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The Masterpiece of Nature

From the Director

By Fr. Tim Mulroy

When Fr. Sean McDonagh, who taught at the University of Mindanao in the Philippines, joined one of his students on a research project among the T'boli tribe during the summer of 1978, he could not have imagined what a life-changing experience lay ahead of him. His initial plan had simply been to swap for a few months the hustle and bustle of Davao City for the slow paced rhythm of the rainforest where these indigenous people have lived for centuries.

A few years later, however, the local bishop invited Fr. Sean, a Columban missionary, to set up a mission station among the T'boli people. By then, they had captured his heart, and so for the next fi fteen years he ministered to their spiritual and material needs.

During those years, Fr. Sean came to realize that the rainforest was another kind of classroom, and while there was much that he could teach the indigenous people, there was also a lot that he could learn from them. The T'boli tribe had an intimate knowledge of the plant, animal, bird, aquatic, and insect life that was all around them. They also had a deep appreciation of the bonds that sustained the web of life and which connected them to everything. Their customs and rituals, as well as their music and dance, reflected their love for their homeland.

Their customs and rituals, as well as their music and dance, reflected their love for their homeland.

Their customs and rituals, as well as their music and dance, reflected their love for their homeland.

However, as Fr. Sean became more at home among the T'boli people, he also came to realize that their world was being threatened with destruction. The fi rst alarming signs were giant logs that fl oated down the nearby river day after day. International entrepreneurs, who had scouted the world for hardwood, had seen in the rainforest a cheap source of timber to exploit and export to their home countries. Within a few years, the sides of many of the mountains were stripped bare of trees. Then, monsoon rains eroded the loose soil and washed it downhill into the river. Later, the fi sh died, and the water became unsafe for human consumption. The wonderland of the T'boli people was fast becoming a wasteland.

That was the moment of awakening for Fr. Sean. Not only was he troubled by the suffering that was being infl icted on the T'boli tribe whom he loved, but also he was pained to see masterpieces in nature, which had taken God hundreds of years to carve and color, reduced to rubble within a few years due to greed.

Since then, Fr. Sean has dedicated his life to inviting others to view the beauty and goodness of the natural world with the eyes and heart of God, who created it, and who appointed humans as stewards to care for it in His name for the welfare of all.

About us

Columban logoThe Columbans are a society of missionaries, including priests and lay people, who minister to people of various cultures as a way of witnessing to the universal love of God.

We go in the name of the Church to announce, by deed and word, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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Missionary Society of St. Columban
1902 N. Calhoun
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Phone: 877-299-1920
Fax: 402-291-4984