When asked to describe the Columban Fathers in seven distinct ways, Fr. John Burger, who serves on the Society’s general council, provided a description for every day of the week.
Monday: Columbans are “of the people.”
As missionaries, I think one of the key things about the Columbans is that they try to stay close to the ordinary people of whatever country they are in.
Tuesday: Columbans are drawn to the other.
Columbans are drawn to those whose otherness marginalizes them further — the poor, the immigrants, those who are different by culture, sect or religion. All Columbans have voluntarily left home and family and familiar surroundings and crossed boundaries of language and culture and religion. St. Columban himself had a hard time saying good bye to his mother, but he took that step. In a similar way, Bishop Galvin, our founder, had to leave family behind because he felt called to China. We love our homes and families, but are prepared move elsewhere for the Kingdom.
Wednesday: Columbans treasure personal freedom.
The Columbans are a relatively recent foundation as religious societies go. We do not have a lot of traditional ways of acting and dressing. We cherish the freedom to be ourselves, and we put who we are at the service of the Kingdom.
Thursday: Columbans hate injustice.
The Columbans identify with the struggles of the people we work among. Hate is a very strong word, but I do not think it is too strong for the sense of revulsion a typical Columban would feel upon seeing a person in a weak position being exploited.
Friday: Columbans allow themselves to be changed.
Just about every Columban has worked or lived with people from another cultural or ethnic group. We allow ourselves to learn from and grow in admiration for and be changed by these experiences. “A life unlike your own can be your teacher.” – St Columban.
Saturday: Columbans care for the earth.
Logging of the once magnificent forests of Mindanao and the consequent silting-up of the coral reefs, destruction of rivers in Korea, pollution of streams in Japan, poor air quality in many big cities like Lima are all painful evidence of lack of respect for creation. Columbans live close to these situations and try to be a voice crying out in defense of creation and calling for gratitude to and respect for the Creator.
Sunday: Columbans are devoted to the Eucharist.
God touches and speaks to His people through the sacramental signs and the scriptures. Gathering around the table of the Lord, sinners yet brothers and sisters, reconciled to each other and giving thanks together.
Yes! Now we are getting close to the vision of the ideal that Columbans carry around in their missionary hearts.