In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Missionary Society of Saint Columban had been in existence for only about a decade, but it was expanding and branching out into new endeavors. In 1929, the Columban Fathers conducted their first retreat at Saint Columban’s, Nebraska, under the supervision of Columban Father Edward J. McCarthy. In 1930, the retreats expanded and started to become regular occurrences.
By 1929, the Columbans had been hard at work in China for nearly a decade. Tragically, that year, the first Columban martyr, Father Timothy P. Leonard died while in the captivity of Chinese kidnappers. In spite of this atrocity, the Society was growing and the Columbans were looking to expand into other countries. Authorities in the Vatican proposed several suggestions for the Columbans, including India and Thailand. Archbishop Michael J.
Columban co-founder Father John Blowick originated the idea of an order of Columban Sisters in 1918. He found a willing associate in Lady Frances Moloney, a Dublin resident and widow, who had expressed interest in a religious vocation and even founding a new order of nuns. In May 1921, Fr.
The Vincentian Fathers of France had maintained a mission presence in China for many years. By 1928, the Columbans had established and made a name for themselves in China, and the Society was growing. The Vincentians and the Holy See saw an opportunity to hand off some of their territory to the Columbans, while the Vincentians focused on other regions of China.
Columban founder Edward J. Galvin was the first Columban Father to earn the title of bishop, but would not be the last. In 1927, the Columban Fathers and Sisters had been working for several years in China to build a mission and had made significant progress. The Columbans mission in Hanyang had endured harsh conditions and adversity to grow and demonstrate its “staying power.” The Vatican took notice of this, and made Hanyang a Vicariate in the summer of 1927.
In 1925, the Vatican was conducting a Mission Exposition in Rome, highlighting the historic and contemporary efforts of the Christian churches to evangelize in various areas. The Columban Fathers by 1925 had been working in China for about five years, and wished to send a representative to the Exposition to highlight their achievements in China.
The Columbans continued their development of the campus at Silver Creek throughout early 1924, with an eye to making Silver Creek their center in the Eastern U.S.A. The Bishop of Buffalo blessed the Saint Columban’s Preparatory College at Silver Creek in the autumn of 1924, on the Feast of the Holy Rosary. The initial class of 24 students began their courses in an old farmhouse on the property in October of 1924.
1923 was a crucial, momentous, and in some ways tragic year for the budding Missionary Society of Saint Columban. Conditions in China, including disease, bandit attacks, and political unrest were taking their toll on the Columbans in China, as were international political and economic troubles. Nonetheless, the Society was growing and positive steps were occurring.
Construction on the Columban seminary in Bellevue, Nebraska proceeded throughout late 1921 and the first half of 1922, under the direction of Columban Father Edward J. McCarthy. An illustrious dedication ceremony took place on June 29th, 1922, led by Archbishop Jeremiah J. Harty of Omaha, and included dozens of Catholic clergy, nuns, and other religious, along with many other dignitaries.
After some problematic negotiations, the Columbans finally managed to buy the Bellevue campus in mid-1921, with plans to construct a seminary there. Archbishop Jeremiah J. Harty of Omaha led a ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone of the Columban seminary on September 8th, 1921, and construction began in earnest. The Columbans were now on their way to a permanent facility for recruiting seminarians and expanding vocations in the United States.