I was confined to bed in the infirmary section of our headquarters here in Manila and, to keep myself occupied, decided to view a documentary that BBC made in the late 50s or early 60s on a well beloved priest of the diocese of Cork in Ireland called Fr. O’Flynn. Fr. O’Flynn was 80 years old when the documentary about his life was made. He was famous for helping people overcome speech impediments, such as stuttering, and introducing young people to the works of Shakespeare through a youth club he had in a loft over a warehouse in his parish.
As I was viewing the documentary an older Columban, who was next door to me in the infirmary section, came to visit me. His name is Fr. Paddy Hurley. He is 86 years old and has spent 61 years in the Philippines. As Fr. Paddy watched the documentary with me he asked “Who’s he?” referring to the priest on the screen. I replied that he was Fr. O’Flynn and asked if he had ever met him. He replied “I never met him but I’m here because of him.”
Fr. Paddy then told me his story.
Paddy’s father was a young teacher in a village in West Cork in Ireland. He had difficulty with his voice and had gone to London twice to have it treated, but those attempts had not been successful. He decided to resign his position as a teacher and migrate to Australia. He went to the village of Durros to hand in his resignation to the parish priest and intended continuing to the town of Bantry to buy his ticket to Australia. As it happened, the young Fr. O’Flynn2 was visiting the parish priest and asked Paddy’s father not to resign and assured him that he would “sort out his voice problem within a week.” Fr. O’Flynn delivered on his promise.
Paddy’s father continued teaching. He met and courted Paddy’s mother. They married and had ten children, three of whom became Columban missionary priests and a daughter who became a Columban missionary sister.
Mystery is truly an aspect of our lives.
Columban Fr. Michael Mohally lives and works in the Philippines.