After the expulsion of the Columbans from China, a new region was opening up for the Society. Many of the predominately Catholic countries of Latin America had an urgent need for qualified priests, and the Columbans answered the call. In the early days of the Society, discussions had occurred about a Columban presence in Argentina, but it had not blossomed into a formal mission. Peru would instead be the first Latin American mission country for the Columbans.
Prior to his missionary career, Columban founder Bishop Edward J. Galvin had served in Brooklyn, New York, as a young parish priest. Even as Bishop Galvin founded the Columbans and went to China, he retained his affection for the New York City borough. By the mid-twentieth century, the Missionary Society of Saint Columban had been in existence for more than three decades.
The Columban Fathers had conducted their first retreat in 1929, and in the following years the demand for Columban retreats greatly increased. In the 1940s, the Columban leadership in the U.S., particularly Father Paul Waldron, brought up the idea of purchasing a property specifically for retreats. The Columbans set their sight on an estate in the hamlet of Derby, New York, located in the Buffalo area, close to the Columban property at Silver Creek.
The destruction and horrors of the Second World War ravaged many countries, and in the late 1940s the world was still dealing with the aftermath of the war. Nonetheless, the island nation of Japan, as one of the principal participants in World War II, had been particularly hard hit. The Columban Fathers saw an opportunity to spread the Gospel and establish a new mission in this rebuilding country. The Columbans were already fairly familiar with Japan.
The Columbans in China, together with the entire Chinese people, rejoiced at the end of World War II, which had caused so much death and devastation in that country. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter the civil war between Chinese Nationalists and Communists, which was going on before World War II, resumed with a vengeance. By 1947, the Communists, under the leadership of Mao Zedong, were advancing and taking control of large regions of China.
In early 1946, the Columban Fathers, along with most of the world, were still recovering and rebuilding from the devastation of the Second World War. The war had taken the lives of a number of Columbans, and many others had been through imprisonment or were forced to flee their missions. Columban Father Patrick J. O’Connor had a great deal of experience in journalism and writing, having served as editor of the U.S.
By 1945, after unimaginable loss of life and property, the Second World War was at long last nearing its end. But the fighting was still killing people all over the world, and the Columban Fathers would not escape this bloodshed. In February 1945, the Philippines in general and the capital city of Manila in particular were a central battleground, as Allied troops and Filipino guerillas battled to defeat the occupying Japanese forces.
As World War II raged all across the world in the 1940s, Columbans in their various Asian mission countries were caught in the crossfire, sometimes literally. The Japanese-occupied nation of Burma (Myanmar) was one of the central battlegrounds of the Allied war effort. An important part of this effort was the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.), which after the war would evolve into the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.). At the time the O.S.S.
In 1943, the U.S. Columban Fathers marked their 25th anniversary. They had many accomplishments of which to be proud, and many things of which to be fearful and uncertain. The Second World War was wreaking havoc all over the globe, and no end was in sight. East Asia, the heart of the Columban missions, was also a major front in the war. In July 1943, Japanese forces in the Philippines would martyr Columban Father Francis V.