Columbans ‘who have gone before us with the sign of faith’ - November 2012 – November 2013

St Columban’s Cemetery, Dalgan Park, Ireland

Fr Paul Richardson (8 November 2013)

Fr Paul Richardson
(1929 - 2013)

The following is slightly adapted from a letter sent by Fr Tim Mulroy, Columban Regional Director, USA.

The funeral of Fr Paul J. Richardson, ordained in 1954, who died on 8 November took place at St Columban's, Bristol, Rhode Island, on Wednesday 13 November. He was buried in the cemetery attached to St Mary’s church, Bristol.

Father Paul was born in Winthrop, MA on 5 March 1929, the son of Leslie and Florence Barnaby Richardson. He attended public schools before entering Silver Creek (the Columban minor seminary before, west of Buffalo, New York) in 1945. He continued his studies in Bristol, RI, Omaha, NE and Milton, MA. He was ordained by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Richard Cushing in the new Milton Seminary Chapel on 18 December 1954.

Winthrop, Massachusetts [Wikipedia]

Father Paul was assigned to the Philippines arriving here in November 1955. He spent nearly 50 years ministering in various parishes in Negros Occidental, especially Binalbagan, Kabankalan, Himamaylan and Sipalay. He spent several years as chaplain and teacher in Kabankalan Catholic College. He also served for a while as the assistant regional bursar in Manila. When ill health precluded his working in a parish, he lived at the Columban central house in Batang, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, where he worked with the poor fisherman who lived along the shoreline.

St Cecilia Cathedral, Omaha, Nebraska [Wikipedia]

Father Paul also spent some years in the latter part of the 1980s with the college formation program that the Columbans had in Cebu City at the time.

Skyline of central Cebu City [Wikipedia]

He began a Grameen Cooperative Bank and a pig cooperative to help the poor families who came to him with their problems. He was a familiar sight walking the beach early in the morning taking pictures and talking with the neighbors. He always had his morning coffee at one of the local sari-sari stores. Father Paul frequently published these encounters with stories in Columban Mission magazine. The photos he supplied to illustrate his stories often won prizes and decorate the walls of the Bristol retirement home where he retired in 2002.

Father Paul will be remembered as a talented man who, through his quiet and gentle way, touched the lives of many. We give thanks to God for his life of service to the people of Negros and to the Columban community.

He is survived by his only sibling, Ann Snow (181 Bartlett Road, Plymouth, MA 02360), to whom messages of sympathy may be sent.

Father Paul told his vocation story, The 'First Time Ever' Altar Boy, in the July-August 2000 issue of Misyon. You can read it here.

Fr John O'Connell (24 October 2013)

by Fr Leo Donnelly

Fr John O'Connell
(1933 - 2013)

Fr Leo Donnelly, an Australian Columban, was ordained in 1957, the same year as the late Fr John O'Connell was. Father Leo has been in Peru all his life as a priest. The photo was taken at a despedida for Father John in Túpac Amaru District, Lima, in 2011.

Fr John Joseph O´Connell died in hospital in Lima the morning of Thursday, 24 October aged 80. Father John, a Kerryman to his fingertips, often sported Kerry jerseys around his parish of San Pedro y San Pablo, Payet, Independencia, Lima.

The crest of the Kerry Gaelic Football and Hurling teams. The boat is a symbol of St Brendan the Navigator, one of Ireland's early missionaries and, like Father John, a Kerryman. 'Kerry' is the anglicized form of the original Irish, 'Ciarraí'.

Ordained in December 1957 in St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Ireland, and assigned to Perú, he was sent to Spain for a three-month course in Spanish. Then he ‘walked down’ to Lima, as the late Columban Fr Dan Boland put it, arriving in late March 1959. His first assignment was as an assistant in the new Columban parish of Blessed Martin de Porres’. He wasn´t three years in Lima when given the almighty task of building the basilica under the name of its patron. Blessed Martin was coming up for canonization in 1962, so it was a very popular though expensive project which he fulfilled, and he was present at the canonization under Blessed John XXIII.

Father John returned to Ireland in 1980, serving as a member of the Mission Promotion team and then as Regional Director. He returned to Perú in 1996 and worked in the parish of San Pedro y San Pablo, Payet.

The crest of the Kerry Gaelic Football and Hurling teams. The boat is a symbol of St Brendan the Navigator, one of Ireland's early missionaries and, like Father John, a Kerryman. 'Kerry' is the anglicized form of the original Irish, 'Ciarraí'. [Image from Wikipedia]

Father John inspired people. He inspired his fellow priests. He inspired his people in the four parishes of Lima in which he served and gave his life for. You only had to travel around Ireland with him to become aware of just how much he inspired his own people. As a true Kerryman, this often meant going off visiting at about 11.00 at night.

Christmas Midnight Mass at St Martin de Porres Church

Father John was a man aware of his own dignity as a person and this freed him to acknowledge our shared dignity with each and every other person. If there is any essential characteristic to being a missionary this aspect is basic when dealing with people born into an ambiance of being ‘a nobody’ in our world. It was in this ambiance that he proved himself a loyal friend to so many. Built on the person he was, his long-term appointments facilitated his relating to his people at this level.

Like everyone else he took his share of knocks and misunderstandings in life. He was Regional Director in the late 1960s in the aftermath of Vatican II, which had given us a new awareness of Social Justice in a Gospel context. Many of our group embraced this new vision and went bald-headed for promoting social change. This in turn created tensions with those involved in the more traditional approach. Father John empathized with the argument for change, but was always kind, discreet and at pains to maintain the unity of the group.

Tribute and farewell to Fr John O'Connell, Parish of San Pedro y San Pablo, Túpac Amaru District (also known as 'Payet'), Lima, 2011

Father John proved himself one of our best and gave our people a great confidence in the man he was. Dealing with mostly poor and often semi-literate migrants, he helped so many to become aware of their dignity as persons and to trust one another. He countered the racism inherent in the culture while he empowered the despised ‘nobodies’ to achieve grassroots social change.

Finally, what gift in this prayerful man identified Father John as a priest for his people? There was a warmth to the man that we don't all possess and on one occasion this was presented as he being likened to a peat fire in the hearth gently warming the room and its people.


Your editor didn't know Fr John O'Connell very well but has one very happy memory of him when he was Regional Director in Ireland. In 1986 the Columbans went to Belize and Jamaica. We worked in Belize till 1996 and in Jamaica till 1999. There was a mission-sending ceremony in St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Ireland. After Mass we had lunch followed by a short program.

In recent years we Columbans have been emphasising the cross-cultural aspect of our missionary work, something that has always been there but is being reflected on more these days. Fr Leo Donnelly tells us in his obituary of his great friend being 'a Kerryman to his fingertips'. Kerry, one of Ireland's 32 counties, is in the south-west of Ireland. To the east of it is Cork. Cork and Kerry are great rivals in Gaelic Football. The unofficial 'anthem' of Cork is a song called The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee, colloquially known as 'De Banks'.

On that happy day when we were sending Columban priests to two new missions Father John, a proud Kerryman, crossed 'cultural boundaries' and gave one of the best renditions of 'De Banks' that your editor has ever heard. And the whole occasion was an expression of the vision of our founders, Fr Edward Galvin and Fr John Blowick, to be like St Columban our patron, Peregrinos pro Christo, Pilgrims for Christ, and to proclaim the Gospel by the love we show one another.

May Father John be a member of the heavenly choir for all eternity.

While Father John's rendition of The Banks 0f My Own Lovely Lee was one of the very best I've heard he won't mind my saying that that of Seán Ó Sé, arranged by Seán Ó Riada, both Corkmen, is the best.

Sr Mary Fintan Ryan (1 September 2013)

Sister Mary Fintan Ryan, a native of Cappamore, Co Limerick, died peacefully in St Columban’s Nursing Home, Magheramore, Wicklow, on Sunday evening, 1 September, 2013.

Her motto: Behold the handmaid of the Lord

The Funeral Mass was celebrated on Wednesday, 4 September at 11:30 am followed by the Burial in the Convent Cemetery.

Sister Sheila Crowe delivered the Mass Homily, the text of which follows below:

Good day everybody on this beautiful harvest day. The corn growing in the fields all around us, in this area of Wicklow, is ripe and being harvested. I was driving behind one of those big trucks a few days ago and there was the load full and flowing over with the rich corn. So it was with our dear Sr. Fintan, Auntie Biddy to you, her family, the Lord came and called her on Sunday evening when He saw her harvest was ripe and ready for the next stage of her journey.We heard in the gospel just read and chosen by Sister herself, “Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Lord.” She has been whisked off to enjoy the Splendour of God as our opening hymn reminded us.

So here we are today gathered to mourn and to celebrate a life very well lived as I hope to attest to in my few words. Biddy Ryan was born in the metropolis of Cappamore Co. Limerick, a GAA heart land, into a loving and Faith filled family. Between home and school with the Mercy Sisters she was nurtured in her Faith and when the time was ripe she moved on to the even more famous metropolis of Doon – don’t we have ideas about ourselves! – where I first got to know Biddy Ryan. Biddy, Mary Mulcahy, Kathleen McGrath and I were classmates for those five years of development and study. My greatest memory of Biddy was how GOOD she was. It was a long straight and windy bog road from Cappamore to Doon but Biddy cycled it daily, like her predecessor, her sister, Sr Mary Attracta, and followed by Nora Canty both of whom we are happy to have with us here today.

Now in Ireland we have local folklore and the story goes like this.The Sisters in Cappamore were a branch house of Doon and naturally there was a lot of written communication between the two convents, and the Ryans, at various stages, were the main conduits of such mail, etc. Biddy on return to Cappamore in the evenings duly delivered the goods, and sometimes there was an awkward item such as a flower pot. Biddy in turn handed on the responsibility to Nora and this is the legend, Nora did it faithfully but did it her way. All items were duly delivered and always before night fall even with a few gentle hints from Mrs Ryan.

In our homes as well as by the Mercy Sisters, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude, we were nurtured in the Faith and the ideal of being missionaries was never far from the school ethos. Well, the 4 of us became Columban Sisters in Cahiracon in Co Clare. There we were nurtured again under the careful watch of Mother Mary Peter and Sr Joan O’Donovan, who is with us here today. Finally we were sent for higher education; Sr Fintan was trained as a nurse and midwife, and on graduation was awarded Midwife of the Year in Holles Street Maternity Hospital, Dublin. Now she was ready for the missions.

At a recent seminar in St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, we celebrated the fourteenth hundred anniversary of the death of St Columban, our patron. Knowledge of St Columban, the pilgrim and missionary for Christ is basic to our formation as Columbans. And so it was that Sr Fintan set out by boat from Ireland in 1962 along with six more Sisters on their way to the East, full of faith, zeal and energy. Yes, in those days we travelled by boat. Another piece of folklore here: as the boat pulled out from the North Wall on a wet windy January night, Sr Imelda, an older Sister asked Sr Fintan to come up on deck to get a last glimpse of Ireland. There was a young man on deck looking wistfully at Ireland who spoke to the two Sisters of his grief and loneliness at having to live so far away in England. He asked the Sisters where they were going and Fintan replied in her full missionary zeal, “I am going to Burma ((her first assignment)) and Sr Imelda is going to Korea.” The poor fellow was ‘flummoxed’ and Sr Imelda suggested to Fintan that she break it gently to the next person who might inquire as to their destination.

Sr Fintan had a temporary assignment to the Ruttonjee Sanatorium in Hong Kong in the hope of moving to Burma when a visa would be issued. That visa never came. So Fintan lived and loved the people of Hong Kong all her missionary life. She was in Hong Kong from 1962 until last year when she returned to us, apart from 2 breaks, one on Mission Awareness program in Scotland and another term nursing in our Nursing Home here in Magheramore. During her HK years she nursed in various capacities as nurse and ward sister in the general wards and especially in the Children’s ward and later as an efficient theatre sister. The Ruttonjee was famous for its care of patients with TB which was rampant in HK at that time. Later Sister ministered in a rural clinic and nursery school in Daguling on the very borders of China. This in some ways would have reminded her of her native Co Limerick and the Old Bog Road. This was where many of us came to, from the noise and pollution of the big city, for rest and recreation. Fintan always made us most welcome. She laboured tirelessly in Daguling until she was assigned as a Catholic Chaplain in the large Prince of Wales Hospital in Shatin, a suburb of Hong Kong, and within St Benedict’s Parish. Here she spent her last years on mission in Hong Kong, China.

The best way for me to pay tribute to these years is to quote from some of the tributes paid to Sr Fintan by her work colleagues, many friends and past patients and I quote briefly from some of the cards, letters and emails: “We love you, you were so patient,… ’you taught me to trust in God, how can I live now that you are gone?’ Each message is so sincere and I cannot really convey the grief written on the pages. There are many trophies and tributes and I feel this little one says it all: “Total Commitment Award winner, Sr Fintan Ryan.” Lastly, a short snippet from a long tribute from Maryknoll Father Ahearn, PP: “…a wonderful example of a faithful religious Sister and friend.” Speaking with our Nursing Home staff here in Magheramore about their time with Fintan, I got the following the response, “It was far too short. We would love to have had more time to get to know such a wonderful lady.”

Life for Fintan was great and I am reminded of a short poem:

There is but one journey afforded each one of us.
At every step of the way
We seek out the meaning of life and existence
And cherish those moments
That clearly make the journey
Worth the gift of life.

Sr Fintan is physically gone but our Faith tells us that she is with us and this is the mystery.

Before the remains were brought to the Convent cemetery, two Hong Kong born Chinese, Columban Sister Lucia So and a friend, Sally Chan, led a short Chinese funeral ritual making the three bows of respect for the deceased before the coffin.


Fr Joseph F Gallagher (2 August 2013)

Fr Joseph 'Joe' Gallagher
(1923 - 2013)

Fr Joseph 'Joe' Gallagher died in the Dalgan Nursing Home, St Columbans', Ireland, on 2 August 2013. Born in Ballinacurra, Killasser, County Mayo on 30 June 1923, he was educated at St Joseph’s National School, Killasser, and St Nathy’s College, Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon. He came to St Columban’s, Navan, in 1941 and was ordained priest on 21 December 1947.

The old National School, Killasser, which Father Joe attended as a boy [thanks to Kevin Peyton]

He was appointed to the Region of the Philippines in 1948 and assigned to the District of Lingayen. He served in the parishes of this district, in Labrador, Domalandan, Dasol, Naguelguel, Sual etc. over the next fifty years. The only break in this sequence was a period of nine years spent in Manila from 1966 to 1975 as District Superior and later Director of the Region.

Swinford, County Mayo, near where Father Joe grew up

Father Joe was full of zeal and energy for the Gospel. He devoted every moment of his time, and every penny of his money to serving the people, building and repairing churches, chapels and schools. He organised and trained catechists for the many primary schools of his parishes. Blessed with a pleasant, good-humoured, open personality, he established close relationships with the people, and loved to play cards with his Columban colleagues.

San Pedro Martir Church, Sual, Pangasinan

He would have been more than happy to have lived out his days in the Philippines, but failing health meant that he reluctantly returned to Ireland and the Dalgan Nursing Home in 2007. He deeply appreciated the care of the nursing staff and the regular visits of his relatives.

May he rest in peace.

Co-cathedral of the Epiphany of the Lord, Lingayen, Pangasinan

The obituary by Fr Cyril Lovett mentions that Fr Gallagher served in Labrador. Here is an account of how he helped restore the Church of St Isidore the Farmer [emphasis added].

St Isidore the Farmer Church, Labrador, Pangasinan

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was first offered in Labrador in 1575 when a section of the Spanish army was encamped on the shores of Lingayen Gulf at the mouth of the Agno River or in in attempt to cut off the retreat of a Chinese pirate, named Limahong, who had invaded this area. It was not until 1755 that Labrador was set up as a parish under the care of the Dominican Father Antonio Ruiz. The parish was dedicated to St Isidore the Farmer, who is the patron saint of Madrid and who is still greatly venerated here, especially by farmers.

After World War II the Columban Fathers took over the administration of the parish in April 1949. The church was in very bad condition.

In May of 1952, Fr Joseph Gallagher took over administration of the parish. He began by repairing the altars, setting them back in their original positions, replacing the wood carvings that had been damaged and repainting each altar. Then the façade was plastered and painted. Although much remained to be done, work was temporarily suspended on the church because it was felt that the more immediate need was a Catholic High School for the spiritual formation and instruction of his young parishioners.

In June, 1954, the first class was admitted, and since then the attendance has grown each year, requiring additional rooms and gradually forcing him to leave the old rectory entirely to the school and to build another rectory nearby for himself and his assistant.

Fr Patrick C Hickey (1 August 2013)

Fr Patrick C Hickey
(1929 - 2013)

Fr Patrick Claver Hickey died from a heart attack in the Epworth Hospital, Melbourne on 1 August 2013 in his 84th year. His death was unexpected.

Father Pat’s life as a Columban missionary priest could be divided into three sections.

The first, from 1958 to 1979, was the 21 years he spent in the southern Philippines on the island of Mindanao. He returned there briefly in 1982 before being appointed to the Australia and New Zealand Region. His years in the Philippines were like those of many Columban priests, focused on building up the local Catholic Church. He wrote an article in 1968 expressing this missionary outlook.

Municipal Hall, Mahayag, Zamboanga del Sur

He wrote, 'Beginning a new parish can be frustrating, exhilarating, challenging. Here in Mahayag, I have inherited a delightful two acre site with the possibility of extending it a little more, suitable for church, presbytery and high school'. The first project was to build a temporary house to live in; it cost $340. But the first real project was to build the school. After a year, the school was in existence, just three rooms, a beginning, and 125 students. The teachers were qualified, all taught by the Columban Sisters in Immaculate Conception College (now La Salle University), Ozamiz City.

Next came the church. His letter describes how the people started to gather money to build the Church in dribs and drabs. They hoped to start soon. Then the plan was to build a proper presbytery.

His final sentence in that article is 'Such is the work of starting off: frustrating, exhilarating, challenging, but on the whole satisfying'.

Father Dan O’Malley who is the acting Regional Director in the Philippines wrote, on hearing of Pat's death,

'Pat Hickey was particularly kind to me when I was District Superior in Mindanao. I was 20 years his junior but I got respect and kindness from Pat.'

Sto Niño Cathedral, Pagadian City

A following group of letters in 1974 talk about the influx of Columban priests into Mindanao, the Diocese of Pagadian being established in November 1971 and the local Church being built up.

The next phase of Father Pat’s life was as Regional Bursar in the ANZ Region from 1983 to 1988; he spent a few years in Perth and Melbourne but the next ten years involved ministry in South Australia in the Diocese of Port Pirie, pastor of Quorn /Carrieton and then of Streaky Bay until 2002. When he had a stroke he retired to St Columban’s Essendon.

Municipal Chambers, Quorn, South Australia

Father Pat was a private person, well organized . He went on weekly excursions; his lack of mobility because of the stroke did not stop him and he used the train system extremely well. He was a man who read widely and had a particular interest in Australian Rules Football and cricket.

The Director, Fr Gary Walker was the main celebrant and homilist. He reminded us that the Messianic banquet described by the prophet Isaiah is an invitation to all people. As a Columban missionary Father Pat carried on the mission of Jesus who announced what it was in the synagogue in Nazareth, and like St Paul's, his life was finally poured out. He had fought the good fight, he had kept the faith.

Father Pat's funeral took place on 7 August and he was laid to rest in the Columban section of Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton North, Melbourne.

May he rest in peace.

Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton North, Melbourne

Sr Amada Martin (21 July 2013)

Columban Sister Amada Martin died suddenly but peacefully early on Sunday morning, 21 July 2013, in the Columban Sisters’ house in San Juan, Manila, Philippines.

May Sister Amada enjoy the everlasting peace of the Lord.

The wake took place in the Sanctuarium, Araneta Avenue, Manila, where family members and friends from Lingayen, Pangasinan and Bulacan attend each day.

On Monday, 29 July (10:15am Philippine time), Fr Brendan Lovett SSC was the main celebrant at the Funeral Mass. Burial followed at Holy Cross cemetery.

The Mass Reflection was given by Sister Ann Rita Centeno, the text of which follows below.

“In raising Jesus from the dead he has given us new life and the hope of sharing enduring life beyond death.” 1 Peter 1: 3

The suddenness of Amada’s death took us by surprise. Sunday mornings in San Juan are usually more quiet that other mornings because it is a chance to take a sleep-in. Our weekly mass is celebrated every Saturday at 5.30 pm with Fr. Brendan Lovett as the presider. That Saturday morning, Fr. Mike Kalaw, the parish priest of Our Lady of Fatima came to the house for a visit. It is in his parish where Sisters Minerva and Julie work. Before leaving, Father Mike gave Sisters Amada and Mercy (who sprained her right foot) the anointing of the sick.

At our evening Eucharistic liturgy, it was Amada who read the first reading. She read well and after the mass we had our dinner. Amada enjoyed her meal and she even had her favorite “ube” flavor ice cream. When Father Brendan had left, the next activity was to watch one of her favorite TV programs (Maalaala Mo Kaya), which usually finishes at 9 o’clock in the evening. We usually watch the program together. That night after the program, she got up to go and we said goodnight to each other.

Amada was never bedridden. In fact she was faithful to her daily walk in the morning and in the afternoon as recommended by our family doctor. In the afternoon, she says her rosary outside the house, in the garden. About a month ago, she lost her balance and fell hitting her head against the wall. There was big bump in her head and forehead. She was taken to the hospital. An MRI was taken and so was a CT Scan. Both tests yielded negative results. Since her accident, she had been going to St Luke’s Hospital every week for the cleaning and dressing of the wound in her head. The bruises she sustained on her face gradually disappeared. The daily cleaning and dressing of her wound was done by the caregiver at home.

At about 9 o’clock in the morning of Sunday, the caregiver and I went to her room, she to dress her wound and I to settle some house accounts. The caregiver tried to wake her up telling her it was time to get up. She was sleeping on her left side, her face very peaceful. When she was not responding we immediately called for an ambulance which arrived in about 15 minutes. The St. Luke’s hospital staff immediately tried to resucitate her but without success. Almost immediately some members of the family arrived.

Amada was waked at a funeral parlor nearby San Juan. Two of her cousins from the United States wished to attend the funeral so the wake was extended to four days. Masses were celebrated everyday by Columban Fathers and attended by many of Amada’s friends, relatives and former students from Lingayen, Olongapo Labrador, Bulacan, London and Caloocan parish where she was an active member of the Legion of Mary.

A number of Columban Fathers concelebrated the funeral mass; the presider was Fr. Brandan Lovett. At the graveside we had a simple ritual of saying our final goodbye to Amada as she was laid to rest beside Sisters M. Campion, M. Oliver, M. Consuelo and Clarita.

“Blessed be God, the source of all life and comfort.”

Thank you very much for all your prayers and all the messages of support that you have sent us.

On behalf of all of us in the Philippines,

Sister Ann Rita Centeno


Fr Oliver Kennedy (21 June 2013)

Fr Oliver M Kennedy
(1942 - 2013)

Fr Oliver Kennedy died suddenly in the Columban Nursing Home in St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland, on 21 June 2013. Born on 2 June 1942 in Newcastle West, County Limerick, he was educated at Mercy Convent School, Christian Brothers' School, Tuam, and St Jarlath’s College, Tuam. Coming from Tuam in those days meant that he came to the Columbans in 1959 with an enviable reputation on the sports field, one that proved well founded and lasted well into his days on mission.

St Jarlath's College, Tuam

He was ordained in Dalgan Park, Navan on the 21 December 1965 and appointed to Korea. After two years of language studies he was assigned to the recently-created diocese of Wonju. After a short time in Wondong city parish, Oliver spent the next ten years in the mountain parishes of Jongson, Hwangji and Pyeongchang. These were poor and isolated places with few Catholics. This was also the time when the military government of Park Chung Hee was clamping down on dissidents liked Bishop Daniel Tji of Wonju. When the bishop was jailed, his diocese led the protest movement in the country and suffered heavy police surveillance. Fr Oliver himself got a 24-hour grilling by the Korean CIA, but he was an obvious target as he stood out head and shoulders over most of the other protesters.


He studied Spirituality in Rome for two years from 1976 and relished the vibrancy of Italian life and the Charismatic Renewal. He returned as pastor of Samchok on the east coast of Korea until he was asked to engage full-time in retreat and spiritual direction work from 1983. He had a brief spell on vocation and retreat ministry in Ireland before returning to Korea to join in building a mission training programme for Columban students and to continue his retreat work with priests and Sisters.

Pontifical Irish College, Rome

Fr Oliver left Korea in 2000 after 35 years and was able to take the experience of those years with him into the role of Spiritual Director in the Irish College in Rome. He enjoyed his work there and reluctantly had to give it up following a severe stroke in 2008. As usual he took on the challenge of dealing with his disabilities and learned to talk and walk again. Fr Oliver gave his life in the service of others and enjoyed doing it. He certainly paid little attention to himself and to his own needs but his family, and many friends throughout Korea and Ireland, will remember his generosity and his friendship for a long time.

May he rest in peace. [Fr Noel Daly]

Cemetery, St Columban's, Dalgan Park

Editor's note. I last met Father Oli early in May after coming home on vacation from the Philippines. He loved doing cryptic crosswords and used to photocopy the Crosaire cryptic crossword from The Irish Times and give copies to other Columbans in Dalgan Park who liked to do it. I reminded him of the time I asked him if he had a copy of the Simplex crossword, a somewhat easier one, from the paper. He looked at me with mock disdain - but went and photocopied it for me. He laughed when I recalled this.

Fr Owen O'Leary (12 May 2013)

Fr Owen O'Leary
(1932 - 2013)

Fr Owen was among the most sociable of Columbans and made life-long friends wherever he worked. Though he was physically strong, he suffered from indifferent health, particularly over the past ten years. He was very solicitous of others who were sick and rarely complained of his own sufferings.

Fr Owen O'Leary was born at Readrinagh, Headford, Killarney, Ireland, on 8 January 1932. He was educated at Barraduff National School, Gneevguilla NS, Christian Brothers' School, Tralee and St Brendan's, Killarney. He went to St Columban's, DaIgen Park (the Columban seminary in Ireland), in 1949 and was ordained priest on 21 December 1955. After ordination he was sent to study agriculture at Lafayette, Louisiana, USA. In 1957 he was appointed to Burma, and while awaiting his visa did promotion work in the USA over the next two years.

Fr Owen spent seven years in Burma. After language studies in the Bhamo (Banmaw) area, he worked in Bhamo City as assistant, and later as pastor in Kajihtu. Even in those early years his health gave cause for concern. The Burmese government had long restricted the admission of new missionaries. In 1965 they decreed that all foreigners with temporary-stay permits could not have those permits renewed and would have to leave the country before the end of 1966. Owen therefore had to leave in 1966, but he contiued to support the diocese financially down the years and he had the joy of visiting them again thirty years later.

After Burma there followed ten years in promotion work in Britain and Ireland. Then, twelve years in pastoral work in various parishes in Ireland: in Castleconnell (Killaloe Diocese) 1976-78; in Ennistymon and Lahinch 1978-'82; in Renmore 1982-'85, and Castlegar 1985-88, (all Galway Diocese). He served as Director of the DaIgen Nursing Home from 1988-1996, before retuming to pastoral work once again in Lahinch (1996-2002). He retired to the Dalgan Nursing Home in 2002 where he resided until his most recent illness.

Fr Owen was an older brother of Columban Fr Francis O'Leary, ordained in 1958, who died suddenly in Chile on 25 January 1992.

Fr Owen was among the most sociable of Columbans and made life-long friends wherever he worked. Though he was physically strong, he suffered from indifferent health, particularly over the past ten years. He was very solicitous of others who were sick and rarely complained of his own sufferings. Fr Owen died in the Hemitage Medical Centre, Lucan, County Dublin, on 12 May 2013.

May he and his brother Father Frank rest in peace.

Sr Frances Daly (21 April 2013)

Sister Frances Daly passed away peacefully in St Columban’s Nursing Home, Magheramore, Wicklow, Ireland, on Sunday morning, 21 April 2013. The funeral Mass was celebrated on Tuesday, 23 April, followed by interment in the convent cemetery.

Word spoken by Sister Ita Hannaway at the Funeral Mass on Tuesday, 23 April:

Good morning to you all! I’m sure Sister Frances is proud to see the great turn-out of the Daly clan as she takes her leave of us all and journeys into eternal life.

The Readings of our liturgy today give us an insight into the guiding faith and urge which have always been characteristic of Frances’s life. As early as the age of eighteen, in 1939, she took a definite step in response to a belief that she was to be a servant of the Gospel after the example of Jesus life. She would search for Jesus and, finding him, would give her life to sharing his message of love by word and deed wherever his grace led her. She would be his disciple for the rest of her life.

The Owenroe River or Moynalty River, near where Sr Frances grew up

Being a disciple of Jesus, like paying for the field that held the treasure, would be a costly business, a challenge which would make demands on all aspects of Frances’s life. She rose to the challenge with all the faith and gifts which had been nurtured and encouraged in her in her family home in Cormeen Valley, near Moynalty, County Meath.

Moynalty, County Meath

Faith was at the heart of the Daly family; each child’s gifts noted appreciated and fostered. Frances came to the Columban Sisters in Cahiracon, familiar, even at eighteen, with methods of good housekeeping, gardening and caring for health. It was in the latter capacity, as a trained nurse, that she set off for China in 1946. For the next twelve years she served the neediest in body and soul both in Hanyang on mainland China and later in Hong Kong. She was an excellent nurse, beautiful in appearance and all-round in her care of the sick – not just healing their illnesses but also trying to do something to overcome the causes of their ailments. This was a demanding ministry in many ways; for Frances it called upon all her resources of energy and competency. But she knew that this was the price she was paying for the treasure and privilege of sharing in the mission of Jesus.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Hong Kong

A different challenge awaited Frances when she was assigned to the Philippines and became part of the parish pastoral team in Ozamiz on the island of Mindanao. Now her days were given to visiting and caring for the sick in their homes or in hospital as well as participating in feeding programmes and medical care for the undernourished poor who came for help. In this work she was surely reminded and inspired by the public life of Jesus who reached out with loving, caring compassion to all in need.

A totally new ministry awaited Frances when she moved to another diocese some distance from Ozamiz. From Molave, in the diocese of Pagadian, she initiated a parish/diocesan programme for family life enrichment and guidance. As a wise missionary, she soon began training a core group of women who would go with her from parish to parish throughout the diocese, meet and give seminars to married couples or couples soon to be married, training and encouraging them in maintaining good marriage relationships, in natural family planning methods and encouraging them to keep prayer at the heart of their homes. The people of Molave were sad to see her leave their parish, but they have not forgotten her. To this day her core group of faithful companions continue her work with the same zeal which she inspired in them. They will be really sad to learn of her death.

Sto Niño Cathedral, Pagadian City

Frances’s health began to decline in the late 1970s and it was time for her to withdraw from active ministry abroad. Back in Ireland, she participated for as long as she could in the mission of our community here, still maintaining and expecting the same high standards which she had set herself at the beginning of her missionary life. However pain and disability gradually claimed her energy and independence. For me it was sad to see this great nurse submit to being nursed, but just as she had made demands upon herself in the course of her various ministries, so she expected the same high standards from those who cared for her. She could be quick from time to time to ‘have a go’ at those of us who tried to meet her needs on any level. It was always good to know that her fine spirit was well in touch with what was going on around her.

Gradually she entered the realm of peace and contentment. She had given her all to God, had experienced that nothing could come between her and his love. Her motto, adopted on the day of her Final Profession stated simply: ‘My God and my All’ – God was her all and she was all his. No wonder she ended her earthly life so peacefully.

It has seemed to me for many, many years now that when Frances joined our Congregation her parents and family joined us also, but in a capacity different from that of Frances. She would go to mission lands; they would remain at home with us, sharing our efforts to provide for the maintenance of our missions. We are all aware of the Produce Stall set up annually at our Sale of Work. At this stall customers and supporters can still find the finest homemade jams – which weren’t made overnight but demanded painstaking fruit picking and cooking in the course of months from the Dalys and their co-Columban supporters. Farm and garden produce from many sources find their way to the stall which they manage and it is a stall sure to be cleared well before the Sale ends.

Brittas Bay, near Magheramore, County Wicklow, Ireland

It seems fitting that on this day when we thank God for giving Frances to our congregation that we thank her family too – the generations of Dalys who walk with us generously as we do our best to share the treasure of God’s love which inspired and impelled Frances throughout her life. Frances has now made her generation of the Daly family complete win heaven. May she enjoy with them forever the unimaginable joy of God’s infinite peace and love!

Fr Liam Griffiths (11 March 2013)

Fr Liam Griffiths
(1923 - 2013)

Fr William (Liam) Ignatius Griffiths was born 26 November1923 in the Parish of Abbeyknockmoy, Tuam. He was educated at Newtown National School, Abbeyknockmoy, and St Jarlath's College, Tuam. He came to St Columban's College, Dalgan Park, Navan, in 1942 and was ordained priest 21 December 1948.

In 1949, Liam was among the first Columbans appointed to the Region of Japan; he was to serve there for 24 years, and served in all four Columban areas in that region. In Yokohama he served in Chigasaki Kamakura and Ninomiya Parishes. In the Diocese of Osaka, he served in Wakayama City and Kengun.

Ruins of a 12th century Cistercian abbey, Mainistir Chnoc Muaidhe, anglicized as Abbeyknockmoy.

In Fukuoka Diocese he served in Waifu and among the lepers in Keifu-en. From 1967 to 1971 he was Coordinator of the Columban Catechetical Bureau in Tokyo. The Bureau produced and distributed a series of homilies, occasional talks, and commentaries on the New Catechism in Japanese, which were much appreciated by fellow Columbans.

Wakayama City

Assigned to the Region of Ireland and Britain in 1974, he first spent three years as Assistant in Sacred Heart Parish, Leigh, Lancashire, followed by three years as Assistant in St Joseph's Parish, Ballymun, Dublin, and then two years as Chaplain to the Little Sisters of the Poor, in Waterford. In 1982 he took charge of the Solihull Office. He did this work methodically and faithfully for many years. He also followed up his interest in history and published an attractive popular booklet on the Life of St Columban. During the same years he helped with promotion work in Middlesbrough, East Anglia, Cardiff, Lancaster, Arundel and Brighton, and Southwark Dioceses.

Solihull High Street

Up to October 2012, he continued to reside in Solihull, being helpful in a variety of ways and enjoying caring for the grounds. Apart from history, gardening and cycling, he was an ardent follower of Galway hurling and football teams. A gentle and courteous man, he was dedicated to his family and, above all, to his priesthood. He died in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, on 11 March after a short illness.

May he rest in peace.

+ + +

Your editor worked with Father Liam in Solihull from September 2000 till April 2002. Father Liam would be the first into the office to open the hundreds of letters that arrived each day with donations for the Columbans. He had a real sense of the fact that each letter came from a person willing to sacrifice so that we Columbans could carry out our mission. He was very focused and I learned quickly not to disturb or surprise him when he was at his desk. He wouldn't show annoyance but would be thrown off his stride.

Father Liam loved to spend the afternoon working in the grounds of our house in Solihull. He was never short of work there. As the obituary above states, he was a gentle and courteous man, qualities that all who lived and worked with him appreciated.

Srs Mary Rose and Mary Ita O'Mahony (10 and 14 February 2013)

Sister Mary Rose O'Mahony died peacefully in Loughlinstown Hospital, County Dublin, Ireland, on Sunday 10 February. Her funeral Mass took place on Ash Wednesday, 13 February, at the headquarters of the Columban Sisters in Magheramore, Wicklow.

The following day her own sister, Sister Mary Ita, died at St Columban's Nursing Home, Magheramore, and was buried the following Saturday, 16 February.

Sister Rose worked for many years in the Philippines and was Directress of Immaculate Conception College, Ozamiz City, in the early 1970s.

She also worked in the USA and in Britain. Sister Ita also spent some years in the Philippines after the Columban Sisters were forced to leave Burma. Their older sister, Sister Gabriel O'Mahony, a medical doctor and Columban Sister, worked for many years in Hong Kong with TB patients. She died some years ago.

Looking north, Brittas Bay, near Magheramore, County Wicklow

Sister Ita Hannaway, a former Superior General of the Columban Sisters who spent many years in the Philippines, spoke on the occasion of the funeral of Sister Rose.

Good morning to each of you. It is a blessing to have you with us as we give thanks for our dear Sister Mary Rose’s life and return her to God who gave her to us all. Rose has reached the place where, for many years, she has longed to be.

Yesterday evening, during our service of bringing Rose to our chapel here for her final visit, those of us who were present heard a Reading from the Scripture which puts today’s celebration into context. It read:

What you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God,
where everyone is a first-born child and
a citizen of heaven... and to Jesus...

There is no doubt about the wonder and joy which surround the birth of a first-born child here on earth – and to think that all this wonder and joy is only the faintest reflection of the joy in heaven when a new citizen arrives is a consolation beyond words to express.

Sister Rose, our new citizen in heaven, is safely home.

Mount Zion

The Reading tells us that the city of God is on a mountain, Mount Zion. The word Mount suggests a climb if one is to reach its summit, and, as we know, the prospect of a steep climb can be both thrilling and frightening, dangerous and delightful. These feelings might all have been experienced by young Kathleen O’Mahony as she left the security and ever-immediate love of her family in Lissarourke, Enniskeen, County Cork, and set out for Cahiracon, County Clare where two of her sisters, now Sisters Mary Gabriel and Ita, had gone before her to join the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of St Columban.

The River Bandon, which flows near where the O'Mahony sisters grew up

Kathleen, soon to be named Sister Mary Rose, wanted to be a missionary, one single-mindedly devoted to bearing witness to God’s love and to the teaching of Jesus wherever there was need for such teaching and witness. For her, this would be to a great extent, amongst those who, while knowing about God, had little chance or opportunity of growing in knowledge or relationship with Him – those also who, on the fringes of society had little hope of being educated to a degree of being secure enough in themselves to take their place and make their voices heard in situations which badly needed the influence of Gospel truth and Gospel values.

Right after First Profession, Rose was off the a mission newly begun amongst American Mexicans and immigrant Mexicans on the West Coast of California, in the United States. Now her climb towards Mount Zion was beginning to become steep. She was not a qualified teacher, nevertheless, she would soon be expected to begin teaching catechism to pupils in local public schools as well as taking her place in the new school opened by the Columban Sisters in Westminster. But she was bright, and she had a solid faith foundation both at home and in the schools she attended. Nevertheless each day challenged her creativity and her belief in God in whose name she had been sent to California. In addition to teaching, she took courses in education which eventually resulted in her being recognised as a qualified teacher. She had kept her foothold so far along the mountain road. God had not failed her.

By the time she was ready to make Final Profession, Sister Rose was ready also to name the missionary journey she had undertaken and the goal she hoped for. Her motto, taken on the day of Final Profession, summed up her aspirations as a missionary Sister. It was written on her ring and read: ‘To Jesus through Mary. Abba, Father.’ She was going towards Jesus, holding His Mother’s hand as she made her way in bearing witness to the Gospel. They would lead her to her Abba, Father.

When she was transferred from the United States to the Philippines in 1970 her journey took on a new challenge as she entered a scene more sinister than anything she had experienced in her missionary life until now. Tensions were everywhere in the lead up to Martial Law with its oppression and additional atrocities.

Sister Rose was teaching college students – idealistic young men and women who wanted the best for their country. She shared their pain listened to them and tried to calm their mounting frustration. Above all, she prayed with them and for them, always trusting in God’s love and in the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the dearly beloved queen of Filipino hearts. She remained in the Philippine mission long after peace had been restored to that beautiful country and its people.

In later years in the Philippines, Sister Rose experienced both gratitude and pain as schools and pastoral ministries begun by the Columban Sisters were being passed over to local women and men, very many of whom had received their education in the same schools and pastoral settings. It is in situations such as these that the calibre of missionary single-mindedness is tested, as they are challenged to let go and move away from places where their missionary lives and energies have been spent. Sister Rose stood up to this testing; she left the Philippines lonely but grateful.

Back in the West, she gave her energies and the fruit of her years of missionary experience abroad to the service of isolated and sometimes stigmatised members of the society of the community within which the Sisters lived in Birmingham. To them she brought cheerfulness, gave them back a sense of self-worth and of hope as she treated them as what they were – sisters and brothers of Jesus and therefore her sisters and brothers, too.

Derekh Ha'Apifyor (Pope's Way) leading up to Mount Zion, so named by the Israeli government in honor of the visit of Pope Paul VI in 1964.

The final part of her climb to Mount Zion was, as is usual when reaching mountain tops, the most demanding upon Sister Rose. Pain, patience and gradual loss of independence challenged her enduring spirit as day followed day and the route became steeper. But she was holding the Blessed Virgin Mary’s hand; Jesus was within sight, and her heavenly Father was waiting for her. She seemed to be very clear about all this because, when she was being admitted for the last time to the hospital she was asked whether, in the case of its being possible, she wished to be resuscitated, if such a step were needed, she replied firmly: ‘No. Let me go to the Father’. She was really sure of her destination and she was not kept waiting for too long.

Coronation of the Virgin, Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1472-73)

Throughout her life Sister Rose experienced and bore witness to the truth of what St Paul teaches in the first Reading for today:

I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince,

nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height

or depth, not any created thing can ever come between u

and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus.

Yes, Sister Rose is home – to the place where Jesus has planned and made ready for her as he promised. We thank the O’Mahony family for entrusting her to our Congregation, and we thank you, our sister, Rose, for the sixty seven years of your bright presence amongst us.

Go dté tú slán, a Róisín. (May you go safely, Little Rose).

Fr Charles Gregory O'Mahony (10 February 2013)

Fr Charles O'Mahony
(1918 - 2013)

Fr Charles O’Mahony was proud to be a Columban missionary priest and proud of ‘all things Columban’. He died in his sleep in his 95th year at Caritas Christi Hospice, Kew on 10 February 2013.

Allan Street, main street of Kyabram

Father Charles was born in Kyabram, Victoria, on 20 November 1918 but the family moved to Geelong, Victoria, where he finished his schooling. He worked in the Taxation Department of the Public Service in Melbourne for four years before deciding to try the missionary priesthood.

St Mary of the Angels Basilica, Geelong

He began his study in 1938 at Essendon then travelled to the USA to Omaha, Nebraska where he completed his theological studies. He was ordained by Archbishop Richard (later Cardinal) Cushing in Boston, Massachusetts on 21 December 1944.

He was blessed with a good mind and intellect which marked him out for further studies which he undertook in Rome from 1948-1951.

But on his return to Australia he was appointed to Fiji, being one of the first group of Columbans to open a new mission there.

Navasa, a traditional village in Fiji

He was barely in Fiji when he was recalled to teach in the seminary in Wahroonga, Sydney. He was a member of the planning team for building a new seminary at Turramurra. His brother Tom was the architect and Father Charles was the first Rector when it opened in 1959.

He held all positions of major Columban responsibility in Australia: Regional Bursar, Office Manager of The Far East Office and Regional Director of the Australia/New Zealand Region.

In 1980 an appointment as Rector of the Columban house of studies in Rome was the beginning of a fulfilling six years. Many Australian bishops and priests who resided at the Columban house while they pursued their studies spoke of his interest in them, his willingness to assist and his enthusiasm for Aussie culture.

His performance of excerpts from Banjo Paterson’s ballads was legendary.

At 76 years of age Charles returned to Fiji for 12 years as the manager of the Columban Central House in Suva, 42 years after his first appointment there.

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Suva

In 2007 he retired to St Columban’s, Essendon where his journey began. He became proofreader for The Far East until December 2012. He was a kind and generous priest.

May he rest in peace.

+ + +

The obituary above, from the website of the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand, mentions Father Charlie's love for the ballads of bush poet Banjo Paterson. Here is one of the best known, Clancy of the Overflow.

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago;
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows: "Clancy of The Overflow".

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumbnail dipped in tar);
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote, and verbatim I will quote it:
"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving down the Cooper where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night, the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the
foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For the townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I'd somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal -
But I'd doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy of The Overflow.

Sr Mary Winefride Sorensen (13 January 2013)

Columban Sister Mary Winefride Sorensen died peacefully on Sunday 13 January, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, in St Columban's Nursing Home, Magheramore, County Wicklow, Ireland. She was buried on Wednesday 16 January in the Convent Cemetery.

Sister Redempta Twomey spoke about Sister Winefride on the occasion of the funeral.

Funeral Mass of Sister Winefride Sorensen 16.1.2013 Magheramore

2 Cor 5:1,6-9; Matt 13:44-46

Today we celebrate the funeral Mass of our much loved sister, aunt and friend, Winefride, who died on Sunday, the great feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Just as his baptism was the beginning of his public life we can look on Winefride’s death as her baptism into eternal life. She too heard the words, “This is my beloved.” Though I cannot help thinking she must have reproached him, “Lord, why did you keep me here so long? I’ve been waiting to come to you for a long, long time.”

Because indeed she was. She dearly loved her family, to whom we extend our deep sympathy; your presence here today is a testimony of who she was and of your great love for her. But her eyes and heart were always fixed on what is beyond our understanding, the Face of God. We are all witnesses to this as in our presence, in this house, we saw, as St Paul says, “her outer self wasting away, her inner self being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor 4:16). This lovely woman, who throughout her 94 years in this earth always, and with great courage, walked by faith, not by sight, is now at home in that house not made by hands but is eternal in heaven, as we have just heard in the first reading (2 Cor 5:1).

University College Cork, where Sr Winefride studied and taught.

Her life began in Cork where in a loving family with her sister and two brothers her talents developed and were encouraged. With a keen intelligence and an enquiring mind she succeeded in all her studies and went on to take an honours degree in science in the University College, Cork. This was followed by an equally brilliant MA. She went across the water and taught in Wales for a year or so. While there she heard of St Winefride’s Well and so began her devotion to this saint whose name she took in religious life. On her return to UCC she, now a staff member, was a valued demonstrator in Botany and Zoology.

The entrance to St Winefride's Well, Wales

But don’t be deceived into thinking she was a regular ‘geek’ to use the current terminology. She had a delightful humour and could see the funny side of a situation and share the joke with others. Along with this was her love of and talent for music. Not only the classics but jazz, which she sometimes played with her friends in Cork. Alas, I think she eschewed this when she decided to join the Columbans. Which is a pity – we might have been up there in the charts with Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and others!

Winefride had more serious things on her mind; her search for truth, for the Will of God in her life, led her to give up what would have been a glittering career to join the sisters in Cahiracon. She would use her talents to spread the gospel, to work among the poor, inspire them and help them on their journey. After her profession of vows she was sent to the US where she learnt aspects of school management and curriculums before going to the Philippines.

Capitol Building, Lingayen, Province of Pangasinan

There, in Lingayen, and later in Ozamis, she was an excellent and popular teacher. The boys especially loved to work in her laboratory and learn the intricacies of the dissection of small mammals. Her students responded to her gentle manner and learned from her far more than the rudiments of science. The enjoyed too performing in the operas she presented, and learning the piano from her. Winefride had a well- developed sense of fun, often hidden under her reserved manner. She could lighten things in community, entertaining them after supper, for example, by pushing aside the dishes and performing whole concertos with her fingers on the table while humming along. All the time with a twinkle in her brown eyes.

In this busy, committed life there grew in her a longing for more silence and solitude. After much prayer, pondering and inner struggle she asked to go to a contemplative Order of nuns in Ireland. This, she felt, was God’s will for her and she once again left what was familiar and dear to go to the Poor Clares. By then she had been nearly 20 years in the Philippines, among a people she delighted in and in a community who cherished her. It was a hard going, the wrench being felt on both sides. But, for Winefride seeking God was all that mattered, whatever the cost. So she went to Cork and lived the life of a Poor Clare with zeal and devotion. But after 6 years, when it came to making her final vows she knew she had to leave. We can only imagine her turmoil at that time: Why had God led her there only for her to leave again? For a sensitive and deeply spiritual woman this was surely the dark night of the soul. Winefride, with great faith and no little courage, readjusted to Columban life, a life which had changed much over the years as the community strove to implement the directives of Vatican 2. The sisters of course, were happy to have her back and helped to ease her way in. But it was a hard and lonely struggle.

Altarpiece of St Clare, Unknown Italian Master, 1280s (Web Gallery of Art)

Back again in the Philippines, she gave of herself unstintingly, her trust in God strengthened as she faced the challenges of each day. Who can tell how many were the lives this prayerful, zealous woman touched as she led others to the Lord who was the centre of her being? When after nearly 10 years she returned to Magheramore she once again set out to bring his love to others. Now in her seventies, she was a familiar sight cycling in to Wicklow to the boys at the de la Salle school where she taught them music - and theology, though the boisterous boys may not have always cottoned on to this latter. She also gave piano lessons to some folk who came here.

Her years in the Nursing Home were a period of greater solitude as she felt free to spend more time in prayer and meditation. Family visits meant a great deal to her and she was always graciously welcomed anyone who called in on her. We will not forget her smile which seemed to radiate peace. About two months or so ago I asked her what was the marrow or the core of her prayer. She paused a moment and then with a smile that lit up her whole being she said, “God is everything; I am nothing.” The rest is silence.

Let me end with a prayer which she had and which, in some measure, I think, epitomises her life; and is her gift to each of us here today.

May He give us all the courage that we need to go the way that He shepherds us. That when He calls, we may go unfrightened. If He bids us come to Him across the waters, that unfrightened we may go. And if He bids us climb the hill may we not notice that it is a hill, mindful only of the happiness of His company. He made us for himself that we should travel with Him and see Him at last in His unveiled Beauty in the Abiding City where He is Light and Happiness and Endless Home. (Fr Bede Jarrett O.P.)

Fr Edward Roberts (15 December 2012)

Father Ed Roberts died peacefully at Grace Nursing Facility on Saturday, 15 December. He had been in failing health for some time.

Born in Quincy, MA, 31 August 1931, Ed was educated in Boston High School and graduated in 1949. He went to Bristol and the Columban major seminary in Milton where he was ordained on 21 December 1960.

He was assigned to the Philippines in 1961 and worked in Mindanao and Negros Occidental (Diocese of Bacolod) before he received permission to enter the United States Navy Chaplain Corps.

After graduating from the Naval Chaplain School in Newport, RI he was assigned to the US Naval Stations in the Philippines from 1969 to 1976 after which he returned to the Naval Station in Mayport, FL. He was promoted to Commander four years later.

Insignia for Christian, Muslim and Jewish Chaplains in the US Navy Chaplain Corps

In 1982 he resigned his commission in the navy and returned to North Pembroke, MA, as associate pastor in S. Thecla’s parish. His health took a downturn two years later when he had a cancerous kidney removed.

He retired to Florida but continued doing mission appeals from Maine to Florida throughout the year until he suffered a stroke five years ago.

Looking back on his years on mission, Father Ed said, 'As far as I am concerned, everything, life experience, seminary, early assignments were prophetic preparation for the life in La Castellana, Negros Occidental. The most memorable time of my life'. (Fr Tim Mulroy, Regional Director)

US Naval chaplain with marines and sailors in Tikrit, Iraq

Sr Anna Tseng (28 November 2012)

Funeral Mass Reflection for Sister Anna Tseng was given by Sr Margaret Devine in St Columban’s Chapel, Silver Creek NY on Monday, 3 December 2012.

Today we are all here to celebrate Sister Anna’s very final transition to her Heavenly Home. Reflecting on her life, it seemed to me that she was faced with a whole series of transitions which she made with faith, generosity and gratitude in her own very unique journey back to the Father.

In response to Jesus’ call to leave all and follow Him, Anna’s first notable and rather dramatic transition was to leave her own country, the vast area of China to travel to the tiny country of Ireland, more than half way across the world. Looked at humanly, this was a wrenching experience, but seen with the eyes of faith, it was the journey of one who desired to give her life to God as a religious missionary and participate in Jesus’ Call to “Go teach all nations…"

Imagine how traumatic the change of language and culture must have been, in addition to the added challenge of learning to live the religious life! Although helped a lot by the Sisters she associated with, still, for Anna, it was a personal journey only she alone with God’s help could undertake.

After her years of formation in the novitiate, etc., she had more language study in Dublin. A very serious student, Anna lost no opportunity of learning new words and phrases in English, and her own language-mastery plan included an ever-present notebook to record the new words and which helped her keep better track of her progress.

Around this time, Anna was told she was about to have another change of location. This time she was being sent to the United States – to Chicago to study in Mundelein College. Arriving in the United States for college, Anna encountered still another challenging transition and another way of doing things.

In order to get her college degree and teaching credential, Anna worked really hard. This time also offered her an opportunity to develop her creative potential in the multi-faceted area of Art, and she thrived on this.

One of her greatest hopes was to share the art pieces with her mother some day when she’d get back to China. Unfortunately, word came soon afterwards of the unexpected death of her dear mother – - we can only imagine what effect that news had on her sensitive loving heart…

Time was passing and another transition loomed ahead. After college graduation Anna was sent to teach at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Los Angeles. With her customary courage and endurance she forged ahead. Steps were taken to help her ease into this transition, which she was able to do with her characteristic energy and deep faith. In her own way she gave herself fully to the teaching task, as well as reaching out to the parents of the children. Her spontaneity and goodness shone through and she was loved at Guadalupe, where she spent wonderful years.

After retiring officially from the school she was invited to work as a part-time receptionist in St. Stephen’s multilingual Church. This afforded her an opportunity to work with Chinese people. Anna developed friends easily and quickly, and once again she saw a need to give more specialized help to some Chinese emigrants. In order to do this, she taught English, and later even added piano lessons to her schedule. Ever alert and aware, her resourcefulness was admirable.

Time was marching on and retirement came all too quickly. This presented her with an added difficulty: a change of location. Over the years Anna has been a wonderful companion on the journey of life. Her friendliness, helpfulness and cheerful humor enabled us to enjoy the ups and downs of community living. We all loved her and saw in her a woman of deep enduring faith and resiliency.

One Californian spoke about leaving his heart in San Francisco … Anna left hers – or a large part of it in Los Angeles! We missionaries face transitions and we leave bits of our heart in many places. The California sunshine had got into her bones, and now she and Ellen, whose retirement also became a reality at this time, had to negotiate coming to terms with moving to the East Coast.

As you know, the thought of change becomes even more challenging as one advances in years. Change of scene, the varied kinds of weather, rain and snow, was a new hurdle to cross. Fourteen years ago when Anna was assigned here to Silver Creek, the change seemed overwhelming initially. But there was “new life” here, too.

In a short time, Anna grew to love everything here in Silver Creek. She enriched the community with her presence. Although she came here to retire, the opportunity to outreach to the residents was a delight for someone who always wanted to be of service. Ever interested in physical exercise, she started a program for the residents.

One of the highlights of her day became distributing the mail. It was an informal opportunity to connect with her many friends.

One very big cross for Anna was Sister Ellen’s tragic death in a car accident. Deeply saddened by this, she experienced unspeakable grief which the Lord alone could comfort. This event, too, was a major and dramatic transition in her life.

As time went on, it became evident that Anna’s health was going down, and regretfully, age and illness limited her activity. This situation was a physically insurmountable obstacle for her, and very difficult to face. Each transition that Anna hitherto experienced was a carrier of grace for her. It was evident that “new life” came about through the process of a small “mini-death” of some kind. God was preparing her for the special and final transition.

We, Anna’s Columban Sisters, and friends must pause and try to imagine the wonderful welcome she has received and is receiving in heaven. Like St. Paul, she fought the good fight, finished the race, stayed the course and the crown of Glory awaits her. “Life for her is changed, not ended.” Yes, we will all meet again, where “eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered the mind to know the great things God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Anna’s Final Transition is to be at Home with the Father whom we imagine saying,

“Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the Joy of the Lord.”


Fr Sean Rainey (16 November 2012)

Fr Sean Rainey
(1940 - 2012)

Father Sean was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, on 21 June 1940. He was educated at Newtowncunningham National (Primary) School, the Christian Brothers' School and St Columb's College,

Derry, before joining the Columbans in Navan in 1958. He was ordained on 21 December 1964 and assigned to Fiji.

He began his study of Hindi in India enroute to Fiji with a view to working with the Indian people who comprised nearly half the population in Fiji. He was stationed in Lautoka and Tamavua before he was began his Indian ministry in Sigatoka area.

After fifteen years in Fiji he was appointed to Ireland and given the role of coordinating the various Columban ministries in Ireland. He helped produce the award winning video Columban Mission Today which still stands as a record of the energy and vitality of mission at the time.

Father Sean left Ireland again in 1985 to join the new Columban mission to Pakistan and after studying Urdu in Lahore he worked in Hyderabad, Sindh, a city that was prone to much turmoil, ethnic violence and curfew. It was in May 1987 that he fell ill with a serious strain of viral hepatitis and was lucky to get to a Karachi hospital and survive.

As it turned out this was just the beginning of a long battle with serious illness that marked the rest of Father Sean’s life. It was never a battle just to get well again it was always to get up and get going, to continue or to develop a new outreach to people. Father Sean spent most of 1989 recovering from treatment of a brain tumor but still availed of a course of biblical studies in Jerusalem while waiting to return to Pakistan.

Back in Pakistan in 1992 he was able to combine a role in the Bishop’s house in Hydrabad with a chaplaincy to St. Elizabeth’s hospital.

In 2001 Father Sean joined the late Fr Pat McCaffrey in Bradford, England, in the Columba Community ministry and its efforts to build bridges between people of different faiths. He continued with his lifelong ministry of care and compassion until he had to return to the Columban Nursing Home in Ireland.

This was a difficult time as his illness progressed but it gave Father Sean’s family the opportunity to care for him and to support him with their great faith and love. It was something they had done for him all his life and surely was the source of his care and compassion for so many people across the world.

Father Sean died peacefully in Dalgan on 16 November 2012.

May he rest in peace

Editor's note. Father Sean was three years ahead of me in the seminary. We last met just over three years ago in Melbourne when I was doing some mission appeals there and he was on a visit to there and to Fiji, even though his health wasn't great at the time. Reading his obituary reminds me of the quiet dedication and missionary spirit of Father Sean.

Sr Mary David Mannion (8 November 2012)

Funeral Mass Homily for Sister Mary David Mannion was given by Fr James Ronayne, P.P., (of Clifden, Co Galway) in the Convent Chapel, St Columban’s, Magheramore, Wicklow on Saturday, 10 November 2012.

In 1975 my first assignment was to Inishere one of the three Aran Islands. My first trip to the neighouring island of Inis Meain was by currach to attend the traditional “stations” or house Mass (a revered custom on the island) in the home of Mairin Ni Dhomhnail. At the breakfast table in her cosy sitting room Maureen pointed to the mantelpiece which had an array of magnificently coloured dolls which would do justice to any Christmas shop.

She proceeded to relate to myself and my fellow priest at the table the extraordinary story of her own near death experience at the very complicated birth of one of her children which necessitated the sending for and subsequent arrival of the emergency flying squad from Galway Regional Hospital. Thankfully, the outcome of the emergency was a happy one. Maureen told us in her own words about this “Bean rialta, an t-Suir David” who saved her life and that of her baby. Sr Mary David was home on a two-year leave from Korea to do a course in Obstetrics. This was 1968. At that time Providence allowed that she was on duty that night and attended the emergency needs of Mairin Ni Dhomhnail and her child. The remarkable thing was that every years since then Sr Mary David would send a Korean toy to that new-born child. Now years later at a Station Mass in 1975, here they were on display on Mairin’s mantelpiece.

I could only bask happily in Maureen’s telling the story about “Bean rialta, an t-Suir David” and when she had finished telling her story I smiled and said that I too could fill a mantelpiece with all the birthday cards I received from Sr Mary David who was both my godmother and my cousin. It was one of life’s rare confluences of grace to be able to hear and tell about Sr Mary David on that night in Inis Meain. What struck me then and now was that Sr Mary David’s care wasn’t just in the moment, but enduring:

“As long as you did it to one of these the least of my brothers or sisters you did it to me”

I have never been to Korea, but I feel sure that there are many Inismean-experiences and many Maureen Ni Dhomhnails with a similar story. After long hours of working as a doctor in her clinic whether in Mokpo, Samchok or on the Island of Cheju Do, Sister David would make her way through villages carrying medicines for the poor. She was a brilliant doctor. She always put the patient first. She was sharp in her diagnosis, thorough in her treatment and always humble in her manner. She would often be heard be heard to say: “The Lord is at work here.”

“As long as you did it to one of these the least of my brothers or sisters you did it to me”

For us, her family and her cousins, Sr Mary David is our last link with all our parents. We have memories and stories to cherish of those earlier times when they would meet, in Patrick Kavanagh’s words “going to second Mass on a summer Sunday”, or ”on a fair day by accident after the bargains are all made.” The place of meeting was her home, Mannion’s Pub, or in its kitchen where they would meet, greet and share their lives. Those lives had an extraordinary work ethic, a loyalty and decency. It was here that that Sr Mary David was born Bridget Mary, and known affectionately to all in Milltown as well as to all her family as “Babs.” She grew up a very bright, attractive young woman and when she had just qualified as a doctor she decided to be a missionary in the spirit of St Columban. She became a wonderful missionary giving herself totally to the work of the Lord and totally to the Lord of the work. Today’s reading from Isaiah (41:28-31) describes so well the struggle of serving the Lord when it says: “Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”

Coming here to Magheramore for this final farewell to Sr Mary David, it was comforting to hear all the Sisters describe the peace she had in her final moments and indeed in her last weeks. It was a most extraordinary blessing because Sr David so desired such a grace and I believe her whole life was a very conscious preparation for this moment of blessed departure from this life. Such a happy death is so eloquently described by poet, priest and mystic, the late John Donohue:

“I pray that you will have the blessing
Of being consoled and sure about your death.
May you know in your soul
There is no need to be afraid.

When your time comes, may you have
Every blessing and strength you need.
May there be a beautiful welcome for you
In the home you are going to.

You are not going somewhere strange.
Merely back to the home you have never left.
May you live with compassion
And transfigure everything

Negative within and about you.
When you come to die
May it be after a long life.
May you be tranquil

Among those who care for you.
May your going be sheltered
And your welcome assured.
May your soul smile

In the embrace
Of your
Anam Cara.”

To the Sisters and Staff, whose lives were touched by Sr Mary David, I offer you condolences and I pay tribute to your wonderful care returned to her who had herself given so much.

“As long as you did it to one of these the least of my brothers or sisters you did it to me.”

So, farewell, Sr David, as you go home. We are also thinking today of Sr Mary Assunta Mannion and Sr Mary Stephen Mannion and all the other great foot soldiers who have fought the good fight and have finished the race.”

We pray for all of them and for Sr Mary David:

“Blessed are those who sleep in the Lord, now you can rest in peace for your good deeds go before you.”

An dheis De go raibh a hAnam usual*

*May her good soul rest in God’s right hand