The Jubilee Year of St Columban begins in Rome

Filipina Columban Lay Missionary Rose Basada shares with us her participation in the three-day celebration in Rome marking the opening of the Jubilee Year of St Columban, which runs from 10 October 2014 to 23 November 2015. This year makes the 1400th anniversary of the death of St Columban in the year 615 in the northern Italian town of Bobbio. Rose is based in Birmingham, England.

It was a blessing and privilege for me to participate in the celebrations in Rome to open the Jubilee Year of St Columban, the patron of the Missionary Society of St Columban with whose members we Columban Lay Missionaries work on mission.

Rose, center, waving to Pope Francis

The Jubilee Year began with four major events. They started on 10 October with Ecumenical Vespers at 5:00pm in the Basilica of San Clemente. The church was full of pilgrims from different places in Europe. It was a very moving celebration as people of many cultures and Christian denominations gathered. I was able to meet pilgrims from various churches – Catholic, Anglican and Methodist. The Parish Priest of Bobbio held relics of St Columban during the procession. They are normally kept at the Museum in Bobbio where Columban died in AD 615.

After the Ecumenical Vespers we walked towards the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. There we listened with fellow pilgrims to ‘The Priests’ in concert to raise money for St Elizabeth Hospital, Hyderabad, Pakistan, which has strong links with the Missionary Society of St Columban.

The Priests, Armagh Cathedral, Ireland

On the second day – 11 October - we gathered at the Basilica of St John Lateran where there was a liturgical welcome of the relics of St Columban and a Solemn concelebrated Mass with Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome. There were thousands of pilgrims at this event and many priests and bishops. I was very blessed to be able to read one of the Prayers of the Faithful at this Mass. It was very important to me to be able to contribute and pray for peace and interreligious dialogue, something I know is so important in my work as a missionary and in the world today.

I was amazed at how devoted so many pilgrims were to St Columban. Many had traveled from Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland and from the Italian cities of Bobbio and Florence. Each group carried a banner with the image of St Columban. I'm happy I got the chance to walk and make friends with other pilgrims. I felt humbled and inspired by their patience and perseverance in joining the pilgrimage as I saw many of them walk a long way from one church to another. This trip was very important for me as a Columban Lay Missionary as it helped me deepen my understanding about the patron saint of Columban missionaries.

On the third day there was a solemn concelebrated Mass in honor of St Columban. The main celebrant was Ireland’s Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop Emeritus of Armagh, at the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. It was the only homily I understood because at other Masses the celebrants spoke Italian.His homily was very informative and encouraging. It continues to gives me inspiration to keep going in my missionary journey.

Relics of St Columban, St John Lateran

All the more, it gave everyone more information about who St Columban was. Indeed his memory lives on in the life of the parishioners of Bobbio and many parishes in Italy and other places around the world today.

We ended our pilgrimage by attending the Sunday Angelus with Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square. It felt like a very personal welcome even though we were surrounded by thousands of people. Pope Francis himself was so welcoming and greeted the Columban Pilgrimage. It was a blessing to see the Pope and be able to pray with him, with other pilgrims, and with my fellow Columbans.

his article appeared in the November-December 2014 issue of The Far East, the magazine of the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand.