Youth, Reconciliation and Pilgrimage

By Fr G. Chris Saenz, Chile, ‘00

The author is from Omaha, Nebraska, USA, and is a frequent contributor to Columban publications. He spent some time in the Philippines during his formation and was ordained in 2000. He is based in Chile.

Fr Chris Saenz with young pilgrims

‘Father, I am angry that my parents are divorcing.’  This could be an example of a young person’s confession.  I am often struck by the honesty and profoundness of what young people share.  It highlights for me what the sacrament of reconciliation means - a true desire to seek God’s saving grace in a situation that one would like to leave behind. 


‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’ (Martin Luther King, 28 August 1963) [Video of full speech here. Text here.]

Martin Luther King delivered his famous ‘I have a dream speech’ in a particular context. Some southern states of the USA still practiced segregation, ie, separate facilities for white and black people, those for the latter always inferior. This had its origins in the history of slavery in the Americas, the original slaves having been brought from West Africa.

A Close Shave

By Fr Charles Duster

The author

Fr Duster [DOOster] is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA. He was ordained in December 1961. He worked in Japan from 1962 till 1969. He spent some time in the USA as vocation director and was later to spend 23 years working in Fiji. He also studied canon law in Rome.

It was a missionary’s dream vacation. During the summer of 1967, a Columban classmate of mine, Fr Jim Duffy, who was on his first six-year tour of Korea and I on my first term in Japan, decided to fly down to the Philippines to visit our Columban classmates and confreres. Little did we imagine that it would bring us within two minutes of meeting Our Maker! The trip began well with an exciting week in Manila followed by a wild ride on a commercial bus to Olongapo to visit friends in the Province of Zambales near Subic Bay, a huge US Navy port in those days. The bus drivers on the Victory Liner seemed to compete for passengers by racing one another and passing in what I thought were dangerous situations on the narrow two lane highway.

Christmas in California – ‘Pinoy Style’ Reflecting on Traditions

By Belle Ross

That famous line ‘It's More Fun in the Philippines’ holds true in every Filipino heart, especially those who are based in different countries whether for work or having migrated for good. Once you've been born, raised and experienced our culture and traditions in our homeland, it is difficult not to miss what we've gotten used to, especially during the Advent-Christmas holiday season.

Tears and Light in Juarez

By Fr Kevin Mullins

The author is a Columban from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, who has worked in Chile and in Britain. For the past fifteen years he has been in Corpus Christi Parish, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, USA. The parish, along with a presence in El Paso, is part of the Columban Border Ministries of the Region of the United States.

A news report on 7 News, Australia, 2012

Some time ago drug-cartel soldiers visited a house near our parish church. The man of the house was a small-time drug-seller and user. Reportedly he had not paid up on time. The cartel soldiers forced him and his three-year-old daughter to watch as they slit his wife’s throat. Then the child watched as they shot half her father’s face away and left him for dead. The little girl lay for nine hours on the legs of her dead parents and then, in the morning, went outside to let neighbors know that something was wrong.

The violence of the drug cartels in our city is endemic but, for the cartels, it is a means to an end. They prefer their business to be free of violence and so use bribes to encourage collaboration from politicians, police chiefs, state governors, mayors, etc. These are often offered a choice: plata (money) or plomo (lead ie, a bullet).

Executions – A Common Event

By Fr Kevin Mullins

A day in the life of Columban Fr Kevin Mullins who works in one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

On the morning of 27 November 2011 Leo, the full-time parish worker, and I were crossing Juárez City, Mexico, to meet with Manny Vargas, the editor of Misión Columbana, the Spanish-language magazine of the Columbans in the USA.

columban mexico

After a short stop at the bank, we continued on only to be passed by speeding police cars and military convoys with sirens blaring.

Come, Risk The Sacred Journey

By Sr Alicia Alambra FMM

Come risk the sacred journey, enter now uncharted place.
Risk the sacred journey inward to the ocean deep and dark.
Step by step we make our way through
Desert plains and mountains steep.
Step by step God’s Spirit leads us . . .

Zoom In

Driving around is like taking the given daily choices of everyday life and choosing the right direction so as to arrive at our destination. What is important are the four directions of North, South, East and West, so I always figure out these directions in order to find my way easily.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

By Fr G. Chris Saenz

Father Saenz, ordained in 2000, is from Omaha, Nebraska, USA, where the Columban headquarters in that country are located. He spent part of his formation period in the Philippines.

I’ve learned that mission is one step forward and two steps back. This insight hit me on the night of 11 September in our Columban Parish of Santo Tomás Apóstol in La Pintana, an area in the southern part of Santiago de Chile. At 2am I received a frantic call from our parish coordinator, Elizabeth, screaming and crying, ‘Father! They broke down the gates! They broke down the gates and now they are invading the parish!’ This is the story.

Columban priest John Boles
Columban priest John Boles defends his church during September disturbances in Chile.

Night at the Riots

By Fr John Boles

Fr John Boles is from England and is currently Rector of Student Formation and Parish Priest of Santo Tomás Parish in Santiago, Chile. He belongs to the Columban Region of Peru.Fr Chris Saenz describes in this issue the 2011 riot in La Pintana. Here Fr Boles describes last year’s.

Ever think you might get tear-gassed? Here are a few survival tips: Have a wet handkerchief or surgical mask handy, to cover your nose and mouth; smear a little toothpaste under your eyes - it helps; don’t rub your eyes after being gassed, it’s better to let them stream; once you’ve reached safety, suck a lemon. Its recuperative qualities are remarkable.

Columban priest John Boles
Fr John Boles with members of the "Parish Defence Force".

Providence and Google

By Fr Charles Duster


Fr Duster, from the USA, has worked in Japan and Fiji. During a visit to the Philippines in 1967 he and another Columban were to have traveled on a flight from Bacolod to Cebu on 6 July. Although slightly delayed because they had visited another Columban in hospital, they were still on time for checking in but they weren't allowed on board. The plane left early and crashed, all 21 on board being killed.

The ways of Providence are unusual and wonderful.

It started with a simple question over the dinner table at the Columban House on the north side of Chicago, ‘Rafa, what was your first contact with the Columban Fathers?’

Rafael (Rafa) Ramirez is a Columban seminarian from Chile who was completing a ten-month English language study program at De Paul University and returned to Chile in January 2010. He is continuing his theological studies at Catholic University, Santiago, in preparation for his first missionary assignment next year as a Columban missionary.