Columban Pilgrimage 2016

On 28 September, a large group of those involved in the mission of the Columbans in the Philippines and elsewhere, and four very special visitors from New Zealand, went on a pilgrimage to two places particularly associated with Columban Fr Francis Vernon Douglas: Pililla, Rizal, with his life, and Paete, Laguna, with his torture and death at the hands of the Japanese in 1943. Like the original Columban priests, Fr Douglas was already a diocesan priest, of the Archdiocese of Wellington, when he joined the Society in 1938. Like many other Columbans he met a violent end, in the service of Jesus Christ and his people. Like Jesus, he was scourged at a pillar and was 33 when he died.

Below are the featured articles written about the Pilgrimage:

Columban Pilgrimage to Pililla and Paete by Fr Rex Rocamora

The stirring within my soul began shortly after praying at the post, more so when I witnessed others praying solemly there as well. ‘Do you feel something within you?’, I had to ask, Verne, one of the New Zealanders, as my emotions were welling up. Had I been foolish in asking her? But she quickly replied, ‘I’m his niece’...

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Homily at Memorial Mass of Fr Francis Vernon Douglas, Church of St James the Apostle, Paete, Laguna, Philippines by Fr John Keenan

Let us imagine the scene in this very church: ‘ECCE HOMO’, ‘BEHOLD THE MAN’, put before all the frightened prisoners as to what might happen to them also. Then he was dragged to the baptistery and tied to the font and further tortured...

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Prayer for the Promotion of the Cause of Fr Francis Vernon Douglas

Heavenly Father we join together with the people of New Zealand and of the Philippines who are praying for the promotion of the Cause of Fr Francis Vernon Douglas SSC. We are inspired by his example of heroic faith, courage and commitment to the Gospel...

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United with Father Vernon, a Pilgrimage to Remember by Mary Joy Rile

The thought of his excruciating pain evoked in us deep sorrow, wishing to console him, yet we also recognized that sense of gratitude and awe for his courage in facing such a death. Holding the pillar as if reaching out to Fr Vernon felt like we were united with him...

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What the Pilgrims Say

The experience was surreal. I felt sad yet honored, privileged, and blessed to have walked the floors that Fr Francis Vernon Douglas walked, touched the pillar where he was tied up and tortured, entered through the doors where he welcomed my fellow Filipinos...

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Sabbatical for Future Commitment

By John B. Din

The author is from San Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur. In 1993 he went as a Columban Lay Missionary to Brazil where he spent seven years before being assigned to Peru. In 2011 he was appointed Coordinator of the Columban Lay Missionaries in the Philippines. Last year, after his sabbatical year, he was appointed Regional JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) Coordinator and is based in Quezon City.

John Din (left) and friends at graduation, University of Edinburgh 2015

In his book The Light Which Deems the Stars the late Columban Fr Colm McKeating, who worked in the Philippines for many years, argues that the sabbatical is the climax of creation and includes the care and protection of every creature because they all belong to God. Thus a sabbatical year is a not about rest and idleness but is rather meant to be an active and intense experience of God who is the ground of our existence. Indeed, it is about breaking with routine and the familiar and uncovering the extraordinary behind the veil of everyday experience. It is amazing how a different kind of work can reinvigorate when it fits the desire of the spirit.

Parenting Parents

By Mary Joy Rile

This article first appeared earlier this year in issue 25 of Columban Mission, the 12-page newsletter published three times a year by the Columbans in the Philippines. Necita’s Tatay, Nieto, has since died, on 20 October. The light of heaven upon him.

Necita Fetalvero with her parents Nieto and Lucita

I was privileged in November 2015 to join a group of Columban lay missionaries (CLMs) and the Columban vocation team in visiting former CLM Necita Fetalvero and her parents Nieto and Lucita in Tubod, Lanao del Norte. Seeing the family for the first time tugged at my heart, not just because both parents are aging – with Tatay paralyzed for 25 years from a stroke and bedridden since last year and Nanay with diabetes and due to have a cataract removed – but because they are a symbol of a resilient family. As we listened to their love story Nanay’s humor was noticeable. We enjoyed it when she responded with jokes. We recognized that that’s one of the ways she copes with all the challenges she’s been facing over the years. Tatay is her first and last love. Despite the hardships, Nanay is not giving up on Tatay till death do them part.  

Columban Pilgrimage to Pililla and Paete

By Fr Rex Rocamora

The author is a Columban priest from Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay. He was ordained in 2000 and until this year was based in China. He is now in Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, Manila. His brother, Fr Joseph Joy Rocamora, is a priest in their home Diocese of Ipil.

Miss Dominga Bayocot sharing her memories of Fr Douglas

‘No wonder he was always looking towards the altar’,  said Miss Dominga Bayocot who had witnessed as an eight-year-old the man tied to one of the pillars in St James the Apostle Church, Paete, Laguna, after realizing that he was a priest. She was speaking in Tagalog but I noticed the interpreter missed this line and didn’t translate it for the pilgrims who were listening intently to the accounts of two witnesses – the other was Mrs Aurelia Cadapan – to events in the church in July 1943. It was an important line, I thought. They spoke to us after a lunch hosted by the parishioners at Lunal Paradiso Resort in an off-road garden setting.

The Philippine War On Drugs

By Fr John Keenan

The author is from Ireland and first came to the Philippines in 1966. He is based in Manila.

Pope Francis with a recovering drug addict
St Francis of Assisi of the Providence of God Hospital, Rio de Janeiro, 24 July 2013 [Wikipedia]

‘To all of you, I repeat: Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! And not only that, but I say to us all: let us not rob others of hope, let us become bearers of hope!’ (Pope Francis, 24 July 2013, Rio de Janeiro).

The war on drugs initiated by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on 1 July 2016 has made headlines around the world.  The Fifth Commandment, ‘You shall not kill’, is ignored. Most of the extra judicial killings take place among the poor. Even women are killed. Children also are caught in cross-fire. 

Homily at Memorial Mass of Fr Francis Vernon Douglas

Church of St James the Apostle, Paete, Laguna, Philippines

By Fr John Keenan

On 28 September this year a group of Columban priests, Columban Lay Missionaries and co-workers, along with four relatives of Columban Fr Francis Vernon Douglas from New Zealand set off on a one-day pilgrimage to the two places associated with his death in 1943, Pililla, Rizal, and Paete, Laguna. Here is the homily given by Fr John Keenan, a Columban who came to the Philippines from Ireland in 1966, at the Mass in the church of St James the Apostle, Paete. His article, Here Was a Strong and Brave Man, first published in MISYON in January-February 2001, has renewed awareness of the martyrdom of this heroic priest from New Zealand.

Fr John Keenan and concelebrants

Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat at maraming salamat para sa inyong pagdalo sa Misang ito para kay Padre Francis Vernon Douglas. Having traced the last journey of Fr Vernon Douglas from Pililla Catholic church where he was abducted to this church of St James the Apostle, we have reached the goal of our pilgrimage.  It was here that Fr Vernon spent the last three tortuous days of his life. We remember him affectionately and pray for his eternal repose.

United with Father Vernon, a Pilgrimage to Remember

By Mary Joy Rile

The author is Editorial Assistant of and Columban Mission.

Prayer Service at St Mary Magdalene Parish Church, Pililla, Rizal

Columban missionaries and co-workers, with members of the Douglas family, gathered at 5:30am in Singalong St, Manila, on 28 September 2016, the feast day of the first Filipino martyr, St Lorenzo Ruiz. We were commemorating the life and death of Columban Father Francis Vernon Douglas, a New Zealander martyred in the Philippines in 1943. Riding on two buses, 68 of us started our pilgrimage with rain to grace our day, traffic to greet us in between and delays to test our endurance. But these challenges were a small sacrifice compared to the suffering that Fr Vernon bore.

The God of Surprises: Pilar and CLM Beginnings

By Fr Michael Martin

This is a slightly edited extract from the book Walking in Their Light, written by Columban Fr Michael Martin on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood last year, 2015. September 2016 marks the end of a year of events for the Silver Jubilee of the Columban Lay Missionaries (CLM).

L to R: Emma Pabera, Gloria Canama and Pilar Tilos

Three Filipinas, Emma Pabera, from Candoni, Pilar Tilos from Hinoba-an, both in Negros Occidental and the Diocese of Kabankalan, and Gloria Canama from Tangub City, Misamis Occidental, Archdiocese of Ozamiz, resigned from their work in 1990 and came together for an eight-month team-building program to prepare themselves to go as Columban Lay Missionaries to Pakistan. The three were hard-working and experienced teachers, all from families really close to the Columbans, and all exceptionally enthused about that missionary way of being Church, Pilar Tilos, who had coordinated physical education, and assisted in promoting sports, dance, and music in the public elementary schools of Hinoba-an, the southernmost municipality in Negros Occidental, had long felt called to mission. She applied, was accepted, and joined the first Columban Philippine Lay Mission Team, named ‘RP1’. ‘Larps’ - her nickname - was a great mimic and the life and soul of many a party and parish activity.

Meeting Mother Teresa

By Fr Michael Mohally

Mother Teresa with Fr Michael Mohally

Blessed Mother Teresa will be canonized by Pope Francis on Rome on 4 September. We are re-publishing this article by Columban Fr Michael Mohally who met the saint a number of times. We first printed it in the September-October 2003 issue of Misyon. Fr Mohally has spent most of his life as a priest working with Columban seminarians, in Ireland and the Philippines. He is now based in the Columban central house in Manila.

Logo for Canonization [Wikipedia]

The first time I was to have met Mother Teresa was in Hong Kong. I was asked to bring a package to her there from where she was to accompany Sisters into China to set up the first foundation of the Missionaries of Charity there. When I got to the convent I was told that the China foundation was on ‘hold’. Newspapers had got hold of the story and said that she was going there as the representative of the Pope. Rather than wait around, Mother Teresa had gone to Hanoi to set up a new foundation there.