This year, as Columban missionaries celebrate a century of mission, we pause to look back and marvel at the abundance of God's blessings. This centennial year is an occasion for us to recognize not only those blessings that God has bestowed upon us and others in far-off mission lands, but also for the blessings that we have received through our loyal and generous supporters back home. A major reason, therefore, to celebrate this important milestone is to express our gratitude to God and to the all the people who have been part of our missionary endeavors during these past hundred years.
They come at evening, scenes from far away, The bitter-sweet of absence and of love, When memory opens her halls of yesterday, And draws her shuttered curtains from above.
Taken from the poem Mission Memories by Columban Fr. John McFadden (1894 – 1978), these lines capture his bittersweet mood as he prepares to celebrate Christmas back home in the U.S. after many years in foreign mission lands. During the long December evenings, memories of Christmas celebrations in those far away places flood his heart, bringing joy and sadness, tears and smiles.
As Christmas approaches, many people have similar experiences. At unexpected moments, memories of a childhood Christmas gift
In February of this year Fr. Charlie Duster was admitted to the hospital where he was informed a short time later that he was terminally ill. During the following weeks, with the same zeal with which he had lived his missionary life, he prepared himself to meet God face to face. He also bid farewell to family and friends, and took care of important personal matters.
Among his treasured possessions was a chalice and paten that had been given to him as a gift by his parents, Charles and Cleo Duster, on the occasion of his ordination and first Mass in December 1961. These precious gifts had traveled with him on his various missionary journeys around the world during his 55 years of priesthood. In fidelity to the
Though she herself readily admitted that she couldn't sing, Gloria participated in the church choir every Sunday. When teased about it, she would laugh heartily and respond that if God wasn't pleased with the voice that He had given her, then He ought to do something to fix it!
Gloria worked the night shift at a family-owned convenience store. Generally, she worked six nights a week because she and her husband were determined to have the financial resources required to educate their four teenage daughters.
Over the course of several years, many of the store's customers came to know Gloria, not just as a courteous and efficient worker but also as a friend. At first, they were charmed by her warm greeting and bright
In late 1917, Fr. Edward Galvin landed in New York and began a long trek across the country in search of a suitable location for the U.S. headquarters of the Missionary Society of St. Columban. At the same time, another Irish priest, Fr. Edward Flanagan, who had already ministered for several years in Nebraska, began earnestly searching for a suitable residence for poor and homeless boys. Within six months both priests were to fi nd a home for their fl edgling organizations in Omaha. During the following decades the story of Columban missionaries and the story of Boys Town would intersect not only in Omaha, but also in Kumamoto, Japan.
In 1947 Fr. Flanagan visited Japan where he witnessed ...
I first encountered Tien in Tokyo. He had traveled there from Australia, while I had come from Ireland. Both of us were Columban seminarians who had come to Japan in order to study the language and learn about missionary life. Both of us were twenty-seven years old. During the next few years as I came to know Tien, I realized that while both of us had similar dreams for the future, his past had uniquely prepared him to become a Columban missionary.
One of thirteen children, Tien grew up in Vietnam as communism was advancing from the north to the south. At the age of fifteen, he tried to escape from his homeland by boat, but was …
As a teenager I browsed whatever reading materials were left around my home: Sunday newspapers that my father enjoyed; novels that my older brother and sisters considered worthwhile; and religious magazines that my mother read at the end of her busy days. These materials expanded the horizons of my world and beckoned me to explore the strange but fascinating world that adults inhabited.
Stories about missionaries in far-off lands that I occasionally read in the religious magazines were uniquely fascinating. They awakened in me a sense of awe and adventure. Whatever the circumstances, missionaries everywhere …
"What do you know about Ireland?" I asked the third grade class that was excited to have just learnt that I was from there. "St. Patrick was from there" responded a girl in the front row. "So did that mean that he was Irish?" I inquired, my tone betraying an element of doubt. "Yes!" came back a chorus of voices, filled with disbelief that I would even pose such a question.
"So what did St. Patrick do in Ireland?" I asked. "He told the people about God. He was a missionary" responded a boy in the third row. "And how was it that St. Patrick knew about God, while the Irish people around him knew nothing?" I inquired.
Like the majority of Columban missionaries, it is usual for me to spend the Christmas season far from my family. For many years I had dreamt of the joy that I would experience if I could go home just once and join with family members for Mass at our local church, then gather together around the dinner table, and later exchange gifts. In my dreams it was going to be a nostalgic celebration filled with fun and laughter.
A few years ago my priest companion in the Columban international seminary in Chicago, Fr. Leo Distor, and I were invited to join a pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Columban. However, as we made our various preparations one major obstacle appeared: we could not find another Columban priest who was available to oversee the seminary during our three week absence. Then, just as we were about to give up searching, a colleague mentioned that I should reach out to Fr. John Marley.