Father Francis Chapman

‘So that I Could be Innocent’

By Father Francis Chapman

Father Francis Chapman, now 90, came to the Philippines as a Columban missionary in 1938. He hears confessions regularly in St Augustine’s Cathedral, Cagayan de Oro. Here he recalls an incident from nearly 60 years ago.

May in Mindanao is a hot month. For the priest it’s also a busy one. That day there had been a barrio fiesta. The barrio wasn’t large but had done its best to celebrate the feast day of its patron, San Isidro Labrador, with becoming solemnity. Almost every house had put on a feast. Visitors came from far and near. The late Mass was sung. A band accompanied the long procession immediately following the statue of the San Isidro. The statue itself was attached to a float and carried over the fields on the shoulders of four able-bodied farmers. Then a large number of children from the village were baptized.