Misyon Online - November-December 2016

By Fr Seán Coyle

Co-founders Fr Edward Galvin and Fr John Blowick (seated) with Fr Owen McPolin, China 1920

On Sunday 9 October this year 31 priests and 16 lay missionaries went to Tagaytay City for a two-week meeting of Columbans under the age of 50. Among them was our Superior General, Fr Kevin O’Neill, who in a recent letter wrote: 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.

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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The three members of Fiji/Tonga Team 11 of the Columban lay Missionaries arrived in the Philippines on 28 December 2015 and flew two days later to Cagayan de Oro where they celebrated the New Year of 2016. On 4 January they began a six-month course in the Cebuano language at the Maryknoll Institute of Language and Culture, Davao City. They are now assigned in Barra, Opol, Misamis Oriental, where their Columban companions are Fr Paul Finlayson from New Zealand and two Peruvians, Fr Enrique Escobar and lay missionary Ana Belma Flores. Haiti and Liliani are from Tonga while Vasemaca is from Fiji. The Columbans have been in Fiji since 1952. Despite the fact that we have never worked in Tonga we now have both priests and lay missionaries from that island nation.

The three joined the Columban Lay Missionaries Accompaniment Program in 2014 and the nine-month Orientation Program last year. The latter included the first quarter (three months) of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).

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.

‘Father, have you heard this joke before?’

By Fr Bernard McDermott

Fr John Blowick as a young priest

Fr John Blowick, the Co-founder with Fr Edward Galvin of the Columbans, said that the pennies of the poor were more important than the pounds of the wealthy, though he welcomed both. The Columbans have been blessed with generous benefactors, both poor and rich, down the years and here in the Philippines we are moving towards being self-supporting through such support. Fr Bernard McDermott, from Manchester, England, was ordained in 1974 and spent the early years of his priesthood in Mindanao. He is now based in Britain where he has served as Regional Director. The story of Frank Joyce, which first appeared in the September 2016 issue of The Far East, the Columban magazine in Australia and New Zealand, is the story, with different details, of all who have supported us Columbans in our mission down through the years.

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.  

Forgiving enemies is not so easy

An interview with Christina Shabo

This article was first published in the 21 August 2016 issue of Sunday Examiner, the English-language weekly of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong edited by Australian Columban Fr James Mulroney.

Pope Francis at World Youth Day 2016 [Wikipedia]

KRAKÓW (SE): ‘I asked Jesus for the grace to forgive every time I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet. But instead of praying “For the sake of his sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world,” I prayed “have mercy on the Islamic State and on the whole world”,’ Christina Shabo, who was born under a tree in a refugee camp after her family fled the bombing in Iraq in 1991, said in a testimony on 29 July at World Youth Day in Kraków, Poland.

Black Rock Mountain, southeast Ireland [Wikipedia]
St Columban (c.543 – 23 November 615) is believed to have been born near here.

Sweet joys of life

May Christ, the Ruler of the Universe,
the only Son of the All-powerful,
grant you all the sweet joys of life,
who, without end, governs all things,
in the name of his Father. Amen.

Prayers and Sayings of St Columban, Columban Martyrs of Malate, 1995

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.