stomach, just like the encounter with the prisoners filled me with disgust and rage.

It is in this mental state that something happened that would change my life and my relationships.

On August 27th 1997 at 1 p.m., a group from the Catholic association of the 'Ladies of Divine Mercy' led me to two prisons in the region of Kibuye, my birthplace. They went to prepare the prisoners for the Jubilee of 2000. They said: 'If you have killed, you commit yourself to ask for forgiveness from the surviving victim, that way you can help him free himself of the burden/weight of vengeance, hatred and rancor. If you are a victim, you commit yourself to offer forgiveness to those who harmed you and thus you free them from the weight of their crime and the evil that is in them'.

This message had an unexpected effect for me and in me . . .

After that, one of the prisoners rose in tears, fell to his knees before me, loudly begging: 'Mercy'. I was petrified in recognizing a family friend who had grown up and shared everything with us.

He admitted having killed my father and told me the details of the death of my family. A feeling of pity and compassion invaded me: I picked him up, embraced him and told him in a tearful voice: “You are and always will be my brother”.

Then I felt a huge weight lift away from me . . . I had found internal peace and I thanked the person I was holding in my arms.

To my great surprise, I heard him cry out: 'Justice can do its work and condemn me to death, now I am free!'

I also wanted to cry out to who wanted to hear: 'Come see what freed me, you too can find internal peace'.

From that moment on, my mission was to travel kilometers to bring mail to the prisoners asking for forgiveness from the survivors. Thus 500 letters were distributed; and I brought back mail with the answers of the survivors to the prisoners who had become my friends and my brothers . . . This allowed for meetings between the executioners and the victims . . .

From this experience, I deduce that reconciliation is not so much wanting to bring together two persons or two groups in conflict. It is rather the re-establishment of each in love and allowing internal healing which leads to mutual liberation.

And here is where the importance of the Church lies in our countries, since her mission is to offer the Word: a word that heals, liberates and reconciles.

Pope Francis echoes this last sentence of Sr Genevieve in his message for this year's World Mission Day: Mercy finds its most noble and complete expression in the Incarnate Word. Jesus reveals the face of the Father who is rich in mercy.

Mother of the Word, Kibeho, Rwanda

Jesus speaks of God's mercy. In the video at the top we see a tax collector who understands exactly what Jesus is saying through his parable. Pope Francis has spoken about God's mercy and about the sacrament of confession many times.

The man who killed the father of Sister Genevieve experienced God's mercy through her as she did through him. Each was freed of the very different but related burdens that they carried. And the man had no more fear of whatever punishment he might receive for his crime. Like the tax-collector in the gospel, he made no excuses. He simply asked for mercy.

The tax-collector (publican) in the parable, Sr Genevieve Umawariya and the man who had killed her father experienced the truth of the First Beatitude (Matthew 5:3) usually translated into English as Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. For years I never quite understood what this meant until I read the translation in the New English Bible: How blest are those who know their need of God; the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

May each of us, like the publican, like Sr Genevieve, like the man she forgave and who accepted her forgiveness, know our need of God and of his mercy.

Antiphona ad introitum
Entrance Antiphon    Cf Psalm 104[105]:3-4

Laetetur cor quaerentium Dominum.
Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice;
Querite Dominum et confirmamini, quaerite faciem eius semper.
turn to the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face.
Confitemini Domino; et invocate nomen eius; annuntiate inter gentes opera eius.
Give glory to the Lord, and call upon his name: declare his deeds among the Gentiles.
Laetetur cor quaerentium Dominum.
Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice;
Querite Dominum et confirmamini, quaerite faciem eius semper.
turn to the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face.

The text in bold is used in the Ordinary Form of the Mass while the longer text is used in the Extraordinary Form, though it may also be used in the Ordinary Form.

15 October 2016

'When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ Sunday Reflections, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Moses, Michelangelo, 1515
San Pietro in Vinculo, Rome [Web Gallery of Art]
(First Reading, Exodus 17:8-13)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

Old Woman Praying, Rembrandt, 1629-30
Residenzgalerie, Salzburg, Austria [Web Gallery of Art]

Last Sunday's story about the ten lepers healed by Jesus and only of whom came back to thank him, a Samaritan, a 'foreigner', told us the importance of gratitude to God for everything, especially for the gift of life itself and the gift of faith.

Today's First Reading and Gospel - the two are always linked by a common theme - stress the importance of prayer as an expression of faith. Prayer is the expression of being in a living relationship with God, an expression of a living faith. 

But the gift of faith can be lost by an individual, by a whole community, by a whole section of the world. In the early centuries of Christianity North Africa had a vibrant Church and produced great bishops and theologians such as St Augustine of Hippo, which is in Algeria. Today there is only a handful of Christians in that country, nearly all either missionaries or workers from other countries.

St Augustine Washing the Feet of Christ, Bernardo Strozzi, 1629
Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti, Genoa, Italy [Web Gallery of Art]

A hundred years ago European countries such as Belgium, Netherlands and Ireland were sending Catholic missionaries all over the world. These countries now to a large extent have rejected the Christian faith. In both Belgium and the Netherlands not only is abortion legal but so is euthanasia. Recently a minor, a 17-year-old boy, was euthanised in Belgium.

My own Irish ancestors received the grace of faith through St Patrick and other missionaries in the fifth century and sent missionaries such as St Columban, the patron saint of Columban missionaries, to rekindle the faith in mainland Europe where it was being rejected.

The founders of the European Economic Union, the EEC, that developed later into the European Union, the EU, had a vision for a Europe at peace that came from their strong Catholic faith. They had experienced the destruction brought about by Nazism and Fascism before and during World War II. Their political vision came from their Catholic Christian faith. They weren't working 'for the Church' but living out as politicians the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they had received through the Church, living out a faith nourished by the Church, especially through the Mass and the sacraments.

That Christian vision of Jean Monnet (France), Konrad Adenauer (Germany), Alcide de Gasperi (Italy) and Robert Schuman (Luxembourg/Germany/France) has been largely lost. Schuman, described by Adenauer as 'a saint in a business suit', had a great devotion to St Columban. Both he and de Gasperi have been proposed for beatification.

Yet so many 'Catholic' politicians and voters in the Western world proclaim themselves, for example, as being 'personally opposed to abortion' but then vote otherwise. Their values are not rooted in their Christian faith. Christian voters in the USA are now faced with a huge moral dilemma when it comes to voting for the country's next president a few weeks from now.

Massacre of the Innocents (detail), Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565-57
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna [Web Gallery of Art]

How many of us take to heart the words of Pope Francis in his encyclical on 'On Care for Our Common Home', Laudato Si' No 117: Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for 'instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature'?

Prayer essentially leads us into desiring to do God's will and, with his grace, actually doing it, so that we can say with St Paul, But we have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). The first part of the Opening Prayer of today's Mass reads: Almighty ever-living God, grant that we may always conform our will to yours . . .

To the extent that, with God's grace, we have the mind of Christ, to that extent we are persons of faith. May the Son of Man find each of us to be such now and at the hour of our death!

When the Son of Man comes, will he find life in Aleppo?'

The story of Abu Wad, 'Father of the flowers', and his 13-year-old son Ibrahim is both heartbreaking and hope-filled. May we continue to pray for peace in Syria, especially in Aleppo.

Holy Mass and Canonization of the Blesseds James Berthieu, Pedro Calungsod, John Baptist Piamarta, Carmen Sallés y Barangueras, Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha, Anna Schäffer
Saint Peter's Square, 21 October 2012 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Antiphona ad introitum  
Entrance Antiphon Cf Ps 16 [17]: 6, 8

Ego clamavi, quoniam exaudisti me Deus;
To you I call; for you will surely heed me, O God;
inclina auerem tuam, et exaudi verba mea.
turn your ear to me; hear my words.
Custodi me, Domine, ut pupillam oculi;
Guard me as the apple of your eye;
sub umbria alarum tuarum protege me.
in the shadow of your wings protect me.

10 October 2016

A Columban Centennial on 10 October

Frs Edward Galvin, John Blowick, Owen McPolin
 China 1920
Fr McPolin led the first group of Columbans to Korea in 1933

One hundred years ago on 10 October the Bishops of Ireland gave their blessing to a new venture known as the Maynooth Mission to China. On 29 June 1918 this venture became the Society of St Columban, in the Diocese of Galway, Ireland. The Missionary Society of St Columban, as it is now known, is already preparing to celebrate its Centennial in 2018.
Fr Edward Galvin in China
Sometime between 1912 and 1916

As I see it, 29 June 1918 was the date when the Society was ‘baptized’. It had been ‘conceived’ in China between 1912 and 1916 when Fr Edward Galvin, ordained in 1909, and three or four other Irish diocesan priests working there saw the need for a mission of the Irish Church to China. It was ‘born’ on 10 October 1916 when the Irish bishops, approached by Fr Galvin and Fr John Blowick, ordained in 1913 and already a young professor at St Patrick’s, Maynooth, the national seminary for Ireland, gave their assent to what quickly became known as 'the Maynooth Mission to China'.
Frs Owen McPolin, John Blowick and Edward Galvin 
China 1920
Frs McPolin and Blowick were ordained in 1913 for the Diocese of Dromore  and the Archdiocese of Tuam, respectively, and Fr Galvin in 1909 for the Diocese of Cork.

Fr Edward Galvin in China

In a letter dated 5 October the Superior General of the Columbans, Fr Kevin O'Neill, an Australian, sent a letter to all Columbans and Columban Lay Missionaries in which he wrote, One hundred years ago, on 9 October 1916, in a ground-floor room of the main college building at Maynooth [St Patrick's College, the National Seminary of Ireland], the 28-year-old Fr John Blowick had the nerve to face the Standing Committee of the Irish Bishops and to present his and Fr Edward Galvin’s scheme for a new mission. After about half an hour’s talk with the bishops, [Michael] Cardinal Logue [Archbishop of Armagh] said that they were prepared to grant their approval for the two things Blowick requested, namely, the making of a collection in the country and the foundation of a Mission College in Ireland.

The ‘memorial’, drawn up by a committee of prominent clerics was laid before the full body of the bishops on the 10 th October, 1916 informing them that: ' . . . a vigorous movement, of which the heart is Maynooth College, has grown up among young Irish ecclesiastics to go forth and carry the light of the Gospel to the Chinese . . . The bishops were rejoiced and thankful to God for this new and striking evidence of the continued life of the ancient Irish missionary spirit.' After careful consideration the bishops approved the project and issued a statement to the press.

Dublin city centre after Easter Rising 1916 [Wikipedia]

In Easter Week 1916 an uprising against British rule in Ireland took place, mainly in Dublin. The country was still part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Irish regiments of the British Army were fighting in the Great War (1914-18), mainly in Belgium and France. Nearly 30,000 of them died during that conflict. There was widespread extreme poverty in Ireland, particularly in the cities. 1916 did not seem a good time to start such a foolhardy venture as sending Irish priests to preach the Gospel in China, a country very few Irish people knew anything about.

Fr O'Neill mentions the influence of the the 'Easter Rising', as it is often called, on the new mission: Shortly after the Irish Bishops’ approval for the new Society, professors from Maynooth, together with priests from religious orders and almost every diocese in Ireland, helped in the nationwide appeals to raise funds for the new Society. The young band of newly formed missionaries avoided publicly taking sides in the nationalist politics of the day in their contact with the clergy while on their parish appeals for funds. But Fr John Blowick is on record as saying, 'I am strongly of the opinion that the rising of 1916 helped our work indirectly. I know for a fact that many of the young people of the country had been aroused into a state of heroism and zeal by the Rising of 1916 and by the manner in which the leaders met their death. I can affirm this from personal experience. And accordingly, when we put our message before the young people of the country, it fell on soil which was far better prepared to receive it than if there had never been an Easter week.'
But the Irish bishops said ‘Yes’ to the Maynooth Mission to China. And the people supported it, as they have continued to do down the years. Fr Blowick once said that the pennies of the poor were more important than the pounds of the wealthy. But he welcomed both.

Commemorative medal 1968
Golden Jubilee of the Missionary Society of St Columban

Obverse side

The vision of a mission of the Irish Church to China broadened to a more international one. After the Society of St Columban was set up – all the founding members were Irish diocesan priests and seminarians – priests were sent to the USA and Australia to establish roots there, especially among the large Irish diaspora. Irish-American Archbishop Jeremiah Harty of Omaha, Nebraska, USA, invited the Society to set up shop there. He had been Archbishop of Manila (1903 – 1916), the first non-Spaniard to hold that position.
The first group of Columban priests went to China in 1920. Fr Blowick went with them but didn't stay as he was Superior General and was needed in Ireland to direct the new Society.
Bishop Edward Galvin
First - and only - Bishop of Hanyang, China
Expelled in 1952

Over the years the Columbans have taken on missions in Korea, Burma (now Myanmar), Japan, Chile, Peru, Fiji, Pakistan and Taiwan. They have had missions also in Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Guatemala and Jamaica.

Fr Leo Distor, first Filipino parish priest of Malate, Manila

Most of the younger Columban priests are from countries the older men had gone to from the West.  Fr Leo Distor, the first Filipino Columban parish priest of Malate, is a symbol of the changing face of the Society. After serving in Korea he spent many years in Chicago and in Quezon City in the formation of future Columban priests from Asia, the Pacific and South America.
This year there are Columban seminarians from Fiji, Peru, Myanmar, the Philippines and Tonga in the formation house in Cubao, Quezon City and on the two-year First Mission Assignment (FMA) overseas, the latter including one from China. There is a seminary programme in Seoul, Korea, and students in formation in Chile and Peru.
The young Fr Edward Galvin (1882-1956), later Bishop of Nancheng, China, and the young Fr John Blowick (1888-1972), not to mention the Irish bishops in 1916, could not have foreseen how the Maynooth Mission to China would evolve from being a purely Irish venture into the international Society it is today with Priest Associates from dioceses in Ireland, Korea, Myanmar and the Solomon Islands, and Lay Missionaries from Chile, Fiji, Ireland, Korea, Philippines and Tonga currently involved in its mission.

Fr Leo Distor (4th from left) with Filipino Columban priests

Starting yesterday, 9 October, and until 22 October Columban priests and lay missionaries under the age of 50 are meeting in Tagaytay, south of Manila. Please keep them in your prayers as these are both the present and the future of the venture blessed by the Irish bishops 100 years ago today.
Thank God for the birth of the Maynooth Mission to China on 10 October 1916.

Graves of Fr John Blowick and Bishop Edward Galvin
St Columban's Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland