Australia

‘Chaty' For Charity Work

‘Habang may buhay, mayroon akong ibibigay.’
By Mary Joy Rile

A story about Mrs Mery Elgen ‘Chaty’ Harris from Bacong, Negros Oriental, near Dumaguete City, who is married with two children and lives in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, where she works as a registered nurse in the Ballarat Health Service.

Four years ago Chaty started a charity work by doing fund raising for an orphanage in Dumaguete. She collected some money from her friends back in Australia and bought goods such as rice, milk, sugar and biscuits as Christmas presents. Before returning to Australia she happened to pass by a second-hand store, popularly known here in the Philippines as ‘ukay-ukay’, where she saw a Salvation Army tag on some clothes. These were supposed to be given out free, not to be sold. This gave Chaty the idea for another charity work.

'Sinful' Christmas

By Fr Frank Hoare

Greeted with hospitality and sweet tea, a Columban priest and his companion tell the story of Christmas to non-Christians in Fiji. This article won a ‘Highly Commended’ award for The Far East, the magazine of the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand where it first appeared in the November-December 2008 issue, from the Australasian Catholic Press Conference in Sydney in September. 

‘You have walked all this way to enlighten us about the meaning of Christmas. You are a holy man; you are a saint; you are an incarnation of God’, a middle-aged Fiji-Indian man named Ram Samuj enthused after I had shared with him the story of Christmas. I remembered how Paul and Barnabas had torn their garments in horror when, after healing a cripple, the people of Lystra attempted to sacrifice oxen to them (Acts 14:14). My protestations of mere humanity to Ram Samuj were less dramatic, but he accepted them. No sacrifice was performed.

It’s Better Than No Clinic

By Kathryn Boyle

Ms Kathryn Boyle is a lecturer in the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne.


Since 1929 Columban priests have served the people of Our Lady of Remedies parish in Malate, Manila. This was the first Columban parish established in the Philippines and it remains in their care today. Malate is thus, the ‘oldest parish’ in the Columban world.

Today, 25,000 people live within the parish boundaries; 15,000 of these are the ‘urban poor’ who live in the squatter slums, which abound in the areas behind the main streets of the city. Here narrow lanes and alleyways snake through overcrowded dwellings. Here people live cheek by jowl and every inch of space is used. Water comes only from a pump in the narrow alley or from a hose, perhaps once a day. Sanitation is scarce and people live mainly on the street. Here tuberculosis, chest infections and malnutrition are rife.

A Japanese Gentleman

By Fr Leo Baker

Phone calls for me from Japan are rare, so I was surprised recently to receive a call from Mrs Murakami, the wife of a man who was my catechist from 1951 to 1954. She told me that he had died, aged 88. That phone call marked the end of a 55-year friendship with a man of remarkable personality and one of the finest gentlemen I came to know during my 35 years in Japan.

In 1951, after 18 months in Japan, I was living in Kamogawa, a coastal fishing port, where fishermen, farmers and shopkeepers made up most of the population. I had been appointed there after just a year of language study, only 27-years-old, to try to establish a new mission where none was there before.

The Gospel Amid Uncertainty

Australian Columban Fr Robert McCulloch was ordained in 1970. He served in Talisayan, Misamis Oriental, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, from 1971 till 1974 before going to Rome and Washington DC for studies. He arrived in Pakistan early in January 1979 as a member of the first group of Columbans to go there. Among other things, Father McCulloch lectures at the Theological Institute in Karachi. Here he tells us how missionary work in Pakistan means serving the love of God in a climate of violence, poverty and injustice. 

I would not have been able to sustain myself in my work as a Columban missionary priest if I had looked for immediate results during my 29 years in Pakistan. Year by year, I have come to understand that the real issue is to serve for the love of God, not to look at what I have in my hand or what I can count.

Asking Real Questions

We face tough questions here: How do we continue with the ongoing formation and preparation of liturgical leaders while there is a famine affecting a third of the diocese? How do we plan when there is news of a church being burned down or a convent being attacked by a wild but well-organized mob with the connivance of police and approval of town authorities?

A journalist from Australia writes to Cecille after reading her article, A Negros Nine Baby, and remembers his time here in the Philippines covering the Negros Nine trial back in the 80s. 

What WYD Showed Me

By Gelkoff Calmerin

It was July 11 when my friends from Buklod Study Center, Bacolod City, and I left the Philippines for Australia, the host country for this year’s World Youth Day celebration. Personally, I was excited with this trip for it was my first outside the Philippines. Well, I was also pretty tired because I had my examinations just the day before we left. 

Nevertheless, nothing would keep my spirits from being up. This was a once in a lifetime event. Meeting our Holy Father and hundreds of thousands of other pilgrims from around the world was really something to look forward to.

Old Age, A Gifted Time

By Fr Keith Gorman

Father Gorman, an Australian ordained in 1943, worked for many years in Japan. Here he tells us how old age is a special, gifted time from God. Gardening, an activity going back to Adam and Eve, and his computer, a very recent invention, both help him to pray.

Adventurous Life

Fr Patrick McInerney

‘Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure’ (2 Cor 11:25-27).

Since I joined the Columbans in 1972 I have visited 32 countries, even if some of them only very briefly. For 22 years from 1978 to 2000 I was assigned to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. 

Living in and visiting other countries, I have known the helplessness of not having a clue what is going on around me, of not knowing what someone was saying to me, or how to ask even the most basic (and necessary) directions! 

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