Fr Michael Martin

The God of Surprises: Pilar and CLM Beginnings

By Fr Michael Martin

This is a slightly edited extract from the book Walking in Their Light, written by Columban Fr Michael Martin on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood last year, 2015. September 2016 marks the end of a year of events for the Silver Jubilee of the Columban Lay Missionaries (CLM).


L to R: Emma Pabera, Gloria Canama and Pilar Tilos

Three Filipinas, Emma Pabera, from Candoni, Pilar Tilos from Hinoba-an, both in Negros Occidental and the Diocese of Kabankalan, and Gloria Canama from Tangub City, Misamis Occidental, Archdiocese of Ozamiz, resigned from their work in 1990 and came together for an eight-month team-building program to prepare themselves to go as Columban Lay Missionaries to Pakistan. The three were hard-working and experienced teachers, all from families really close to the Columbans, and all exceptionally enthused about that missionary way of being Church, Pilar Tilos, who had coordinated physical education, and assisted in promoting sports, dance, and music in the public elementary schools of Hinoba-an, the southernmost municipality in Negros Occidental, had long felt called to mission. She applied, was accepted, and joined the first Columban Philippine Lay Mission Team, named ‘RP1’. ‘Larps’ - her nickname - was a great mimic and the life and soul of many a party and parish activity.

‘Home is where you are understood’

By Fr Michael Martin

(Father) Michael Martin
Fr Michael Martin

Though it’s not Christmas Time, Fr Michael Martin’s Christmas email to his friends last December reminds us how central to the lives of followers of Jesus is an awareness of God’s loving presence in our lives and a deep sense of gratitude for that.

Dear Family and Friends,

‘Home is where you are understood’ - a quote which constantly reminds me that I am blessed with two homes: in Ireland, and in the Philippines. I've had countless life-giving, happy experiences of being loved and understood, and I’ve felt the pain of separation too. Worlds apart, both nations are thankful; both are faith-filled; both rejoice in St John’s words: ‘See what love the Father has poured out on us that we be called children of God. That is what we really are’.

2012 marks the Golden Jubilee of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II). The bishops of the whole world met in Rome each year for four years. And it was actually within days of the end of Vatican II that my classmates and I were ordained priest-missionaries. It was a privilege to be called and sent as disciples of Jesus to witness to God’s love and compassion to other nations. Listening to the pain of the world, as in violent or meaningless deaths, was always heavy; trying to do it in another language was humbling. Every step was a challenge. But the outpouring of the Spirit, so obvious in Vatican II, urged us on. We often laughed at our own mistakes and insensitivity; and we shed tears in the face of misery alongside shameless greed.


Father Mickey with Columban Lay Missionaries.

Now I am 72-and-a-half, and lucky enough to have that ‘half’ because of a blocked stent! I enjoyed the six months of the Irish Missionary Union’s Sabbatical Program which helped me to rejoice in my life journey and mission experience, and practice growing old gracefully. To all who made these luxuries possible, and to those who restored me to health, a thousand thanks. And thank God for modern medicine. I tried to act my age, cancelled many trips and visits, got medical approval, and arrived back home in Manila on 20 September. I have settled in to a reduced workload and a recipe for more rest, golf, and contemplation. I am very happy to be back.