Moving Forward in Faith
We Columbans will celebrate our centenary from November 2017 to November 2018. This reflects the fact that we were canonically recognized as a missionary Society by Bishop O'Dea of Galway, Ireland, on June 29, 1918, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. We now recognize this as our foundation day.
The Society grew from the first twenty priests who set out for China under Frs. Galvin and Blowick in 1920 to a major missionary society of over 1,000 priests when our seven bishops and the Superior General attended Vatican II. Besides China, we supplied desperately needed priests to the Philippines, Korea, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Japan, Peru, Chile and elsewhere. In all these countries we promoted local vocations. When we first arrived in Fiji, there was only one "diocesan" priest, Fr. Claudius Lurkur born in India. Today most of the parishes are staffed by Fiji born priests or other Pacificans. Today the Fiji seminary has 160 seminarians.
As a missionary congregation, our focus is on mission. Having helped Fiji in its hour of need, our focus now is in helping our Fiji Church to become more missionary. Last year there were 65 Fiji missionaries overseas.
In our centennial celebrations we will be looking to help the Church and individual parishes in the Archdiocese to find ways to become more missionary and to examine with them what this might mean as we move deeper into the third millennium.
We are a hundred years OLD as regards our traditional bases, Ireland, Britain, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. A wonderful example of that was Fr. Dan Fitzgerald who celebrated his 100th birthday last year. He worked with Bishop Galvin in Hanyang and was expelled from China like the bishop. We can multiply Fr. Dan by a thousand, and we begin to see all the good the Society has done in and for the Church. Fr. Dan has since gone to God.
We are also a hundred years YOUNG. The first century is over, but we are by no means over. In God's providence we now have young people ready to take on the second Columban century. These are the young Columban priests, lay missionaries and seminarians. They no longer come from the traditional Columban bases but from the new bases of the Society, mainly Korea, the Philippines, Fiji, with some also from Chile, Peru, China, and Myanmar.
In Myanmar, we handed over our parishes to Bishop Grawng many years ago when foreign missionaries were expelled, but now they have invited us back! We already have several seminarians from there. We older Columbans and some twenty younger Columbans from the traditional regions work alongside them to help the new "Pacific Link Columban Society" grow and develop.
The key thing, of course, is that they preserve and grow ever deeper into the Columban charism, the Columban spirit given us by the Lord Jesus Himself through His spirit and our founders. Foundational too is the command of Jesus, "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another." (Jn 13:34-35)
Fr. Donal McIlraith is the Regional Director of Fiji.